Thursday, May 4, 2017

Vinkara: Producing Superior Wine with Ancient Indigenous Turkish Grapes

"These are grapes that Noah's goats grazed on" -- paraphrasing Ardıç Gürsel, founder Vinkara Winery

Ms. Gürsel discussed the plausibility of this statement while discussing her Turkish winery, Vinkara, at a luncheon last month at MXDC in Washington DC. Biblical Noah is referred to as the Father of Wine and religious  tradition maintains that wine-making was a divine gift in exchange for the struggles Noah encountered with the flood. With the winery located in central Anatolia and specializing in that region's indigenous grapes, it is quite feasible that Noah's goats fed upon the same grapes (or their parents) that the winery uses today. Gürsel also mentioned that there are conclusive traces of viticulture and winemaking in Anatolia going back seven thousand years, thus the region's indigenous 1,200 grape varieties have been used to create wine before and after the great flood.

However, the purpose of Gürsel's visit to this country was not as an evangelist for Anatolia or Turkey specifically, or even the indigenous grape varieties, but as an ambassador showcasing the excellent wine being produced from her facility. The name Vinkara results from wine and its proximity to Turkey's capital - Vin (wine) Kara (Ankara).  The winery started operating in 2003 and is located approximately 65 kilometers northeast of the capital in the hills outside of Kalecik, a small village that provides the winery with seasonal workers during harvest. The location is ideal at two thousand feet above sea level, northern winds to dry the grapes and drive away bugs and birds, and the twenty degree diurnal temperature change allows the grapes to retain acidity.  One of these grapes is often the red Kalecik Karasi (pronounced kah-le-djic-ah-ser) - once on the verge of extinction due to neglect, but now Vinkara's signature local grape.

During the lunch with Ms. Gürsel we sampled through a range of her wine which in general I found to be clean, intriguing, well made, and delicious. 

2014 Yasasin ($40) was the first method champenoise wine produced in Turkey (the others used the Charmat method). It is made using Kalecik Karasi and is fresh with toasted almond bouncing through the dry and refreshing wine.

2014 Narince ($18, nah-rin-jay), the name translates to "delicately", originates from the Tokat Province near the Black Sea, and is the offspring of Kalecik Karasi. Ms. Gürsel believes the grape may be the grandfather of  Pinot Noir. The intriguing aspect of this wine is easily it's texture (3 months on lees) which allows the stone fruit to seamlessly transition to fresh acids.

2013 Narince Reserve ($27) . This wine sees 14 months in mostly neutral French Oak plus the winery holds the wine an additional six months after bottling. This process adds even more texture as will as a spicy character - but avoids the overly buttery character of many Chardonnays. And the finish is just as fresh as it's sibling.

2013 Kalecik Karasi ($18). This red wine is unoaked which leads to an extremely smooth wine, with a bright cherry flavor and a slightly spicy finish. This is the equivalent to an All Day IPA - I could enjoy this wine at any time during the day.

2012 Kalecik Karasi Reserve ($27) . This wine spends 14 months in oak and is a caramelized version of it's companion with much more depth. It's an excellent wine - actually a special wine with a very unique profile. 

2013 Okuzgozu ($23, ookooz-goo-zoo). The grape is native to Eastern Anatolia and it's black berries resemble a bulls eye - hence the name's translation.  This wine had the most character - as in being a character.  It is approachable and smooth yet the very unique tannins and acids seem to play tricks on the palate.

2011 Bogazkere Reserve ($30, bow-aahz-keh-reh). The grape's name translates to "throat burner" but don't equate that sensation to the wine. It is fantastic: dirt and pepper aroma followed by fresh fruit but solid tannins. Structured from start to finish. The wine was aged 30 months oak with the winery taking an additional two year hit holding back in the bottle. My favorite of this collection and one to target immediately. Cheers.
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