Grapevine Archive for Turkey
Prowein, the three-day wine fair, held in Düsseldorf annually in March, has become an invaluable meeting place of wine producers and buyers from all over the world.
This year Marcel Orford-Williams takes back the Society’s German wine buying, but I could not resist spending a morning with him and producers I had introduced in the last five years and looking at the wonderfully promising 2015 vintage wines with several growers we have both known over many years.
Where else can one meet in one well-organised place so many producers from every German wine-producing region, catch up with their news and taste so many of their wines to make a selection?
I was there principally, however, to talk to growers from further east: Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and beyond.
While there is no substitute for visiting producers on their home patch (my first visit to Georgia last year was an education) this fair is a fantastic way to narrow the field and find growers whose wines will appeal to Wine Society members, while saving money on travel expenses.
The Turks have been hard hit by a massive drop in tourism, following bombs in Istanbul and hostility with Russia but, in spite of unhelpful politics and a predominantly teetotal population, people are making inspiring wines of character and high quality. Vinkara’s Öküzgözü (£7.75) is just one example. My wife and I visited New York and Washington shortly after 9/11 in a half-empty plane to a warm welcome from American friends. This is surely an excellent time to visit Turkey.
Our Greek suppliers, a dynamic motivated group, mostly youthful, who export most of what they make are similarly inspiring making great, original wines.
We began last year to import from Moldova. Château Vartely makes some lovely wines, wants and needs to sell to us, so offers good prices.
What is not to like?
Let us give these movers and shakers, who rise above difficult times, our support.
Sebastian Payne MW
What constitutes an ‘emerging region’?This was the question posed at an inaugural trade tasting of the same name hosted recently by Harpers Wine & Spirit magazine. It brought together wines from countries and regions as diverse as China, Japan, Georgia, Turkey, Croatia, Romania but also Washington, Luxembourg, Chile, England, Greece and Argentina.
The tasting was aimed particularly at importers wishing to add something a little bit different to their wine lists. It presented a mix of countries and regions that already have made gentle inroads onto the UK wine scene, up-and-coming areas of newer wine-producing countries and lesser-known parts of established vineyard areas.
One of the original ‘objects’ of The Wine Society as laid down by our founders was ‘to introduce foreign wines hitherto unknown or but little known in this country.’ This spirit is as alive today as it was in 1874 and with such a wealth of good quality wines being produced in what would previously have been thought of as the most improbable of places, we are spoilt for choice.
The debate that preceded the tasting examined how to get drinkers to try these new wines … how can they compete on already crowded wine lists and shelves? How would wine lovers cope with the linguistically challenging wine names and grape varieties?
Many felt that the challenge is to get drinkers to take the plunge and taste unfamiliar wines felt that if you could just get people to taste the wines then they would be converted. There was talk of using signature wines or grapes to blaze a trail for a country’s lesser-known or more esoteric wines.
Romanian pinot noir was cited as a good example of this approach. Pinot noir is notoriously tricky to get right and often carries a high price tag, but it’s a variety that the Romanians do very well and at a reasonable price and it offers something very different from new world interpretations of the grape. One merchant talked of how one of his clients offered Romanian pinot noir by the glass on their pub chalk-board. The wine didn’t sell. However, the same wine sold as ‘House Pinot Noir’ flew out!
The policy of Wine Society buyer for Eastern Europe, Sebastian Payne MW, is to be ‘loud and proud’ about the wines we list and members have responded enthusiastically.The enchanting Tamâioasa Româneasca white from Prince Stirbey in the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps has proved very popular, as did the Turkish kalecik karasi red that we listed last summer and which we will be shipping again soon – proof that challenging juxtapositions of vowel and consonant is no barrier to trying delicious new wines!
I did find the tasting challenging. It wasn’t just the bewildering array of unheard-of wines and grape varieties from countries whose wines I had never encountered before, but also the fact that many of the tastes experienced were so different from what I am used to.
There was Georgia, which with its 8,000 vintages and 500 grape varieties lays claim to being the ‘cradle of winemaking’, and its traditional Qvervi wines fermented in large clay amphorae which are then sealed and buried in the earth.
A whole stand was devoted to the unique Orange wines all made within 100km of each other across three countries in Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. The wines undergo long skin contact during fermentation and are made in a highly traditional and natural way by techniques that have been around long before Rudolph Steiner was born! One of the growers refused to bottle his wine if it was a cloudy day because the wine would turn cloudy…
For me one of the most interesting aspects of the tasting was that it was a real leveller. It put seasoned tasters and experts in the shoes of those that are new to wine or who come to it without the preconceptions that many years in the industry may have given us. Without the usual points of reference by which to judge the wines, it was good to be reminded that what counts is simply whether you like the taste or not.
The good news was there was plenty to like, I thought, and it will be fascinating to chart the fortunes of these ‘emerging regions’ over the next few years.
Oh, and we have recently listed an extraordinarily good-value Romanian pinot noir too. La Catina Pinot Noir, 2009 comes from a single vineyard. With true pinot fragrance and succulent black-cherry flavour, it’s a bargain at £7.50 a bottle.
Read more about the rise of obscure grapes and regions in Andrew Jefford’s article, The weirdos are coming, in Wine World & News.
We will be making an offer of wines from off the beaten track in June.