I’ve just returned from a two week trip to Turkey. I was accompanying my eldest daughter on her school’s ancient history excursion so granted it wasn’t a very wine-focused trip. But fortunately enough opportunities arose for me to sample a fairly decent variety of Turkish wine and try out some very good wine focused restaurants and wine bars in Istanbul.

Rouge [about wine] just off Taksim Square in Istanbul proved a perfect introduction to Turkish reds. Run by the founders of Gusto, Turkey’s leading culinary magazine, it offered an excellent selection of wine by the glass complemented with some great food. I tried a glass of the Turasan Kalecik Karasi 2011 and the Sevilen Güney Boğazker Öküzgözü 2011.

Turkey is apparently home to over 600 indigenous grape varieties. Today over 60 are commercially grown with many wineries now committed to rescuing varieties that were previously in danger of distinction. Kalecik Karasi, Turkey’s best known red grape variety, is primarily grown in the Central Anatolia region, where the elevation is high (about 1250 above sea level) and the environment challenging – cold winters followed by long, dry summer days.

Ruby red in colour with cocoa and vanilla aromas, the Kalacik Karasi had quite pronounced tannins and not a lot of fruit character, but it was still very drinkable and worked beautifully with my grilled lamb cutlets on a delicious eggplant puree.

The Boğazker Öküzgözü blend seems to be Turkey’s answer to cabernet merlot, with the mix of these two native varieties, which are quite different in character, creating some of Turkey’s most complex and complete wines. The dark fruit flavours and hefty tannins of the Boğazker are softened by the red-fruit flavours and finer tannins of the ruby coloured Öküzgözü. The Sevilen Güney Boğazker, Öküzgözü, which I sampled, hailed from … Read the rest