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One of my favorite things about wine is how it so often interacts with culture, art, politics, history. In addition to the beautiful spread of mezze and interesting wines, these topics were at the forefront of a wine dinner at Agora I attended with Vinkara wines.
Wine consumption in Turkey is small, averaging just one liter per person a year. In fact, 80 percent of Turks do not drink alcohol at all and advertising within the country is currently forbidden, making the export business critically important to the success of wineries. However, the grapes are often ancient indigenous varieties which can be difficult for foreigners to pronounce. To say that winemakers are up against some particularly tough odds is an understatement.
It is a tumultuous time in Turkey, particularly for the nation’s wine industry. Current laws and custom stand in stark contrast to an ancient history of viticulture. Anatolia is said to be the birthplace of winemaking- scientific studies note the existence of winemaking in the region for 15,000 years. The vines have remained through millennia of turmoil and good fortune, war and peace.
It is often said that the best wines come from vines that struggle. In many parts of the world vines are partially deprived of water so that they seek deeper soil, adding strength and character to the plant and its prodigy. Just as vines that have grown more complex and resilient through struggle, the wines produced in Turkey are wonderfully complex, in spite of, and perhaps because of, the very struggles that they face.
The good news is, Vinkara has an incredibly passionate winemaker, Ardiç Gürsel, who is focused on revitalizing many of Turkey’s indigenous grapes with an eye on producing quality wines. She makes beautiful and complex wines at accessible price points- just $18 to $40.
Below, a few of my favorite wines from the beautiful mezze dinner with pairing suggestions. The overall quality was outstanding for the price, and while the names of these wines don’t exactly roll off the tongue, they are a pleasure to consume.
If you’re new to Turkish wine, here’s where I recommend you start! Kalecik Karasi is an ancient variety that is related to pinot noir. It’s all gorgeous red fruit, herbes de provence, and earthy minerality. Light bodied, immensely approachable, and a great pairing with a variety of foods. Average Price: $21.
This wine has a slightly more intense body style. I got a lot of raspberry, cherry notes, coffee, and baking spices. Medium tannin, medium acidity. Pair with meat or heavier pasta dishes. Average Price: $18.
This reserve wine was the most full bodied of the night, with brooding tannins. Chocolate, dark fruit, and licorice on the palate. It deserved some time to decant and open properly to reveal beautifully integrated fruit and a voluptuous body. Pair with rich stews and red meat. Average Price: $24
Have you ever tried Turkish Wine?
Bang for Your Buck, Bon Vivant, DC events, Drink Well, Entertaining, Foodie, Seasonal Sips, Wine 101, Wine Facts, Wine Pairing, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews, Wine Tasting, Wineries and Vineyards
After spending an amazing summer studying in Greece and returning there for travel over the years, I’ve developed quite an affinity for Greek wines. The food and wine are such a tremendous part of the rich culture. I adore cooking and serving Greek food and wine for clients and friends alike!
Many are skeptics, having had a bad bout with the notorious pine resin-y retsina, but most leave converts.
I was so pleased to be invited to a blind tasting recently by two Greek brothers who run a wine import and distribution business here in DC. We blind tasted 22 Xinomavros and enjoyed a generous spread of authentic Greek food at Mourayo in DuPont Circle.
Jason and Nasos Papanikolao. “You captured us perfectly! He is always out front and I am always in the background drinking wine!” – Jason
The hard to pronounce varietal is an oft over-looked, but a delicious and bold red wine perfect for pairing with lamb and summertime grilling season! It has deep, dark fruit flavor profiles and a nice earthy balance. This wine is often best decanted before service. If you like big, tannic, full bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, give this Greek stand out a try for a fraction of the cost!
One of my favorite things about Greek wine- and Xinomavro in particular- is the outstanding value. Below is one of my favorite wines for the money. It showed well at the tasting against pricier bottles, but is delicious at around $20/bottle! For a big, bold wine to pair with red meats, that’s a steal!
This bottle is a go to when enjoying lamb and delicious homemade tzaziki.
Do you ever enjoy Greek Wines?
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Virginia wine is making its mark. And if you’re not on board yet, here are 6 outstanding Virginia wines that will change your mind, perfectly suited to complement your Thanksgiving Feast. Get all the details and tasting notes in my guest post on The Hill is Home!
Breaux Vineyards. Fall, 2013
There’s something for everyone- from the bubbly lover to dessert wines- from just a few of Virginia’s esteemed wineries, including Thibaut-Jannison, Breaux Vineyards, RdV, Stone Tower Winery, Tarara Winery and Linden Vineyards.
Taste makers around the country are singing the Commonwealth’s praises, most recently at the Virginia Wine Summit. Food And Wine Magazine Editor, Ray Isle, was recently the keynote speaker, where he praised both the gorgeous scenery and outstanding wines right in DC’s backyard.
Have you tried Virginia wine yet? If not, consider one of my Thanksgiving pairing recommendations or contact me for a custom excursion into DC’s wine country. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
For more wine pairing guidance this Thanksgiving check out my recommendations here!
Lately, there seems to be a delegated day (and a corresponding hashtag) to just about everything- in case you didn’t mark it in your calendar, today is #TempranilloDay.
In light of this most important holiday I wanted to share 5 fun facts about this popular grape:
- While Tempranillo is most closely associated with the Rioja region of Spain, it is also grown domestically in California, Arizona and Texas.
- Spanish Tempranillo is categorized into 4 age categories: Cosecha, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Typically, younger wines are more fruit forward and lighter in body, while older Tempranillos develop bolder, more earthy and nuanced characteristics.
- Younger wines should be consumed while young, while Reservas and Gran Reservas (the latter is only produced in outstanding vintages) are more suitable for aging.
- All Tempranillo is high in acid and medium bodied, making it an extremely versatile pairing wine. Try it with roasted pork or charcuterie for a can’t miss pairing!
- Tempranillo is the most widely planted grape in Spain.
What’s your favorite Tempranillo?
Although we’re coming up on Labor Day weekend, the weather will continue to be warm for the next month or so. Here in DC, we’re looking at a heat wave! Here’s what I’ll be drinking:
A summer favorite, this budget friendly wine from the South of France is light and intensely refreshing. It’s well-known as a great pairing for seafood and is enjoyable for casual patio sipping as well.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: 2011 Domaine De La Fruitière Petit M ($13)
The tangy acidity and minerality in this Muscadet will make you a convert to this oft-overlooked variety.
Although many drink rosé year round (yours truly, included!), it’s often best enjoyed during warmer months. The most popular region for this type of wine is Provence, although they are increasingly being produced in almost every wine region. They often have red fruit flavors and a bone dry finish.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Montfaucon Domaine Les Gardettes Rosé ($12)
This has been one of my go to summer rosés to enjoy al fresco this summer. This rosé from the Loire Valley has a wonderful bouquet of peach blossom and raspberry.
I know this is a common recommendation on the Bon Vivant Blog, but if you’re anything like me, any excuse will do to enjoy a festive glass of bubbly! It’s refreshing, pairs well with a variety of foods, and is perfectly acceptable to drink before noon on your Monday off!
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs ($40) & Biutiful Rosé Brut Cava ($13)
In the wake of the recent earthquake, show Napa some love with this superb bottle of bubbly. I’m partial to the Blanc de Noirs, but this established bubbly house produces outstanding bubblies from a variety of grapes.
For a more budget friendly option, look to Cava from Spain- equally delicious and usually lighter on the wallet! I like Biutiful’s brut rosé. Made from 100% Garnacha, this easy drinking bubbly has lovely red fruit notes and a bone dry finish.
For those who will be grilling out this weekend, Spanish reds are a great pairing with Barbeque and other grilled meats. They are slightly spicy, fruit forward, and balanced out with an old world, earthy quality.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Ladrón de Guevara ($12-$30)
A spicy Tempranillo from Rioja fits the bill! Their cosecha will set you back a mere $12, while their Reserva can run about $30. The younger the wine, the lighter and more fruit forward it will be. I generally like to drink their middle ground- Crianza, which runs about $17.
This is another classic pairing for those who will be manning the grill this Labor Day weekend. California comes through again with this fruit forward and zesty red wine. (Just steer clear of the much maligned white Zinfandel!)
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: 2012 F. Stephen Millier Angel’s Reserve Zinfandel ($20)
This classic producer from Lodi consistently puts out quality Zinfandel with jammy fruit and a hint of smokiness that will pair great with anything char-grilled.
What are your Labor Day Weekend Plans?