The Wine Guy Eddie McDougall

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The history of the Ottoman Empire in the mystical land of Turkey is fascinating as it was the gateway between the East and West. Under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th and 17th centuries, the empire was one of the most powerful states on Earth. In fact, over the reign of many great sultans, its magical past, which bounced through the times before Christ and the arrival of Islam have led us solemn explorers to believe that the country bordering Europe and Asia has a much greater indulgence beyond Turkish Delight, saffron, smoking dens, kebabs and the onslaught of mezze plates. Indeed, some say the real diamonds in the rough lie in bottles hidden in numerous cellars throughout this arcane land.

I recently went to discover this for myself, and my Turkish wine journey began in Istanbul. Though my initial intention was to sip tea all day while humming to the calls to prayer, I found my journey take a turn when, one day, I found myself treated to a glass of wine. I was so amazed by this experience, I had to go searching for more. The wine very quickly turned me into a fanatic – needing to taste every Turkish wine under the sun. Like many of my explorations, there were some winners and losers. However on this occasion, I luckily managed to dig up more tipples that I happily found more than satisfactory.

Understanding Turkish wine has a lot of relevance to the food of the country and the influences from its European and Asian neighbours. The majority of the wine comes from the land bordering Bulgaria and Greece, highlighting the fact that a strong Mediterranean influence has kicked off the culture of wine growing many centuries ago. The grapes varietals grown throughout the country are vast from the generic types like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to my favourite new indigenous red grape known as Okuzgozu. There’s a lot out there to enjoy, considering the expanse and resources available in this country. Unfortunately, try as I did, I could only sip and spit so much between a mouthful of wine and baba ganosh, so I can’t say I’ve covered a lot of ground. Nevertheless, I did manage to uncover some great brands on my journey which are worth finding. 

Most of these wines are available at decent restaurants throughout major parts of Turkey. Unfortunately, these wines are hard to find in Hong Kong, but you might get lucky at the Turkish or Middle Eastern restaurant in your neighbourhood.

Whites
Paflaeli, Kolorko, Tekirdağ 2010
Umurbey Sauvignon Blanc, Tekirdağ 2009
Vinolus Chardonnay, Kayseri 2009

Pair these with a goat’s cheese salad. 

Reds
Kavaklıdere, Pendore, Syrah, Manisa 2009
Kayra Vintage Öküzgözü, Elazığ 2008
Urla Tempus Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Boğazkere-Petit Verdot-Cabernet Franc, Urla 2010 

Pair these with a mutton kebab, fresh off the coals.

Roses
Melen Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2011 
Paşaeli Çalkarasi Rose 2010
Turasan Rose 2010 

Pair these with a plate of freshly cut tomatoes dressed with olive oil, pomegranate and sumac.

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