Some of the oldest wine-making regions are centered around a handful of countries in the Asia and the Middle East. Persia, and its ancient city of Shiraz, has long been considered the epic center of winemaking dating back to approximately 2,500 B.C. Wine production in Georgia and Armenia also dates back centuries.
Turkey has long been producing brilliant wines in a number of regions. Unfortunately few of the smaller-production wines make it out of the country. Also, sadly, given the conservative state of the country’s current government, much of its local grape production is used for table grapes and not made into wine.
However many of these wines are stunning, made from ancient and unique grape varietals and are incredibly food friendly. Not only do they pair well with Turkish yogurt-fueled dishes and roast lamb but they would also be dynamite with a Tuesday night pizza.
What Sets Turkish Wine Apart
Emre Kabayel, general manager of the fairly new Turkish restaurant Lokma in San Francisco shared some insight about what makes his country’s wines stand out in a crowd.
“Turkish wine is unique because Turkey has been making wine longer than most other countries. Historians can trace wine production in Turkey back thousands of years ago.” Winemaking in Anatolia dates back 7,000 years, according to Wines of Turkey.
Turkish wines tend to have solid and well-balanced acidity and great fruit flavors so they work well with a number of dishes. “If you like Pinot Noir, you can choose Turkey’s unique grape, the Kalecik Karasi, which has all the fruit, spice and pepper. If a Pinot Grigio is more your style, I can suggest that you try Emir, the main white grape grown in Cappadocia [in the center of the country]. Also, Turkey’s Narince is comparable to Chardonnay and Boğazkere is perfect for fans of Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Erme has it has all down to a science of paring which is great for those who aren’t familiar with these grapes, however all of them offer totally unique tasting experiences with ancient grape varietials that are hardly seen anywhere else in the world.
Emre says that Turkish food is super rich, even though much of it is vegetable and roast meat driven. So “if you are looking light. Emir is per for mezzes [appetizers] such as hummus, tzatziki, muhammara or babaganoush and especially cold, vegetarian plates are also a great choice with salad and stuffed grape leaves.” Tzatziki is a classic yogurt dip, muhammara is generally made with walnuts and pomegranate—although recipes differ—and babaganoush is a classic eggplant dip.
“If you want something that can stand up to a warm and hearty dish, Kalecik Karasi is good. In my opinion, Kalecik Karasi is good with mousakka, karniyarik, ground beef. Of course, a popular item on most Turkish menu is lamb. I think the Turkish grape Öküzgözü is the perfect pairing with meat.”
While it is delicious, Öküzgözü is also one of the country’s hardest to pronounce but most rewarding grapes. Moussakla is the classic layered eggplant dish, served in both Turkey and neighboring Greece; and karniyarkik is a home-style dish of eggplant stuffed with onions, tomatoes and ground meat.