29 September 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Grenache Noir

Apparently I can post a wine blog while on safari but not the day I get back from one. To be fair, by the time I made it home I'd been awake for over 36 hours and had just spent 15 hours traveling so I think I get a pass for skipping a week!

I finally found the Suvla store in Cihangir which is both good and bad. Good because the store carries all of Suvla's wines (and a number of other nummy items); bad because I don't have a steady income and Suvla wines are not inexpensive; but that's not going to stop me from buying them!

So let's start with the description on the bottle: "Suvla Grenache Noir 2013 has the color of bright ruby red with purple nuances. The nose is an explosion of fruity and spicy aromas. The vibrating hints of ripe black cherry, mulberry, fig and blackberry are woven into a background of notes of black pepper, olive, thyme, and oregano. The well-balance body has a supple and elegant structure and exhibits a rich fragrance, blooming in the palate with fruity and spicy hints."


I really, really wanted to like this one. For one thing; 'Grenache Noir' is a super sexy name. "Is that Merlot you're drinking? Tsch. Oh me? I'm drinking Grenache Noir. And Humphrey Bogart is coming over later."

Also, explosion of fruity aromas? Check. The glass was sitting at the opposite end of my, admittedly small, table and I could still smell it. For me though, it fell apart after the nose. I tried to place what I was tasting: black pepper? oregano? mulberry? blackberry? In the end though, I couldn't taste the fruit for the herbs and that just did not flip my Twinkie, as a good friend of mine says. My neighbor had some and she liked it though.

At only 40-something TL a bottle, the Grenache Noir is one of Suvla's more affordable wines which means I will probably try it again. Who knows, maybe a better food combination will make it come alive for me. Here's to hoping because I still really want to like this one!

15 September 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Sur 2010

As far as I'm concerned you need look no further. If you've been beating out your brains trying to find a really good Turkish wine (or you haven't had the heart to even try), Suvla's Sur is where you go.

It's not that all Turkish wines are bad. As I have discovered many of them, even some of the less expensive producers like Pamukkale put out decent, drinkable wines. However most of them are, as described by a friend of mine, basically slightly alcoholic juice. If you're looking for a Turkish wine that can unashamedly stand next to its European cousins though...spring for the 2010 Sur. It's not cheap, I would never pay what is roughly $40 in the US for any wine (but then the US doesn't tax the living hell out of imports and alcohol) but oh it is worth it.


The 2010 Sur is a blend of Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Cabernet Franc (14%), and Petit Verdot (2%). We all know how I feel about Merlot...but the blend here is seriously amazing. And I've been assured that Suval's Merlot is wonderful so I may, gasp!, try it at some point in the near-ish future.


"The color is deep cherry red. The nose is attractive and self-exposing. Notes of blueberry, prune, black pepper, dry mint, chocolate, and walnut are bound into a rich and complex bouquet. On the palate since the attack the wine is vivid and elegant. An extensive, strong but resilient core is carrying the juicy and supple body into a luscious, fine finish that reveals splendid hints of mocha, apricot, and roasted hazelnut."

I seriously need to meet Suval's wine writer.

Gold award well and entirely deserved
My description is no less heart-felt for being less elegant. The black pepper on the nose and palate is strong without being overwhelming. I knew I was getting the flavor of a dried fruit of some sort and I'm not surprised to read that it was prune. I missed the dry mint and walnut but caught hints of (dark) chocolate. I'll just have to get another bottle sometime soon to see if I can taste the mint and walnut. Ah the hardship! A wine with staying power, the Suvla's not chewy but velvety and lingers nicely in your mouth allowing you to savor and enjoy.

Sigh. Writing this several days later my mouth waters a bit at the memory. And the best part? There's a Sur 2011 that I have yet to try!

11 September 2014

I'm Shocked I Haven't Seriously Injured Myself Yet

The fact that I fall down a lot is fairly common knowledge. I even managed to bite it pretty badly on the perfectly flat concrete when I lived in Cevizlibag. So when I moved to Beyoglu which is nothing but hills, and pretty steep ones at that, I was worried. I've pretty much lived the last eight months in desperate fear of my street. I've given up wearing heels all together and actually the majority of my entire shoe collection in favor of the few pairs that have heavy, grippy treads. It's really a pity because I do love a cute shoe.


The "street" I take to/from Turkish class


View of the Bosphorous from the evil stair street

Unfortunately for me, hills and stairs are a part of my every day life. Even the days I don't leave my apartment. The Beyoglu area is one giant hill, I think, with everything leading up to Istiklal and Taksim. The Turkish language school I attend is slightly downhill from Taksim and off a side street. Unfortunately, like many of the streets leading from the Bosphorus side of the giant Beyoglu hill, the incline is so steep that stairs have replace what should be a road. Oh stairs, my personal nemesis. These are, thankfully, not so steep as some of the others but they're still a roughly five - six story climb. And since the "street" is lined with shops and cafes I'm too embarrassed to stop and gasp for breath at each landing as I really want to do. I do, however use the excellent excuse of the amazing view to stop at least once. It is a gorgeous view and one that I cannot enjoy while going down the stairs in the morning when I'm actually facing it. I will never be one of those women who can float gracefully down stairs with head held high. If my hand isn't gripping the railing as tightly as possible and my eyes aren't glued to my feet I will trip, miss a step, or simply collapse causing me to tumble own the stairs breaking various bones and such along the way.


The view down my street.

The up my street from my door.

Similarly I cannot go down my street, which is not stairs but merely a steep hill, without my eyes fixed firmly on my feet and walking at about half the pace as everyone else. I am terrified that one of these days I'll lose it on the decline and pitch forward on my face in a most undignified manner. Happily, my building is slightly more than half-way down so I don't usually have to negotiate the entire hill. And as much as I dislike trudging up the hill; it is sometimes preferable as history has proven that I am less likely to fall up than down. I say "less likely" because it has actually happened.

Transition from the building's original stairs to the dodgy add ons that are mine


Grocery shopping is a pain. It's not that the shops are all that far away, less than a kilometer in fact, but there are several hills (one involving stairs) of various height and steepness involved. And once I drag the groceries home and up my street's steep hill there are still my building's five stories to negotiate. On the lucky side, while the tight spiral of the curved staircase makes me nervous (tight spiral = narrow stairs) it also makes the stories fairly short. The stairs are marble until you get to the top of the fourth story and the last set of steps that lead up to mine. At the top of four, the stairs transition from marble to rickety (the bannister is quite unsteady) blue-painted wooden stairs. The first hint that my apartment is a (likely illegal) addition to the original building.

When I'm hauling up groceries, water, or suitcases I generally stop for a rest somewhere around the third floor. You'd think after eight months of going up and down these things I'd have got used to it by now but, no. If I'm coming home from down the hill or I've been drinking I can usually zoom up all the flights pretty quickly.

Sherlock is confused about why I hate stairs.



Once in my apartment there are still more stairs. I've actually got really good at getting up and down these without falling, dropping things (usually), or hitting my head on the ceiling. Sherlock of course loves to hang out on and run up and down them. Apparently the stairs aren't good enough for her anymore though as this morning at roughly 5 AM (so judged by the surround sound morning call to prayer) I heard a new sound and rolled over to find her on top of the closet organizer hanging from the clothes rack. So this is going to be a fun new thing. Especially as she seems very confused about how to get down and each of the (so far) four times she got up there today, cried with increasing volume and pitifullness until I plucked her down.

One has to wonder, as I still sometimes do, why someone like me would take an apartment at the top of a five floor walk-up on a steep hill in a hilly neighborhood. In the end it's a pretty easy answer; because after I've negotiated all the ups and downs to get home and to my terrace...this is what I see.


08 September 2014

Wine of the Week - Suvla Karasakız

Gallipoli is known for one thing, the shameful waste of lives in the World War I Battle of Gallipoli (or the Mel Gibson movie about the same). Lead by the man who would later become Father of the Turks, Kemal Mustafa* this last glorious victory of the crumbling Ottoman Empire and Winston Churchill's refusal to give up the Darandelles lead to the death of nearly 57,000 Allied soldiers. This battle is particularly felt by Australians and New Zealanders and I've never met a one visiting Turkey who doesn't also visit Gallipoli.

Hopefully, Gallipoli will be known for happier things as Suva wines become more well-known and popular! Although the Karasakız is the first of the Suvla's for which I have mixed feelings.Before I write what I think though, I want to give you the wine description straight from the label:


"Suvla Karasakız 2012 has a bright cherry red color. The nose is rich and fruity with flashing notes of smashed strawberry, prune, dry fig, thyme and laurel. A well-balanced, succulent, and juicy palate embraces a glittering acidity. Fruity and spicy fragrances are lusciously overflowing into a delicate finish."

Dude. I need to start writing my reviews like that. My description was far less poetic an used words that are a lot shorter. I think the only place where the descriptions cross is that I will tell you that the Karasakız has a bright cherry color. I did not at all get strawberries, smashed or no and I have no idea what laurel tastes like. I actually would have said that the flavor reflected the color and that I got a lot of cherry, both juicy red cherries an dried cherries; however I'd have agreed about the juiciness and the spice. It really is fascinating what you do and/or don't taste.



At first I wasn't quite so sure I liked it. I think the problem is that I was eating the wrong thing with it. The Karasakız should go well with Mediterranean dishes, grilled vegetables, and shellfish. However I had a recipe for brown butter sweet potato fettuccine that I'd been wanting to try. They did not like each other. However, the wine did go quite well with strong cheese (Asiago and keçi beyaz penir) and sauteed onions.

In the end, paired with more appropriate foods, I come down on the positive side for the Karasakız. I'm not sure it would be at the top of my repeat list any time soon, but it still gets a thumbs up from me.


Keep the good wines coming, Suvla!


*Years later, Ataturk would say these words on Anzac Day, which can be seen engraved on the memorial at Gallipoli:

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now living in the soil of a friendly country therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

25 August 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Kirte

Despite my resolve to review whites for the summer I'm moving back to reds. I just really don't like dry whites under the best of circumstances and I think I've finally run out of Miskets. So now it's back to tannins and red wine hangovers.

Suvla wines break my rule about buying "reasonably-priced" wine. The Sur (which I'm trying to find another bottle of so I may properly review it) sets you back about 80TL which is more than I generally pay for wine regardless of which country produces it. However-they're worth it. They're so very much worth it.



Not being able to locate the Sur, I picked up another Suvla wine I've been wanting to try: the Kirte. At Carrefour no less. My Carrefour seems to have revamped not just the shelves in its wine section but also the selection it carries. And while 52TL/bottle is still more than I'd like to spending on a Turkish wine (and frankly still more than what I'd normally pay for any wine under other circumstances), at least it wasn't the 80TL for which I'd steeled myself.


The Kirte is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with just that tiny amount of Petit Verdot added both for color and to give the Cab Sauv that lift it needs out of its general mediocrity. While you may chance across a Petit Verdot varietal wine in the US (I miss you VA wineries!), it is more often added to red blends (usually Bordeaux styles) for color. Turkey is apparently taking a leaf from neighboring Old World producers and doing the same here; and not without a nice effect. Suvla Kirta is a beautiful, deep ruby color that glows a bit in the light.

Sherlock's new favorite perch - preferable to climbing up my leg
Price is not always an indicator of whether or not a wine is good but sometimes you really do get what you pay for. While it's not a knock-you-on-your-ass, big, bold Italian, the Kirte it is a lovely medium bodied red that kicks the crap out of a lot of the other Turkey-produced reds (ahem, I'm looking at you Diren Okuzgozu/Bogazkere and pretty much the entire Diren Collection lineup).

It's not jammy as Syrahs can be, but the cherry and red fruits balance nicely with the pepper that I usually taste in a Cab Sauv. And for all its greater percentage of Cab Sauv, it did not give me that dry, overly spicy, I need meat stat feeling I often get. If semi-dense is a thing that's what I'd say the Kirte is; semi-dense, smooth, and silky*.


It also paired very well with my usual eat-in dinner of sauteed garlic, shallots, and cherry tomatoes over linguine topped with a semi-hard goat cheese. As a testing ground for red wine pairings it's a pretty easy route to take. I also generally prefer simple to make meals both because I'm lazy and usually because Sherlock is attempting to climb up my leg. Which is not a good pairing for chopping things with a big knife. Speaking of cheese, the Kirte also paired nicely with the Manchego (spoils of London) that I've been hoarding.

All in all-Suvla Kirte is a very satisfying red that's entirely worth the sticker price. We will become good friends, the Kirte and I.

*I looked these up, aside from the questionable 'semi-dense' the rest are legit wine descriptors and I may even be using them correctly.