I guess that wine from Turkey is less incongruous than wine from let’s say Korea or Iceland, but Turkey is definitely not the first country one conjures mentally when wine is the subject. That said, there is no other country that has such a potentially promising future, but somewhat puzzlingly, such a lack of drive to realize it. Turkey is a Muslim nation, albeit a very secular one, so I guess that it’s no wonder that wine is not the national drink. But, many Turks do drink a fair amount of Raki despite the implied Islamic prohibition of alcohol, though production of decent fennel flavored booze is fairly easy to pull off in the traditionally statist Turkish economy. Wine, not so much.
But being that the Turkish peninsula is geographically jammed into the universally acknowledged cradle of wine, Georgia, at its northeastern corner, it’s likely that the grape vine has been cultivated here for better than 5,000 years. This means that Turkey is home to literally countless uniquely Turkish vine varieties. This evening’s wine is made from two thoroughly Turkish, and impossibly named grapes: Okuzgozu (with every vowel with an umlaut – I’m not joking.) and Bogazkere grown in the Elazig and Diyarbakir regions of Anatolia in central Turkey (none of these tongue-twisting monikers belongs to the wine itself mind you). The few other Turkish wines that I’ve come across are made with one or both of these two grapes, so I suspect that they’re both a good blend of characterful and easy to harvest mechanically.
A vin d’auteur this is not to be sure, but it is a wine that is quite well made, and one that also presents you with an overall cool and intriguing experience due to its origins and rare grapes, AND it’s called…BUZBAG! The precise orthographical rendering of this doozy of a name has a flat line over the “g”, and I suspect that that actual pronunciation is not exactly “buzz-bag” (my Turkish language skills are nonexistent), but still…
I served this distinctive but easy going red with a pretty classic Turkish menu starting with an appetizer of stewed leeks (with carrots, parsley, lemon, etc.) in olive oil, and a main course of “steam-fried” “Japanese” eggplants stuffed with a thick puree of walnuts, chickpeas, roasted red pepper, garlic, and herbs, and a basmati and saffron pilaf with pine nuts and currants (unintentionally vegan!).
Kayra Buzbag 2008
Medium purple/ruby color. Direct but elegant nose of subtle dried fruit and brown spices, fennel seed, toasted grains, hints of butterscotch, chocolate, and a lightly aromatic floral quality. The medium body is well balanced with a smooth, feminine softness, and flavors of plum, strawberry, dried mushrooms, and crushed tomatoes. Light, bright, and fresh finish.