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Istanbul Eats Drinks: 2007 Umurbey Sauvignon Blanc


An affordable trip to New Zealand can be had by simply visiting your nearest wine shop in Istanbul and asking for a bottle of the Turkish-made Umurbey sauvignon blanc. Made from the same grapes that have helped put whites from New Zealand on the wine map, this local alternative is successful enough that in a blind tasting it would be no surprise if professionals confuse the Umurbey sauvignon blanc with similar and better-known wines from New Zealand, Chile or South Africa.

The Umurbey vineyards, planted in 1993, sit 200m above sea level and five kilometers from the seaside, in Yazır village to the west of Tekirdağ, in Turkey’s Thrace regoin. The clay and sandy earth there provide perfect conditions for growing chardonnay, semillion, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah grapes. The grapes, picked at the end of August, are harvested by hand and carried with the utmost care to the winery.

I tried the 2007 and found it a surprisingly lively wine. Don’t be fooled by the year; this wine does not feel aged. It possesses a pleasing acidity that many New World wines lack. After a sip, note the lasting intense flavor on the palate.

I believe this wine will go very well with cold mezes, ceviche and other dishes with strong acidity. It can be enjoyed as a fine informal aperitif, or drunk right through dinner and with tart fruit desserts.

Tasting Notes:
Color/Appearance: bright yellow, with green highlights
Nose: lime, lemon zest, grapefruit, mango, passionfruit
Palate: Crisp acidity, fresh, medium body, long finish with character

With its aromas and finishing tastes, this wine reminds us of New World sauvignon blancs and also recalls the Spanish albariño grape. Furthermore, considering its price and quality, this wine is much better value that other similar Turkish wines. And, despite what you may see being done around town, please don’t drink wine like this with ice!

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