(Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment in our ongoing feature, “Supermarket Cellars,”  which aims to uncover those drinkable Turkish wines that won’t kill your budget or, let’s face it, you. In charge of this mission is Aaron Stein – an expert on nuclear non-proliferation issues and PhD student by day, avid wine drinker and enthusiast by night — who has been assigned the thankless task of scouring the low-end of Istanbul’s wine department shelves for budget-friendly diamonds in the rough. We plan on featuring his discoveries on a regular basis for as long as he can survive this hazardous assignment.)
A favorite pastime of many Istanbulites is to watch life from a folding chair on the balcony and pass along tidbits of gossip at the sight of anything unusual – from a near automobile accident to a neighbor’s new significant other. So at any point during the day, a glance outside is likely to reveal many tea-drinking and cigarette-smoking people intently staring at the street.
As the days have grown longer and my doctoral thesis more tedious, I have found myself strangely drawn to the balcony to take part in this neighborhood-sporting event. Unlike my window-watching brethren, I don’t smoke, so I have had to come up with a different vice. As the weather got hotter, I turned to chilled white wine as my beverage of choice for my twice-weekly street gazing.
Doluca Antik 2010 Emir, Narince & Semillon
Doluca’s Antik 2010 Emir, Narince, Semillon has proven to be a worthwhile companion. I was initially interested in the wine because of the way it pairs the ubiquitous Semillon grape, a thin-skinned, honey-flavored grape grown mainly in Bordeaux, California and Australia. Semillon is usually paired with Sauvignon Blanc, but Doluca blended it with two different local Turkish grapes. Emir is grown in Cappadocia and is known for its green apple and citrusy notes. The Narince grape is usually grown in the central Anatolian region of Tokat and is also known for its citrusy flavor profile and floral nose.
The wine is aged in French oak for eight months, which I assume allowed it to undergo malolactic fermentation. This process changes the more tart malic acid into the buttery tasting lactic acid. The wine has a citrus and floral nose. It leads with a buttery mouth filling taste and finishes with citrus, honey, and green apple notes. The wine is well balanced and easy to drink, but its unique flavor profile does make one wonder what it would have tasted like without the aging in French Oak.
The wine would pair nicely with baked chicken, simple pasta dishes, bruschetta, calamari, or grilled fish. (Just make sure they are larger than 20 centimeters. )
Sevilen Isabey Chardonnay 2010
Istanbul is a vibrant and crowded place. The streets are loud, people are constantly moving, public transportation is crowded, and traffic is always bad. Eager to escape my overly vibrant surroundings for a couple of hours, I set off last weekend for the tourist-heavy, but automobile-free, Princes’ Islands. While the food on the island is fair, its views are wonderful.
Sadly, I was wine-free during my visit. After taking in the views and being scared off by the inflated prices, I decided that next time I would pair my crowded ferry trip with an ice chest stocked with good fine and wine.
After stopping on my way home to stock up on my under 30 TL whites for the summer, I decided that Sevilen’s 2010 Chardonnay would be a perfect companion for a future island visit. The wine is affordable by Turkish standards, is easy to drink, and Chardonnay lends itself well to the idea of an outdoor picnic.
The wine has a yellowish hue typical of chardonnay and a honeydew bouquet, mixed with citrus and grapefruit. It has clean taste and is extremely easy to drink – perhaps a little too easy.
It would pair nicely with light mücver, the zucchini fritter that has the advantage of being available at most supermarkets “deli” counters, is easy to pack, and holds up well to the rigors of traveling to any outdoor picnic site. The wine would also work with soft cheese and crackers, grilled or baked fish, and grilled chicken kebab.
If you have nothing to do on a Sunday, and are keen on pairing your early afternoon brunch with an alcoholic beverage, this wine is a contender well worth considering.