(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.)
Istanbul summers are hot and unbearable. The crowded concrete-filled city radiates heat and few, if any, taxis are air-conditioned. However, as most of Europe begins the descent into winter, Istanbul’s warm weather lingers. Therefore, fans of drinking chilled Turkish whites can continue to indulge well into November.
As I’ve noted before, a favorite pastime of my fellow Istanbulites is to watch life from a chair on the balcony and gossip about anything new or unusual. White wine is the perfect complement to this age-old tradition. However, most “drinkable” Turkish whites continue to be priced out of my comfort zone and make the idea of wasting an expensive bottle of wine on such a trivial activity unthinkable.
However, anyone who visits Migros with any frequency, or makes a weekly pilgrimage to one of Istanbul’s few major wine sellers, will realize that many of the major wine producers have begun to offer wines for less than 10 TL. Initially wary of the low price (8.90 TL), I bought Sevilen’s Majestik Sauvignon Blanc-Sultaniye to cook with. Naturally, I sampled some of the wine after using half the bottle for a white-wine pasta sauce.
Surprisingly, Sevilen’s Sauvignon Blanc-Sultaniye blend was well balanced and filled with nice flavors. The wine has a honey-tinted yellow hue and is laced with the scent and taste of green apple. It is medium-bodied and finishes with a hint of citrus. The grapes are grown and harvested in Turkey’s İzmir-Denizli district.
The wine would pair really well with vegetarian dishes. I served it with veggie tacos and was pleased with the way it held up against the spices in the dish. It would also be nice with a simple pizza, a dolma appetizer, a garlic-heavy cacık, tangy acılı ezme (my personal favorite) or baked fish such as levrek (sea bass) or çipura (sea bream).
Sevilen is a large producer that makes nice affordable wines. While the Majestik Sauvignon Blanc-Sultaniye is not as good as some French or Italian options under €5, its price is the lowest I have seen for a quality wine in Turkey, making it the perfect accompaniment to a night catching up on your DVR or an evening spent editing thesis chapters. More importantly, Turkish wine producers appear to be focusing on producing wines under 30 TL, making it likely that Turkey could be prime for a golden age of affordable wine drinking. Stay tuned.