Despite its tumultuous 8,000 year history, Turkish-produced wine is making a well-deserved comeback. In recognition of the wine’s growing popularity, Ankara, Dupont’s local Turkish haunt, is helping to get the word spread. Last week, they teamed up with Sommelier Andrew Stover to debut new wine pairings that play to many different tastes, ranging from smooth and subtle to spicy and robust.
Before diving into the Turkish offerings, Stover served up Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rose Brut, an English sparkling wine fit for a president, literally (Obama shared the wine with royalty on his last visit to Buckingham Palace). The bubbles did their part and activated guests tastebuds as the first wave of mezes poured out from the kitchen. Wedges of bubbly Turkish bread gave diners a vehicle to mop up bites of Shaksuka, eggplant sautéed with roasted red pepper and Kopologu, garlic yogurt blended with eggplant and spicy tomato sauce.
The salad course, Coban Salatasi, consisted of a classic and simple combination of cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, peppers and onions. The light salad and accompanying crisp white wine varietal, Emir, from Turasan Vineyards were the calm before the storm of richly seasoned dishes and decadent wines that followed.
The next course featured the Turks’ take on a shepherd’s pie, better known as Moussaka — alternately featuring a creamy bechamel over ground beef instead of mashed potatoes. Stover balanced the hearty dish with a lighter Pinot Noir-like glass of Kalecik Karasi, another product of Turasan. The real standout of the evening was the last course, Ali Nazik, made up of tender chunks of marinated lamb and served beside creamy pureed eggplant. The powerful flavor called for an equally bold wine, so Stover enlisted Diren’s Karmena Okuzgozu, comparing it to a Merlot/ Syrah blend. With hints of dried tobacco and cedar, the varietal is not for the faint of heart — to further drive the point, Okuzgozu translates to “eye of the bull.”
Besides being fun to say, the grapes found in Turkey are unique and abundant — 800 indigenous varieties can be found across the country. As producers increase their exports, expect to see Turkish wines forge a renaissance in the world of wine. Cheers to that, or as the Turks say: şerefe!