Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Grexico at Committee: Fusion Cuisine At Its Best

Fusion cuisine can get a bad rap, albeit with some justification based on some very poor examples of fusion. However, most international cuisines are actually fusions, using and adapting various ingredients, techniques and recipes from different cultures. For example, Japanese tempura has its roots in Portugal and in Peru, Japanese immigrants helped to create Nikkei cuisine, a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines. In Boston, Taranta is a restaurant that serves a superb fusion of Peruvian and Italian cuisines. And recently, I enjoyed a new fusion cuisine, one which is worthy of its own restaurant.

To honor Cinco de MayoCommittee created a special "Grexico" menu, fusing Greek and Mexican cuisines. They stated part of the inspiration, "Fusing the two cuisines is a new trend that is starting to pop up around the country, most recently with fast casual Souvla and Tacolicious in San Francisco teaming up to create Souvalicious Lam mole tacos earlier this month." The menu was only available for five days but I fervently hope it returns, or they decide to open a new restaurant dedicated to this fusion, as the food was absolutely delicious and the fusion worked so very well.

Much of this special menu was created by Sous Chef Luis Figueroa, with assistance from Chef Theo Tsilpanos, as many of these dishes are recipes Figueroa grew up eating. Figueroa has over a decade of culinary expertise, garnering experience as a chef and kitchen manager, with a pedigree including Grill 23 & Bar and Mistral. With Mexican roots and expertise in Mediterranean cooking, Sous Chef Luis Figueroa combines Latin flair with modern Greek cuisine.

About this menu, Figueroa stated, "Mexican and Greek flavors work well together because there is a big focus on freshness and working with what’s around you in both cultures. Mexicans eat like Greeks! Our feasts are similar, the tables are always full. They have pita, we have tortillas. They have tzatziki, we have guacamole. We are also surrounded by sea and we have a lot of dishes that involve seafood. Like the Greeks the grilling and seasoning of whole fish is similar. Mexican grandmas are very similar to Greek grandmas as recipes are passed down from generation to generation."

The full Grexico menu included 3 Drinks, 6 Antijitos ("little cravings"), 3 Tacos, 1 Dish for the Table, and 2 Desserts. I was invited as a media guest to sample the menu and I was impressed with the intriguing balance of Greek and Mexican ingredients in each dish. These were well-crafted recipes, executed well and made me crave more.

During our dinner, we sampled several different cocktails. The Baecation ($14) is made with Wray & Nephew overproof rum, Cynar, Licor 43, banana syrup, coconut, and lime. It certainly would be a fine summer-time cocktail, though it was a bit too sweet for my own preferences.

The Piscoteca ($14) was more to my preferences, made with Pisco Barsol Verde, house-made tropical fassionola syrup, and lime. It was more dry, with intriguing tropical fruit flavors and a delightful vein of the Pisco. Very refreshing, it would also be a nice summer cocktail.

The Holy Smokes ($14), made with Del Magüey Vida mezcal, Lillet Blanc, lemon, cinnamon, and tepache, comes in a tall, fun glass. The smoky agave spirit is prominent, enhanced by the spice and citrus, making it complex, refreshing and delicious. A third excellent choice for a summer cocktail.

We didn't sample the entire menu, though what we missed sounded intriguing as well, such as the Mexican Street Corn ($8), with a spicy jalapeno mayo and crumbled feta. The Pickled Octopus Tostada ($16) is made with chipotle aioli, Florina pepper, yellow pepper, Greek olive oil, vinegar, and lemon. Figueroa had this o say about the tostada, "The dish came from the idea that Greeks love octopus and some of the best comes from the Mediterranean. Tostada means toasted with the main ingredient being the toasted tortilla. We added the Greek octopus and peppers on top to give It the combined Mexican and Greek flavor." The Whole Red Snapper ($32) is prepared with adobe marinated red snapper, achiote onions, rigani, & Mexico City salad, and is served with corn and grape leaf tortillas, Greek olive salsa and a homemade hot sauce. Hopefully another time I'll get to enjoy these dishes.

We began our dinner with the Grecomole ($12), mashed avocados and herbs, feta, grated cotija, and fried pita. Though I'm not usually a guacamole fan, I enjoyed this dish, savoring the salty and creamy kick from the feta and cotija. An excellent opening to our meal, setting the stage for the rest of the fusion cuisine.

All the guests received a complimentary dish of Guajillo Hummus, with a stack of warm pita slices. The hummus was delicious, with a mild spiciness, and I slathered plenty of it on the pita. Committee does a great job with their various spreads and this was no exception.

The Greek Ceviche ($18), made with white fish, tsipoura, lime juice, red onion, Greek yogurt, aji amarillo, sweet potato, cilantro, and fried calamari, was a complex melange of flavors. The fried calamari were tender and lightly sweet, and the white fish was meaty, tender and flavorful. It was a well balanced dish, each bite bringing plenty to your mouth.

The Grilled Halloumi ($12) was topped by guajillo vinaigrette, watercress, and mezcal infused oranges. As usual, their grilled halloumi was quite tasty, a firm cheese with a nice sear to it, while the vinaigrette added a pleasant, light spiciness. The oranges contributed a subtle smokiness and a nice burst of acid.

The Beef Keftedakia ($14), basically Greek meatballs, were topped by a tomato-chipotle sauce and Mexican crema. They were meaty and moist, with a slight crunchy sear, and enhanced by the sauce and crema, which brought to mind the flavors of Mexico.

The menu had three different Tacos (3 tacos for $14), including the Pork Gyro Tacos (which we didn't eat), with avocado tzatziki, salsa verde, queso fresco, atop a corn tortilla. However, we did enjoy the Pescado Tacos, overflowing with fried smelts, skordalia, and Greek olive salsa, atop a house-made corn tortilla. A take on a fish taco, the addition of the fried smelts was a tasty option, adding a nice texture to the dish, and the skordali and salsa brought additional complexity and flavor. The tortillas were light, with a nice corn flavor, and were as good as any I've had in the local area.

My favorite dish of the evening were the Lamb Barbacoa Tacos, made with braised lamb, tzatziki, and Fix beer (a Greek beer) guajillo, atop grape leaf-corn tortillas. Grapeleafs were crumbled into the mixture of the corn tortillas, providing its different color and texture. They were unique and delicious, such a delightful fusion of cuisines. Who would have thought such a combination could be so tasty? The lamb was moist and tender, just perfectly prepared, and the entirety of the taco worked so well. I could easily see a Greek-Mexican Taco joint doing very well in the Boston area.

For Dessert, one of the options was the Churros ($10) with merenda. These hot, donut-like sticks were scrumptious, with a nice blend of sweetness atop them. They possessed an excellent crunchy exterior with a softer, fluffier interior. I've always loved churros and Committee did well by this traditional dish.

To put a Greek spin on the Churros, they added a dish of Merenda, which is kind of the Greek version of Nutella, except there is less hazelnut and more chocolate flavor. An excellent dish for dipping the churros, and I think I prefer this to the strong hazelnut of the Nutella.

There was also Dulce de Leche Ice Cream ($8), with Baklava crumble, another winner dessert. The creamy ice cream had rich flavors, enhanced by the crunchy texture of the baklava. The dish wasn't too sweet or heavy, and it will make you wonder by baklava crumble isn't more of a thing.

Committee's Grexico menu worked well on a number of levels, cleverly fusing the two cuisines and creating flavorful and interesting dishes. The more that you think about the combinations, the more that they make culinary sense. I was thoroughly impressed with the menu and I'd order any of these dishes again, especially those Lamb Barbacoa Tacos with the grape leaf-corn tortillas. If Greek-Mexican fusion is a burgeoning new trend, then let Boston be one of those trend setters. I sincerely hope that Committee brings back the Grexico menu, or even that they decide to open a restaurant specializing in this cuisine. Big kudos to Sous Chef Luis Figueroa and Chef Theo Tsilpanos for making this superb menu.  

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
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1) Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan and the team at Harvest invite guests to Rosé the Day Away and explore a variety of rosés on their outdoor oasis patio every Wednesday through Friday, from 4pm-6pm, this summer. They will feature rosé options by the glass or bottle, as well as a rosé sangria and cider expertly selected by Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan.

While enjoying the rosé bar, guests can select items from the mid bar menu at 4 PM such as New England Oysters, The Harvest Burger, and the Scituate Lobster Roll. In celebration of Rosé the Day Away’s kick-off week, Executive Chef Tyler Kinnett has prepared complimentary bar bites for each day of the week including Pretzel Sticks with Beer Cheese on Wednesday, Gougeres with Gruyere Cheese Mornay on Thursday, and Arancini with Spring Onion Aioli on Friday.

The Rosé the Day Away beverage menu is as follows:
Bottles
Pratsch, Zweigelt, Niederosterreich, Austria 2017 $42
Domaine Bunan, Mourvedre, Moulin des costs, Bandol, France 2016 $65
Minimus/Craft Wine Co., Tempranillo, Oregon 2016 $72
Duckhorn, Decoy, Syrah/Vermentino, California 2017 $48
By the Glass
Chateau Gassier, Esprit Gassier, Côtes de Provence, France 2017 $13
Villa de Anges, Languedoc, France 2017 $10
Vaccelli, Juste Ciel!, Corsica, France 2016 $9
Something Rose-y
Rosé Sangria, Bordeaux Rose, Strawberries, Raspberries, Brandy, Lemon $11
Rosé Cider, Wolffer, Dry Rosé Cider 139, Hamptons NY $14

Please call 617-868-2255 to book seats.

2) David Vargas, chef/owner of Portsmouth’s Mexican restaurant, Vida Cantina, announced today that he has been working in partnership with Herradura Tequila to create the first-ever signature batch of “Vida Tequila” which will be unveiled at the Vida Tequila Release Party on June 3 at Vida Cantina. “It is something I have wanted to create for a long time” shares Vargas. “Everything we make at Vida Cantina is from scratch and authentic; there’s a whole lot of love and family and history that goes into each of our dishes and cocktails. This is the next level of true Vida Cantina hospitality; sharing our very own custom-made Vida Tequila with our guests.”

The Vida Tequila Release Party, will be held outside on June 3, from 12noon-5pm. Vargas and his team will be cooking outside at Vida Cantina, preparing and serving authentic Mexican street food, signature Vida Cantina cocktails, local brews, and of course, celebrating Vida Tequila. Ruben Aceves, Global Ambassador, Tequila Herradura, will be on hand to share tastings and insights of Herradura. There will also be a Mariachi band and a DJ.

Cait Reagan, (former GM of Vida Cantina, and now GM at Vargas’ new restaurant, Ore Nell’s BBQ in Kittery, Maine) traveled to Mexico to see first-hand the production of Herradura Tequila. By learning the process and tasting the tequila barrels, Cait was able to select the barrel to be bottled as Vida Tequila. “It was a really interesting process” according to Reagan. “There were three barrels of tequila that had been aged and were ready for bottling. I thought they would taste similarly to each other, but I was surprised at how different they were. One barrel was very floral, one was sweet, and the third barrel had a nice sweetness at the start, and then some floral, and then just a really nice depth and complexity of flavor. That is the one I chose – I loved the complexity and balance.” 

Herradura bottled the tequila and is shipping the custom-batch to Vida Cantina in time for the June 3 Vida Tequila Release Party. “It was an absolutely amazing experience” shares Reagan. “To be able to select our own tequila was truly once-in-a-lifetime. Unless they invite me back, and then I’m happy to make it a ‘twice-in-a-lifetime experience!!’”

Everyone is invited. No tickets necessary. Just come as you are and order up some food and drink and have a great time!

3) Glass House, the restaurant, bar, and modern day “meeting house” in the heart of Kendall Square, is kicking the heat up a notch this summer with their new Toasty Tuesdays and Fire Pit Fridays.

Enjoy summer nights by the fire with Glass House every Tuesday and Friday. The Cambridge hotspot will be heating things up on the patio all summer long, where guests can get cozy under Glass House blankets, enjoy a glass of wine or other delicious cocktails, and dine from the special patio menu which includes summer favorites like Short Rib Gnocchos (Gnocchi Nachos), Tempura Chicken Skewers, Grilled Jumbo Shrimp, and Falafel Sliders.

When: Tuesdays, from 4-7pm, until August 14th and Fridays  from 4-7pm, until July 27

4) Chef/Owner Will Gilson and the Puritan and Co. team invite guests to join them for a night of all things rosé at their 4th annual Rosé Rumble. Puritan & Co.’s upcoming Rosé Rumble will offer guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in the best rosés in Boston like a true insider. Taking place on Thursday, June 14th, the fourth annual industry-style tasting event will showcase a variety of rosés for guests to taste, discuss, and learn about while enjoying unlimited bites from Chef Will Gilson and the Puritan and Co. team.

The night will feature two, separately ticketed sessions- one at 6 p.m. and one at 8 p.m. Both sessions will end at 10 p.m. Regularly $75, tickets are now available for a special early bird rate of $65 until May 25th.

Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rose-rumble-2018-tickets-45986039482?aff=es2

This is an excellent event and I'm sure it will sell out quickly so I highly recommend you buy tickets now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Georgian Wine: All About Context (Part 1)

"Every qvevri is, potentially, a microbiological jungle, a sensorial car crash, a celebration of hideousness – unless the vessel itself has been scrupulously prepared, unless the harvest has been carefully sorted and cleaned, unless the vinification practices have been honed and refined."
--Andrew Jefford, Decanter Magazine

I've got Georgia on my mind...

The wines from the country of Georgia are still a niche product in the U.S. but I hope that changes. All wine lovers can find something of interest in the diversity of Georgian wines. In 2017, Georgia exported almost 77 million bottles of wine, about 6.4 million cases. Their top export market is Russia, which currently purchases about 60% of their wines by volume. And the third export market, and which has been growing significantly, is China, with exports doubling from 2015 to 2016. As for specific wine styles, about 50% of Georgia's total production comprises semi-sweet wines, many which end up in Russia. And though qvevri wines get lots of publicity, they comprise no more than 3% of total production.


Recently, I attended a seminar, titled "Georgia in Context," and tasting on the wines of Georgia at Puritan & Co. The two presenters included Alice Feiring, a Georgian wine expert and proponent of natural wines, and Taylor Parsons, a sommelier from Los Angeles. Alice has written a book on Georgian wine, For The Love of Wine, which is fascinating and recommended if you are interested in Georgian wines.

Back in December 2016, I attended a prior seminar on the wines of Georgia which was led by Taylor. At that time, Taylor approached Georgian wines as a potential buyer, coming at them with fresh eyes. At the recent seminar, Taylor stated that his prior seminar was more "Wow, this is Georgian wine," an indication of the newness of those wines to the U.S. market. Now that those wines are becoming better known, this new seminar would be more about context. As was stated, "Context matters in everything, but especially in wine."

Our contextual understanding of wine includes four aspects, including evolution & development, culture, geography/climate/topography, and typicity. A contextual understanding of Georgian wines though is a work in progress, with additional study and research needed to gain greater comprehension of everything that plays a role. A greater understanding will also allow us to provide consumers even more reasons why they should drink Georgian wines.

Some general comments were made about the country of Georgia, noting that it has a population of under 4 million people, less than the number of people that live in the Greater Boston area. Much of the country is mountainous terrain, including the Caucasus and Likhi Mountains. There was then a brief historical sketch of Georgia and its wine industry, which extends back 8,000 years. One important event occurred during the 19th century when Europeans, and especially the French, helped to influence wine production. Another important event occurred during the 1970s, when the overall wine quality of George decreased substantially as Stalin ardently pushed for massive quantity over quality.

At this point, I want to take a minute for a brief historical detour, touching on the influence of France upon the Georgian wine industry. In The Classic Cuisine of Soviet Georgia: History, Traditions and Recipes, by Julianne Margvelashvili (1991), there is an intriguing, albeit brief, passage concerning the possible origins of sparkling wine in Georgia. The passage states, “In the 1840s a young Georgian from the vineyards of Kakheti found himself a prisoner-of-war in France’s champagne region. He was not a warrior by nature, but he was a winemaker by heritage. It was not long before he made it his business to learn the techniques of champagne production. Upon his liberation and return to his father’s vineyard, he taught how French champagne is made.”

I've tried to gather more information about the events in this passage but have been unsuccessful so far, but my research continues. If anyone has any more information, I would appreciate it if you contacted me.

Back to the seminar. Next, there was an explanation of the three main types of wine making in Georgia: traditional, modern and pragmatic. In general, traditional wine making includes the use of indigenous varieties, stem & skins maceration, the use of qvevri, and no filtration or fining. On the other hand, modern wine making generally uses steel and/or oak, inoculation, no skin & stems maceration for white wines, and the use of filtration and fining. The pragmatic style is a hybrid of the two other styles, using whatever aspects they believe will be best for their wine.

Since 2011, a number of home wine makers have made the transformation into commercial wineries. During the time of Stalin, these home wine makers helped keep wine making traditions alive, as well as preserving indigenous grapes species that Stalin cared nothing about. With these people, there is plenty of intuitive wine making, simply following old traditions that have been passed down through the generations. These individuals may not have been formally trained, but they are relying on the knowledge and experience of their ancestors.

Considering scientific endeavors, Georgia lacks adequate information on its soils, needing a soil study to examine and review its various soil types and terroir. They do not possess a definitive soil map and that should probably be a priority for the country. That will help them better plant their grapes, decide which areas are better regions for vineyards, and much more. The quality of Georgia wines could be enhanced with a comprehensive soil study.

There were some comments on the nature of qvevri, giant earthenware vessels which can be used to ferment and age wine. For example, it is said that you shouldn't be able to taste the qvevri in the wine. Cleanliness of the qvevri is essential to Georgia wine makers. Many wine cellars possess qvevri of different sizes, allowing them to vary production sizes of specific grapes or wines. In general, whites wines fermented in qvevri include skin contact, though a wine with only two weeks of such skin contact may actually be considered a "no skin contact" wine.

I was shocked to learn that in Georgia, until the 2013 vintage, there weren't any female winemakers! Currently there are approximately 7 or 8 female winemakers, many second generation daughters who work in the family winery, or even have taken over the ownership. This reminds me in some respects of the Japanese Sake industry, which was also dominated for centuries by men. It wasn't until 1976 that a woman was legally permitted to become a Sake brewer. Prior to that, women often weren't even permitted inside a Sake brewery, especially when brewing was occurring. I will be following up on this aspect of the Georgian wine industry, to highlight the contributions of these women.

Now that people have started to become familiar with Georgian wine in general, it may be time to go into deeper detail, to provide them more information on the country's wine diversity. To do that, we can begin to explain about the different wine regions of Georgia, starting with the basic division of West and East. As an example, in the West, Tsolikouri is the main white grape while in the East, Rkatsiteli is the main one. We discussed two main wine regions, each reflective of that basic division, including Imetri (West) and Kakheti (East).

The region of Imetri is broken into three sub zones, Higher, Middle and Lower Imetri. It is a mountainous region, with lots of humidity, varied soils, and lush vegetations and forests. There are some subtropical areas as well as ancient forests. The primary grapes of this region include Tsolikouri, Tsitska, Krakhuna, Aladasturi, and Otskhanuri Sapere. The cuisine tends to be lighter, more vegetarian, and spicier, while the wines tend to be lighter and more delicate. The wineries are also often kept outside, as they say, "Qvevri need to feel the rain."

The region of Kakheti is broken into two sub zones, Inner and Outer Kakheti, and comprises about 65% of all Georgian vineyards. The region has plenty of sub-alpine plains, with fertile soils (with more clay), and includes the basins of the Alani and Iori Rivers. The primary grapes of this region include Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Mtsvane Kakhuri, Kisi, and Khikhvi. They also have the greatest number of international grapes. It is a hotter region so white wines generally have longer skin contact, giving them a deeper orange/amber color, to help preserve the wines, almost like UV protection. The cuisine is more "shepherd's food," using the meat of cows and sheep, often grilled, as well as plenty of cheese and bread. Lots of comfort food.

Near the end of the seminar, Peter Nelson, the wine director of Puritan & Co., posed an intriguing question, asking "How do persuade people to drink 'skin contact' wines when they respond that all those wines taste the same?" Puritan has a cool wine list, and it includes about 10-15 skin contact wines. Peter noted that the issue is not limited to their customers, but includes some of his peers in the wine industry as well. This issue is also applicable to Japanese Sake, and I've heard that same criticism before, that they all taste the same. Thus, I was very curious as to possible solutions to this dilemma.

Taylor stated that "Skin contact is all about the savory." It is not about the fruit, and those who expect fruit in their wines may be turned off by the savory aspect. Taylor then compared the concept to people who say how all "New Oak" wines may taste the same for some people. With Georgian wine, Taylor recommends that you tell people to forget their wine preconceptions, to go beyond the similar textures and seek deeper within the wine. Confronted with something new, people commonly try to create an analogy to something they know. And that can color their opinion of the new item. It takes an active measure to be more open to something that is new, to see it with fresh eyes. And that is the challenge for advocates of niche beverages, whether they are Georgian qvevri white wines or Japanese Sake.

One of the last bits of wisdom from the seminar was from Taylor, who started, "Don't apologize about wine. Don't be dogmatic about what is good wine."

(To Be Continued..)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Rant: Stop Neglecting Sherry

"There are only two kinds of sherry, the good and the better."
--Jerez saying

What is one of the tastiest, most intriguing, and unique wines that you are probably not drinking? It is most likely Sherry, a fascinating fortified wine from a small region of southern Spain.

As a long-term lover and fervent advocate of Sherry, I enjoy taking the opportunity, to spread my passion for this wine, to intrigue others to give it a try. Sherry remains a niche beverage in the U.S., and most of the Sherry imported into the U.S. is sweet. As such, many Americans have not encountered the myriad joys of dry Sherry. Even many wine lovers have little experience with dry Sherry. It is dry Sherry which is enjoyed the most in Spain, and there must be a very good reason for that fact. And due to reasons I'll explain in the near future, Sherry has been especially on my mind.

Sadly, Sherry sales have been on a decline in recent years but predications indicate it may be making a comeback. The IWSR, in their 2016-2021 Forecast Report, predicts that volume sales of premium Sherry will grow by 18%. As I've written in my history of Sherry, it is a cyclic wine, which has numerous ups and downs, and has always founds a way back up. So, I can easily understand why Sherry consumption could be on an upward swing.

Sherry education is essential to the promotion of Sherry consumption, to get more Americans exploring this intriguing fortified wine. Here are some items that hopefully will motivate you to discover more about Sherry.
  • The Sherry region has a lengthy, fascinating history, extending back a few thousand years and may even the source of the Atlantis legend. 
  • Palomino, the primary grape of Sherry, may have been planted by the ancient Phoenicians. Every sip of Sherry is a taste of history.
  • Sherry may have been the first wine brought to the New World.
  • The Mayflower, before it sailed to the New World by the Puritans, was used to transport Sherry.
  • Aged Sherry is one of the best values in the wine world. You could buy 50 year old Sherry for $50-$100, far cheaper than almost any other aged wine on the market. 
  • Francois Chartier, who has written on the science of food and wine pairings, states that Fino Sherry is the King of Food Pairings.
  • A Sherry Bodega is radically different from the average wine cellar, helping to make Sherry possess its distinctive nature.
  • Here are 10 Things you should know about Sherry.
  • And here are 5 More Things you should know about Sherry.
Locally, Sherry is starting to get a little more visibility, albeit more in the form of Sherry cocktails. I enjoy such cocktails, but I would like to see more people enjoying Sherry on its own too. If you enjoy the flavors of Sherry in cocktails, then why not try the flavors on their own, without other flavors clouding the issue. Try a Fino or Manzanilla, an Amontillado or Oloroso. Or maybe even a Palo Cortado. And then you can move onto some Sherry variations such as En Rama.

The best place to enjoy Sherry is at Taberna de Haro in Brookline, which has over 60 Sherries on their list. Order a few tapas and get a flight of Sherries to compare and contrast. Chef/owner Deborah Hansen always has so many excellent and unique Sherries on her list. Whenever I drive by the restaurant, I nearly always have to stop for a glass of Sherry. Another restaurant with an excellent Sherry list is Tres Gatos, where you also can find some intriguing Sherries.

Stop missing out on the wonders of Sherry. Take a chance and order a couple dry Sherries, to taste something new. You can thank me later when you find a new favorite.

Friday, May 11, 2018

2015 Kocabağ Öküzgözü: Exploring Turkish Wine

I know very little about the wines of Turkey, but I hope to remedy that in the near future. The region has a lengthy history of wine production, extending back about 7,000 years. Turkey is supposed to be the fourth largest producer of grapes in the world, and they are said to have over 600 indigenous grapes. I have seen few wines from this country in local stores, except recently when I stopped at an Armenian store in Watertown which had a small but intriguing wine selection. I bought a couple Turkish wines, without knowing anything about them. I was willing to take a risk, hoping the wines tasted good.

The Kocabağ Winery, located in the city of Nevsehir, was established in 1972 by Mehmet Erdogan and the winery has been selling wine commercially since 1986. The estate is comprised of about 35 hectares, growing indigenous grapes including Bogazkere, Emir, Kalecik Karas, Narince and Öküzgözü.

I bought their 2015 Kocabağ Öküzgözü ($19.99), made from an indigenous grape (with lots of umlauts) that is pronounced  "Oh-cooz-goe-zue." It's name refers to its large grapes that resemble a bull's eye. The grape has high acidity and mild tannins, tending to make soft, easy drinking wines similar in some respects to Gamay or Pinot Noir. In 2010, there were about 4000 acres of this grape planted in Turkey, and the grape is used both for wine and as a table grape.

The 2015 Kocabağ Öküzgözü possessed a medium-red color with an interesting nose of black cherry and raspberry, with a few spice notes. On the palate, it was light bodied, with plenty of acidity, and delicious ripe plum and black cherry flavors, enhanced by a mild earthiness and hints of spice. It had a very Old World feel to it, with mild tannins, a moderately lengthy finish, and was simply tasty. I paired this with a steak and it went well, though it would work well with a variety of dishes, especially because of its high acidity.

I'll be doing more research on the wines of Turkey, especially as I now know where I can purchase some. This first risk paid off well, with a delicious wine from an intriguing indigenous grape.

Have you tried any of the wines of Turkey?