Girl power gripping the grape

Girl power gripping the grape

Girl power gripping the grape

AFP photo

Imagine a jury made up of all-female judges, scrutinizing samples from all over the world, trying to work out points for the best wines. The wines are no ordinary ones; they have a secret element: the magical touch of girl power. All the wines in this unique competition are made by women wine-makers. The “2013 International Women’s Wine Competition” organized by Vineyard & Winery Management was held for the seventh time in Sonoma County, California last July. “Seven” is considered a lucky number in Turkey, and the seventh all-women wine competition proved to be the ultimate lucky year for a young Turkish wine girl. Özge Kaymaz of Kayra Wines brought seven awards back home, proudly representing Turkey’s wines and women. 

Why an all women wine “summit”? As processes of wine making, tasting and consuming are becoming intertwined with women, the organization of such a competition is just apt, if not inevitable. U.S.-based Research Company Nielsen estimates that women will be controlling the market in the coming decades; “Women have tremendous spending power in America today – and it’s growing. Market estimates about their total purchasing prowess varies, ranging anywhere from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. And the scope of that spending is notably vast. Fleishman-Hillard Inc. estimates that women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next decade and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.” 

It is not just women starting to have an impact over the wine market as consumers, but also they are excelling as managers, sommeliers, wine consultants, and creators of exciting new wines. Özge Kaymaz, one of Kayra Wines’ wine-makers, is one of such pioneering and leading women in the wine business. The wine bearing her signature, Kayra Kalecik Karası Vintage Blush 2012, has won two prestigious awards: “Best of Class” and “Best of Show Rose.” Kaymaz and Kayra won seven medals in total; silver with Terra Sauvignon Blanc 2012; bronzes with Kayra Imperial Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2009, Kayra Vintage Shiraz 2011 and Terra Kalecik Karası Kırmızı 2012. Winning these medals is no small achievement; the annual Women’s Wine Competition is one of the emerging platforms of the global wine sector. The jury was led by world famous sommelier Debra Del Fiorentina and its other members were equally renowned in the wine industry. That might be the motive behind the selection of her Kalecik Karası Blush as the “Best of Show Rose,” as the creation of this particular wine had distinctive girls’ instincts. Kaymaz recalls the magic moment when together with Kayra’s Products Manager Murat Üner, they were paying their routine tasting tests in the fermentation vats, and when they tasted the macerating must of the indigenous Anatolian red grape Kalecik Karası, they were stunned by the exceptional aromatic qualities and good acidity that would perfectly fit for a white or a pink, rather than a red wine. The idea that these grapes should be made into a rosé instantly flashed in their minds, and she embarked on the venture. It was a gamble; Kayra had no plans to introduce rosé wines to their range at the times and precious Kalecik Karası grapes had only been used so far for making red wines. Kaymaz and Kayra took the risk anyway and it paid off in a lovely way. 

Kaymaz is a self-starter; born in the Marmara region’s Tekirdağ city, famed as a grape growing area. Following her growing passion in wine, she chose to specialize in the field and continued for a Master’s degree in the Viticulture Department. Her zest for educating herself continues, and Kaymaz regards winemaking as a never ending quest for further knowledge. She spent the 2009 grape harvest in Chile, and 2010 in New Zealand; she was particularly taken and inspired by New Zealand’s diversity in winemaking. 

In the last couple of years, winemaking has traveled a long way in Turkey, refining already existing tastes, generating new ones and opening up to the world. Not only old companies reinvented themselves coming to fruition, but many small wineries flourished. Just when the winemaking was undergoing a renaissance, draconian new laws curbing advertising and marketing opportunities to a great extent were legislated. It is ironic that even this article might have given way to a court case, as it talks about wine; but a new law that just came into effect permits (only) writing about alcoholic drinks if there is an international success at stake. Well, on the bright side, Turkish wines are not short of success in the international arena; and so are the women of Turkey shining out in the wine sector. 
It is another irony that Turkey stands out among the predominantly Muslim populated countries with its wine culture, as well as its women active in not just winemaking but all walks of professional life in the wine sector. Women are fastidious, have a keen eye to details, and an incredible nose very sensitive to even the slightest nuances of smells. There seems to be a faithful linkage between the refinement and conscience of women, and the grace and glamour of grapes. 

In our contemporary times, both women and wines face glass ceilings and prejudices in social life; but their linked destinies and nature seem to be resilient enough to overcome any obstacle: it is girl power gripping the grape and will not let go of it.

Bite of the week

Recipe of the Week: A delightful pink wine jelly will celebrate the golden shine of the Indian summer, only if you can sacrifice a bottle for the purpose. Soften 8 sheets leaf gelatin in cold water. Put 150 ml apple juice and 75 g sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil and take off from heat. Squeeze out excess water from the gelatin and dissolve in the hot apple juice. Mix the juice with a bottle of rosé wine and put into fridge. Peel and slice thinly 2 peaches; divide 1 cup of frozen raspberries in 8 wine or champagne glasses, and arrange peach slices in the glasses. When the wine jelly is just on the point of setting, pour in the glasses and chill until completely set. 

Fork of the Week: Your pick must be from a woman chef, my suggestion for the week is Didem Şenol of Maya. Either go to her good old Karaköy venue Maya to enjoy a succulent grilled octopus with your rosé, or have some gravlax, roast beef or house-smoked turkey wrapped to take home from Gram at Şişhane. 

Cork of the Week: Obviously my suggestion for the week is the whole range by Kayra, signed by Özge Kaymaz. For a girlish pink that grips the true taste of the grape, go for Terra Kalecik Karası Roze.