Grasping the grape

Grasping the grape

Imagine a wine tasting where you can take hold of your glass and start sampling hundreds of different labels side by side--grouped according to their density and grape varieties and not according to their producers. This is quite challenging, out of the usual pattern, where producers display the whole range of their products at a single table. It might seem challenging, but it works miraculously well. This is what over 44 wine producers in Turkey will do next week. They will travel from all over the country to display their wines display side by side, and interact with other producers sniffing, slurping and sipping.

The idea occurred to Taner Öğütoğlu years ago when talking to a friend and together with his wife Ayça in 2017 they started to organize a tasting in this pattern, along with two Master of Wines conducting a Master Class judging some selected wines. As advertising about alcoholic beverages is banned in Turkey, many new wineries do not have a chance to make themselves known in the market and many old wineries cannot promote their new bottles.

However, the wine sector is very dynamic in Turkey and new players in the market keep appearing every year. There are indigenous grapes that are re-discovered and worked into fantastic wines like the elusive Acıkara grape from Taurus Mountains, there are revisited good old classics like the international variety Semillion or the local popular Papazkarası in Thrace region, or the perfumey Bornova Misketi in the Aegean region, which is the ancestor to Muscat grapes.

Alas, all of these exciting wines do not have a chance of meeting with the end-consumer for obvious reasons. Such tastings are the only chance for winelovers to see what is new in the market and compare them according to their body and style. This event is the only single one event embracing all producers that wish to participate, even if they wish to be there by a single bottle, or decide to go bold and display up to 10 bottles.

This way, no winery dominates the ground. All companies, small or big, have an equal chance to be on stage.

Various labels from different wineries are presented according to their body and grape variety and in their ideal tasting order to guarantee an ideal tasting experience. Starting with sparkling and on to light-bodied whites, medium-bodied whites, full-bodied whites and then the roses, which are then followed by light-density reds, all labels will be grouped and placed on tables according to their color, density and grape variety.

For consumers, it is a revelation to see all the same grapes produced by different brands, all side by side. It also gives a vision of where Turkish wine is going. There seems to be a boom in Sauvignon Blanc wines, especially in the Thrace region. Why not sip them side-by-side to see the difference? The much-loved local Öküzgözü grape is in the portfolio of most wineries, so here is a chance to see how it works in different regions of Anatolia. There are new bubblies that have launched just before the festive season, so why not give them a try? The best part of the walk around tasting, of course, is hearing the discussions among connoisseurs, sometimes heated debates on tannins, reduction or whatsoever. Actually, it is a learning ground for anyone who wants to hold to the grape, and grasp what is going on in the wine world of Turkey.

Fork of the Week:

The wine tasting will be supported with some nibbles to go along. Urban Bread will have their variety of sour dough breads, extra virgin olive oil will be from Baba Toprağı and olive oil from Ayvalık. The cheese selection from MacroCenter will definitely match the wines. To sober up, Segafreddo coffee will come to the rescue. For the soul, there will be a selection of food and wine books from Homer’s bookshop. Last but not least, the beautiful design of Nude Glass will soothe the eyes.

For those with a sweet tooth, intensely chocolatey cookies will be from the mother-son team Muhteşem Çikolatalı.

Cork of the Week:

It is not only about wine, there will also be craft beers. Pablo from Bodrum and Zıkkım from the Marmara region will quench the thirst of beer lovers.

The second section of the event is the “Master Classes,” which will be conducted (in English) by two world famous Master Sommeliers, namely İsa Bal MS and Matt Wilkin MS. They will present around 15 labels chosen from among the best Turkish wines, tasting them together with the participants while explaining the technical and sensory merits of their wine choices. Think of it as a great opportunity to taste and train with two of the top sommeliers in the world. Also, the producers or representatives of the selected wines will be on hand for a greet-and-meet so you can take the time to get more product information. Due to the high standards of this tasting event, the Walk Around Tasting section will be limited to only 400 people per day.

The title of Master Sommelier title is regarded as the toughest title in the world that a person can garner when it comes to wine tasting and serving. There are only 273 people who have achieved the right to put the title next to their names.

Isa Bal MS holds the title of the Best Sommelier of Europe 2008 and has been head sommelier of Michelin 3-star restaurant Fat Duck for 12 years.

Matt Wilkin is an Australian Master as well as a senior Master Sommelier living in London. He owns a wine import and distribution company catering to the restaurant sector. He has held a variety of prestigious roles including Executive Sommelier with Michelin-starred Chef Eric Chavot, whose restaurant has achieved two Michelin stars. His achievements have been recognized by a number of high-profile industry awards such as Champagne Trophée Ruinart UK Sommelier of the Year 2005, MS Diploma Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET Diploma and Dom Perignon Award of Excellence 2004.

During the event, one can listen to the best professionals in the wine business on how they make their choices in each category so you can actually learn and taste wine with them. Here is the workshop schedule. Though workshops will be conducted in Turkish, we all know wine has a universal language!

Nov. 24 workshop program

10:30 a.m – 11:30 a.m. Kavaklıdere - International Wine Competitions and their awarded wines since the 60’s

12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Büyülübağ - Vintner’s Selection: Old Vintages Tasting

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Chamlija - Bordeaux Origin Grapes, Istranca Terroir and Chamlija

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Argos - Cappadocia Terroir and Its Unique Wines

Nov. 25 workshop program

Kayra - An Experimental Tasting: Öküzgözü

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Doluca - Comparative Tasting of Ready and Unmatured Wines from Sarafin Vineyards 2018 Vintage 

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. ADCO - Affordable Bordeaux Chateaus

Tickets for the event are available at Mobilet.

To get more information and for the pre-registration to the free workshops please contact

Aylin Öney Tan, Sommeliers’ Selection Türkiye 2018,