Tracing the Thracian Wine Trail
On its third year, the Thrace Wines Competition becomes a tradition that brings together most of the wine producers in the Thrace region. Held last weekend, the competition had 61 bottles from 10 producers, to be judged in a daylong blind tasting. Organized by Burçak Desombre, founder of Vinipedia Wine Consultancy, with the support of Süleymanpaşa Mayor Ekrem Eşkinat, the competition aims at an annual rating of local wines by an international board of three judges, namely Roger Bohmrich Master of Wine, Peter Mc Combie Master of Wine, and Andreas Larsson.
The Thrace Wines Competition is totally local to the Turkish part of Thrace, whether the competitor wines are from the largest or the smallest producers, there is one strict condition to adhere to: Every single grape in the bottle has to be grown in Thrace region of Turkey, and every single bottle has to be produced and bottled in Thrace. That makes the Thrace competition so special, and in its third year it feels like a family reunion happily meeting every harvest time, not only to score the wines but also to enjoy them at each other’s company and have a taste of the others in friendly rivalry. The third edition of the competition proved to be the most successful one when it comes to the scores. Peter McCombie MW, who has been a judge in all of the three years, and Andreas Larrson MS, who has been a judge in the past two years, have both claimed that this year the overall quality was much higher. There were nine gold medals, compared to five of the first year, and four of the second year.
Tracing the Thracian vineyards trail will be a good escape from Istanbul this season. Thrace region of Turkey has a unique geography being in close proximity to three seas, the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and the northern Aegean Sea, creating unique micro-climates ideal for vineyards. It has all the advantages for being a gastronomic destination, but yet to be explored, documented, and brought to the table.
The region boasts with regional specialties, known mostly for the cheeses and meatballs, but also worth visiting for the lesser-known local products. So close to Istanbul, the Thracian landscape is worth exploring for the culinary traveler who wishes to take the road less travelled. Chalky mountains, floodplain forests, sunflower fields, cherry orchards, and above all picturesque vineyards on gentle slopes with a background of one of the three seas create the wonderful scenery, and visiting the numerous wineries, most offering tastings upon request and some with accommodation facilities, make up for a great escape from the city. The only drawback can be driving back to Istanbul, especially on a Sunday afternoon, the inevitable depressing feeling sinks into one, seeing the eyesore urbanization of the ever expanding Megapolis. Well there is a cure, when back home open one of those medal-winning bottles to overcome depression!
Fork of the Week:
One of the most interesting dishes in our vineyard tour in Thrace was at Celepoğlu Konağı in Kırklareli, hosted by Mustafa Çamlıca. All the dishes were quite unusual, chosen from the local cookery of Pomaks, the group of Slavic Balkans living in Thrace. Chef Jülide Başkur is herself a Pomak, and a keen blogger; I enjoy her dishes greatly, my ever favorite was again Loznik, a kind of pan-cooked flat corn bread or savory pie of corn grit, leeks, spring onions, yogurt and whey, sandwiched between sheets of vine leaves. The tanginess of the crisp charred vine leaves contrasts the soft almost sweetish corn-leek-onion dough, which I find goes well with most of the Chamlija white wines, but above all: The delicious Chardonnay.
Cork of the Week:
The gold winners of the completion are as follows: Saranta, Chateau Murou Syrah 2014 (91.67 points); Barbare, Premier Reserve IX-XI-XII Multivintage; Doluca, Sarafin Chardonnay 2015; Kayra, Versus Dedeçeşme Blend 2015; Barel, Gunn Reserve 2013; Barel Vineyards Syrah 2015; Kayra, Imperial Merlot Cabernet Franc 2014; Barbare, Elegance 2012; Chateau Nuzun, Syrah 2013. All judges said that in most cases their points were exactly the same, or very close, so the results were unanimous.
Glass of the Week:
Nude, a part of Şişecam group, the creator and manufacturer of the finest glassware in Turkey, and also probably the world, has been one of the leading sponsors of the Thrace Wines Competition from the very first year. Their lead-free hand-made crystal wine glasses are the perfect choice for fine wine; the competition uses their Climats series, generously let by Nude to all the tasters to keep their set of six glasses. This year they had a surprise for the contributors and gold winners of the competition: A gift of a pair of Stem Zero, their highly sophisticated wine glasses, a simple yet elegant range made to satisfy the most discerning wine connoisseur. The Stem Zero wine glass is subtle and slim, so light that it almost feels like a Zalto, but even better as it has its own presence, when held by its slender stem it just gives the sensation of a crisp, well-balanced wine with a distinctive body. As a contributor to the previous week’s “Thrace is a Celebration” events, I happily received my pair; noticing that the Master of Wine judges were cautiously carrying their own boxes through airport security was a delight to see. After all, they have seen way too many glasses in their life-long tastings, and understanding quality in a glass, they instantly knew that this one was worth carrying back. https://www.nudeglass.com/stem-zero