Getting to grips with Turkey's Okuzgozu wine

Thu May 20, 2010 7:02am EDT
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By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Labels touting wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes are familiar to the average wine lover, but how does one decide whether to go for an Okuzgozu or an Emir?

A small number of wine connoisseurs who have been cottoning on to a revolution in Turkish wine production led by such winemakers as Daniel O'Donnell at Kayra Wines in the Turkish region of Anatolia, will tell you pretty firmly that Emir is white and Okuzgozu is red, for a start.

Kayra and seven other top Turkish producers from the "Grand Terrain" in Turkey have been showing off the results of a 10-year-long "seismic shift" in how wine is made in Turkey under the marketing umbrella "Wines of Turkey" at the London International Wine Fair (LIWF).

O'Donnell, a Californian from Napa Valley who was asked to go to Turkey to evaluate the wine potential of what would become Kayra, said he found a blank tablet to work with when he got to the country some consider to be the birthplace of wine.

"Turkey is either the newest Old World wine or the oldest New World wine," he told Reuters on the last day of the wine fair. "They've been making wine for 5,000 years."

He said the amazing thing about Turkey when he first arrived to take stock was that the grapes were unfamiliar, the winemaking ancient, the reputation unmentionable and there was no one to provide him with any guidance on making fine wines.

"I'm still getting to grips with the grapes," said O'Donnell. "The first time I made this Okuzgozu I made 10 different versions because I needed to know what this grape does."

Now his Kayra Imperial (80 percent Okuzgozu) is carried at top restaurants such as Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck, whose sommelier was hovering nearby.   Continued...

<p>Bottles of wine are displayed in a wine shop produced of grapes from vineyard run by Melen wines near Tekirdag in western Turkey, August 18, 2007. REUTERS/Fatih Saribas</p>