Monday, May 2, 2016

Turkish wine

For the past week I've been travelling through the (mostly) lesser known areas of Turkey looking for interesting archaeological sites. 14-18h work days were occasionally made more relaxing by sharing the odd bottle of wine.

First up was a cheap little white, Kavaklıdere Angora 2015, from the Sultaniye grape and grown in the Denizli region. Sultana is not a grand grape by any means but it is a clean, refreshing drop. Not something you would spit out after hard day walking through mountainous terrain.

The next day we had another wine from the biggest producer in Turkey, Kavaklıdere Ancyra Kalecik karası 2014, this time just with another spelling of the capital's name. Kalecik karası is a fascinating grape: not so heavy as many others grown here, high in acidity, making a range of styles from light Gamay-like wines to something more substantial and meaty. This was a decent but not really exciting version of the grape: sweet fruit, on the bigger end of the Kalecik karası spectrum but still with wonderfully refreshing structure. Nice, but there are so many other better producers making more exciting wines in Turkey.

In Cappadocia we of course tried the local produce. We simply did not have time to visit any wineries but Kocabağ was easy to find in local shops and restaurants. The producer is based in Üchisar near the touristy town of Göreme. We tried two wines from them: the Öküzgözü 2013 and the Boğazkere 2014. I liked both. The Öküzgözü was a big, ripe almost Shirazy wine but with good, refreshing tannins. The Boğazkere was a lighter wine and more to my taste for being so: if any comparison can be made to well known grapes this would be Pinot to the Ökü's Shiraz. But both were fun wines.

From Cappadocia we took a bottle of Turasan Narince 2014 with us since we would stay the night at Konya, Turkey's most conservative city where wine is not easy to come by. I was sure it would be corked since we had such phenomenally bad luck that day. The first setback was that we did several Byzantine sites in remote places and were running late so didn't have time for the neolithic Çatalhöyük. Then we nearly ran out of gas and only just made it to a petrol station. There they put the wrong type of petrol in our car so we stalled 20km outside of Konya. Finally we got that sorted out and we got to town and everything but a single kebab place was closed so we bought some to take to the hotel. At the hotel we find out that the key didn't work and that the kebab place had given us something completely different than what we ordered. But anyway, only 5h later than we thought, we were in Konya, finally got into our rooms, had a bit of food we didn't want but ate anyway because we could not get anything else. And amazingly the wine wasn't corked. It was warm and we only had water glasses to drink it out of but it was nice. Peachy & mineral; full body, not terribly acidic but somehow, even when warm, was refreshing. The night's ordeal might have something to do with that, however. (Little did I know that this was only the beginning of our travails...)

Now back in civilization in Istanbul, tonight we had dinner at Solera, a wine bar + restaurant in Beyoğlu. The steak was great and they have a superb selection of Turkish wine, many of them available by glass. Chamlija is a Thracian producer that I've heard much good about so we ordered their Papazkarası 2014. It was wonderful. They have a pretty "natural" philosophy to making wine but it is certainly not in the freaky end of the spectrum. The wine was clean and savoury with vibrant fruit kind of a like a good Cru Beaujolais but with a bit more beefiness. Racy and moreish. Lovely wine. I really don't think this would look bad served beside something perfect like Foillard's Morgon.

I also tried a couple tastes of a few other interesting local wines. Arda Narince 2014 was a peachy, mineral and softly acidic white, very pleasant and genuinely interesting though usually I prefer higher acidity. Somehow it was still refreshing and moreish and felt like it almost had some tannic grip to it. Gordias Kalecik karası 2012 was another KK that was on the rich side of the spectrum for the grape. It had pretty aromatics but those aromatics were also pretty funky so not all might appreciate it. Very high acidity but also very pretty sour cherry (Vişne) aromas. I thought it was very tasty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Feeding the babies

A local spider, Tegenaria domestica, eating a cricket. I found this spider as a tiny baby at my work. It had lost two of its hind right legs. I had an empty plastic cup (who doesn't? everyone I know carries them just in case spiders!) and I felt sorry for it so I adopted it. The last time it moulted it regrew the lost limbs and now has eight again. And it is growing rapidly and is already a fierce predator with a good appetite.

This is the Brachypelma emilia, a captive bred tiny baby of a species that lives in Mexico (along the eastern shore of the Gulf of California) in the wild.

Watching the Amblypygid from East Africa, Damon diadema, hunt is always fascinating. It had a tussle with the cricket and eventually decided to eat while hanging upside down from the roof.

And finally the Peruvian semi-arboreal, Thrixopelma ockerti, was looking pretty and colourful. After its last moult it turned from a burrowing, secretive, shy species to one that is very skittish but always out and about in the open. Never aggressive but always sticking its bum in the air (perhaps to look bigger?) at the slightest provocation (though I thought this was a behaviour that Xenesthis sp. did; I hadn't heard of Thrixopelma doing it).

Monday, April 18, 2016

Two cheapies: Barbaglio and Guigal

I tried a couple very decent cheapish wines this weekend. First up was a Barbaglio 2009, an old favourite. I've felt that this Negroamaro-Primitivo blend from Salento has been cleaner and less rustic every year but I got lucky with this bottle. This was a genuine little Musar clone: VA and funk on the nose, wild and sunny fruit. Quite racy and acidic despite plenty of sunny fruit. What great fun!

Then we opened a Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2012. This is usually a very decent little wine but once again it seemed to be in an abnormally good place. Sunny, sweet, strawberry Grenache aromas and plenty of savouriness to bring some interest to such sweet fruit. Fair structure, plenty of ripe fruit, but moreish despite that.

Nice to get two perfectly decent cheapies from Alko of all places. Though actually the Barbaglio was quite a bit better than just perfectly decent.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Hitachino Nest Nipponia

Hitachino Nest Nipponia
Japan; 8% abv; "brewed with Japanese ancient barley 'Kaneko "golden"' and 'Sorachi Ace' hop"; c.10€ / 0,55 l.

I have tried a couple fun beers from Hitachino Nest before. But I hate Sorachi Ace with its dill stench and the mouthfeel so soft and flaccid that it reminds me of a limp handshake. So what to do? Buy one because the brewery seems good or avoid because of uniformly bad experiences with the hop used?

In a country with genuine diversity available, I would have passed. But I saw nothing else of interest in Alko today so I bought one.

Oh my FSM there's that dill stench again. But there's no overpowering sickliness to it so this is actually perhaps drinkable. Slightly more grip that the other Sorachis I've had. And it finishes fresh instead of cloying or soapy. Not bad at all. Actually, it's moreish.

I think it must show great skill in brewing a beer with a component I hate so much when it's actually pretty decent. I'm still not in love with the hop but at least I was able to finish the beer and I even felt happy with it even if it was a bit expensive and it still wasn't an organoleptic profile that would make me swoon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Nino Negri Inferno 2011

Nino Negri Valtellina Superiore Inferno 2011
100% Chiavennasca (aka Nebbiolo); 13,5% abv; c.25€

Pale as befits Nebbiolo (it's always a bit suspicious to see a very dark example of the grape). Lovely perfumed aroma, very pure Nebbiolosity, some rust/blood/iron aromas.

This is a gentle style of Nebbiolo, perhaps not one to age forever. I wouldn't say it's soft for it does have grip, but it does have an airy quality that is unusual for the grape and which makes it perfectly nice drinking already.

Savoury, refreshing and moreish finish. The evaporation rate was very high. I'm +948 points on this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Chapoutier Crozes 2013

M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers 2013
13% abv; c.24€

I don't always get along with Chapoutier but I have tasted enough decent wines from them that since there's not really anything else easily available from the Northern Rhône, I'm willing to try them. And sometimes they are positive surprises.

This Crozes-Hermitage is sometimes very boring, but in some vintages - like this 2013 - it is actually a very decent wine. I haven't paid attention to what are supposedly the good recent vintages, but this seemed like a very classically proportioned N. Rhône Syrah.

The scent isn't annoyingly fruity but instead smells of all things savoury: iodine and tapenade. The taste isn't annoyingly fruity either and tastes genuinely dry and racy and tannic. I always prefer Syrah when it isn't so terribly ripe and when it shows more a cool growing season. I don't know if 2013 really was a cooler year but this bottle sure seems like it.

I'm +8,3 points on this. No imaginary numbers needed today.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Geoff Hardy Hand Crafted Shiraz 2014

Several years ago I came up with a better rating system for wines than the current ones generally used. Parker is famous for his 100 point scale; others use 20 points. Or 5 stars. Or the 1000 point scale that has now caused a few ripples in the on-line wine community. But these seem a bit restrictive to me so I argued for an infinity point scale - points are pretty much arbitrary anyway. The scale would not only run from -∞ to +∞ but would also contain different sizes of infinities for which Georg Cantor's אs can be used. My scale is also not limited to integers or real numbers but uses imaginary numbers as well.

So Geoff Hardy's Hand Crafted Shiraz 2014 from McLaren Vale, Australia gets a -6+3i points from me. In some imaginary universe i (haha, geddit? i written small for the imaginary universe? heheh, i must always laugh at my jokes because no one else will) can see myself being mildly positive about this. But in this real world I don't find many positives in it: it smells of vanilla and dried fruit; it lacks refreshing qualities and it seems a bit disjointed.

Quite a useful scale IMO. I think I'll resurrect this method of rating wines.