Specialty Club – June 2014

2011 Selendi, Artist Series Red Blend
In our continuing quest to find the best wines from all over the world (see past selections from Greece, Georgia, and Slovenia), we now bring you a red wine from Turkey. Before April, we had never tasted a Turkish wine and did not realize that Turkey is fourth in rank among European grape-growing countries (behind Spain, Italy, and France), although most Turkish grapes end up on the table and not in the bottle. Then we had a nice visit from new importer Olga Rai, based right here in Seattle, and we have become the first shop in the country to carry her wines. We poured the very affordable Diren Okuzgozu ($14) at our May Collectors Club tasting and it was a big hit.

The top wine in Olga’s portfolio, however, was this beautiful blend from the Manisa region near Izmir, historically better known as Smyra, on the coast of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece. Although grapes have been grown in Turkey for over two thousand years, serious wine-making has come late to this Muslim country. In the last couple of decades, interest in wine has peaked in the relatively secular upper classes in Turkey, leading to a spate of investment in wineries. Selendi, for example, was founded in 2000 by Akin Ongor, a retired bank CEO, when he converted a tobacco farm into a modern vineyard. It’s a great site for growing Cabernet and Merlot, as the soils are mostly red clay, with an underlying layer of fossilized sea shells, and the Aegean provides the same kind of cooling winds as the Atlantic does for Bordeaux. The grapes are certified organic, hand-picked in the cool of the morning, fermented in stainless steel tanks, and then aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. The winemaker is well-known Italian oenologist Andrea Paoletti. The result is a smooth wine, with spicy aromas and rich, complex dark fruit flavors with a touch of vanillins. It could definitely benefit from two or three years in the cellar, and should be at its peak in five years. It is $65 and we can get more.

2012 Weingut Sattlerhof, Sauvignon Blanc
Among fans of European wines, it is generally acknowledged that the very best Sauvignon Blanc comes from Sancerre. Austrians would point out that few Americans have had a chance to try Sauvignon Blanc from their southern province of Styria, mostly because these wines are so popular in Austria and the prices are a bit higher than Sancerre. As a result, most importers (even the relentlessly optimistic Terry Theise) have stopped bringing them into the United States, further reducing the chances for us to try them. Fortunately Circo Vino in Arizona has imported this terrific wine, one of the best Sauvignon Blancs we’ve tasted in a long time. Willi Sattler has been one of Austria’s top winemakers for over thirty years, sourcing the Sauvignon Blanc grapes from a couple of hilly vineyards, Kranachberg and Sernauberg. The soils consist of a unique chalky sand with white mica, covered by a layer of gravel. Like the neighboring region of Friuli in Italy, Styria has a cool climate, dominated by the northeast winds from the Carpathian Mountains. This is a perfect site for Sauvignon Blanc, producing a lively wine with clean acidity and a unique spiciness. This is an quintessential food wine, particularly for vegetable dishes and soups, and it’s no surprise that Sattlerhof also runs a world class restaurant and hotel. The wine is $32.50, about what you’d pay for a very good Sancerre, and we do have more available.