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Tim Atkin

The Wine-List Inspector

How to get high on Turkish wine in Istanbul – in more ways than one

Tim Atkin | September/October 2014

Istanbul is not short of beautiful views, but the 360° panorama from Mikla Restaurant is surely the most spectacular. Have a glass of pre-dinner Champagne on the terrace of the Marmara Pera hotel and you can see most of the city’s sights without leaving your seat. 

The vista isn’t the only thing that demands superlatives. Mikla has a Turkish-Scandinavian chef, Mehmet Gürs, whose cooking is the most creative in Istanbul, taking local ingredients such as Black Sea anchovies or wholewheat dumplings and interpreting them in novel ways, often with a Scandinavian twist.

Wine is an important part of the Mikla experience. The lift up to the 18th-floor entrance deposits you outside an artfully lit, temperature-controlled glass cellar. This isn’t the biggest wine selection in the city, but it is still extensive, with 400 bins, 40 of which are available by the glass. 

Roughly half the list is sourced from Europe and the New World, but the rest is Turkish. What’s more, it sells—at least according to the general manager, Sabiha Apaydin. “Tourists prefer to drink Turkish wines, and so do local people,” she says. This is partly a question of price, but also one of quality. Turkey has some of the world’s oldest grape varieties, five of them (Okuzgozu, Kalecik Karasi, Bogazkere, Narince and Emir) distinctive. 

What to drink with Gürs’s food? The tasting menu is offered with six different glasses of “matching beverages” for an extra 120 liras (€43), so it seemed a pity not to try some Turkish wines. Apaydin knows the local scene as well as anyone and is keen to encourage and explain. 

Most of the wines worked really well with the dishes. We had a floral, almondy 2012 Doluca Kav Narince with a vegetable starter, a tangy, lightly oaked 2012 Prodom Chardonnay/Narince with crispy anchovies, a savoury, almost Italianate 2011 Trajan Tomurcukbag Kalecik Karasi with dried tenderloin and hummus, a smoky, Sancerre-like 2012 Kavaklidere Côtes d’Avanos Sauvignon Blanc with slow-cooked grouper, a muscular, sinewy 2010 Kayra Buzbag Reserva with lamb shank and—the only slightly false note of the night—a sweet, faintly medicinal fortified cherry liqueur with a sour-cherry compote and ice-cream dessert.

The only non-Turkish wine we had all night was our glass of Louis Roederer Champagne (70 liras) on the terrace. There’s nothing wrong with the local sparkling wines, but that view deserves something really special. 

miklarestaurant.com; 360 liras pp, incl wine

 

Where else to go and what to drink

NAR
Traditional Ottoman-style restaurant, conveniently located for the Grand Bazaar. Around 140 liras pp
Best white: 2012 Kavaklidere Cankaya A blend of three Turkish grapes (Narince, Emir and the less glamorous Sultaniye) from the best producer in Turkey. Lightly oaked and appealing, with notes of pear and peach, and refreshing acidity. 80 liras
Best red: 2010 Doluca Tugra Kalecik Karasi An unusually serious interpretation of Turkey’s lightest and fruitiest indigenous red grape. Black fruits, liquorice and well-integrated oak, with a backbone of tannin, plus acidity and juicy-fruit sweetness. 120 liras
narlokantasi.com

LOKANTA MAYA 
Stylish, contemporary Turkish bistro run by the celebrity chef Didem Senol. Around 110 liras pp
Best white: 2010 Arcadia Sauvignon Blanc & Gris An intriguing blend from a new, forward-thinking winery in northern Thrace. Pithy and crisp, with flavours of grapefruit and orange peel, and a stony, satisfying finish. 98 liras
Best red: 2010 Tekirdag Barbare Organic A rare example of Rhône-style blend in Turkey, this floral, deeply coloured, medium-bodied organic assemblage of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre shows supple red fruits, sweet vanilla oak, vivid acidity and 
a touch of clove spice. 100 liras
lokantamaya.com

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