I’m extremely excited about tasting new varieties, especially when they come from the place of their origin and have a story to inspire both winemakers and winelovers! Turkey is a home to our planet’s oldest varieties, many grapes now well known in Europe as classics of winemaking are actually “babies” of forgotten Turkish grapes. Although many of the vines are lost and unrecoverable, just as many are alive, survived in the wilderness, in hills and forests that weren’t appetizing as agricultural or construction land. Likya’s Acikara is a beautiful example of their existence, it gives us hope to search and find them. Let me tell you the story of this new old Turkish grape variety, at least as much as I know, because researching rare Turkish grapes is a tough job!
A drop of history
When a winery becomes interested in rediscovering the lost and forgotten grape varieties local population and shepherds are mobilized. Likya got a tip from a shepherd about a 200 year old vine climbing on a tree in Elmali valley, at 1100 m altitude in Antalya region. This was Acikara (means ''bitter black'', read as "Ajikara") - a forgotten Anatolian grape variety. Finding it is probably around 10% of the deal, bringing it back to life and ensuring that it produces good quality wine is the other 90%. Reviving a grape variety is no easy job. Likya, just as any other winery that finds a forgotten grape, had to take cuttings from this 200 year old wild vine that peacefully lived its' life endlessly climbing on a tree in Elmali. These cuttings then grow roots once kept in suitable conditions, then they're planted and after several years the grapes can be used for making the first test wine. If the wine is worth it - after testing and tasting - the best clone (or in other words, the vine with best qualities) will be selected and cuttings will be taken for grafting on American rootstocks. Then again - planting, waiting and finally - making wine. 2019 - the vintage I tasted - was the 8th vintage of Acikara on the market. 8 years is more than enough to prove that this grape variety will undoubtedly have a say in Turkish winemaking.
A drop of taste
It's hard to explain how a grape variety tastes to someone who's never tasted it. How would you explain a taste of a tomato versus a cucumber? :D If I have to draw comparisons (which I don't like doing, because each variety is unique, I dedicate a lot of effort praising winemakers for being loyal to their unique and rare grapes), Acikara would be close to a classical Syrah in its' spicy, black pepper nose. It would also remind me of a Cabernet Sauvignon, but one from hotter than Bordeaux climate. The fruit and tannins would then be of a Cabernet's.
Likya's Acikara 2019 has deep ruby colour with pronounced spice, black and red fruit aromas. The nose is very diverse (a sign of a promising variety and quality winemaking) - licorice, pomegranate, geranium, blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, gunpowder, cedar, savoury, meaty and leathery notes. The tannins are medium+, they're soft, ripe and don't dry your mouth, the acidity and alcohol are high. A medium+ bodied dry wine. If it was a WSET tasting it would be hard to call this wine anything but very good to outstanding. This wine is definitely developing, it's peak will be in a year or two. So far experts who tasted all the 8 vintages say that you can age this wine up to 7 years and then it starts to decline. Obviously, as Likya keeps enhancing the characteristics of Acikara through selecting the best clones, testing different rootstocks, different terroir, vine training etc, we might as well see that this wine ages perfectly well for dozens of years. Long live Acikara and applauses to wineries like Likya that go an extra mile to rediscover and bring back to life forgotten grapes of Turkey! Have you tasted Acikara?