Paşaeli Wine Tasting in Amsterdam with Wines of Turkey

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

This week I had my first wine meetup in the Netherlands with Wines of Turkey .NL - Turkish wine importer in the Netherlands. We were doing their portfolio tasting and, due to my preferences only native Turkish grape varieties appeared on the table. Wines of Turkey .NL is the official importer of Paşaeli wines in Europe. Luckily for me, they're based in the Netherlands and we share a common goal with them - spreading the word about indigenous grape varieties forgotten and often revived from extinction by some heroes of modern winemaking.

Turkish wine tasting in Amsterdam Netherlands with Wines of Turkey nl
With Gurbuz Salman, founder of Wines of

So our impressive line up included:

Paşaeli Sultaniye 2020

Paşaeli Blanc de Noir 2020 Çalkarası

Paşaeli Sıdalan 2020

Paşaeli Çakal Rosé 2020

Paşaeli Yapıncak Orange 2020

Paşaeli - a winery with a focus on preserving Turkey's extinct grape varieties

I've spent nine months in Turkey this year and never ever tasted Paşaeli's wines, what a shame! Strangely, I haven't seen them often (or maybe at all) in restaurants' wine lists and as for my Turkish wine shopping - with the abundance of wineries focusing on Bordeaux blends in Turkey, I limited my focus to two-three wineries that do have a wide portfolio of native Turkish grapes and never checked anything beyond them. A lesson to learn and to always stay openminded. A mentor of mine once said:

"Your mind is like a parachute. It works only if it's open".

(don't know if it's his invention or someone else's though)

Couldn't say it better.

Indigenous grapes Turkish wine tasting in Amsterdam with Wines of
always prepared to take notes especially when all the wines are made of indigenous grapes!

Luckily their wines found me in the Netherlands via Wines of Turkey .NL, so no regrets.

Paşaeli winery was founded by Seyit Karagözoğlu in 2000. Before that Seyit was in wine importing so he had a chance to see how in countries like Italy forgotten grapes get rescued and then in a decade become the top-selling varieties wanted on every corner of the planet. Two grapes native to the Thrace wine region were his "drivers" in Turkey - Yapıncak and Kolorko. Finding these grapes at those times in Thrace (Trakya) was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Kolorko was barely existent, Yapıncak somewhat available due to the fact that locals used its' leaves for dolma - a traditional meal to Turkey when grape leaves are stuffed with rice and herbs.

Dolma or sarma Turkish vegeterian meal with vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs
You probably tasted dolma if you've ever been to Turkey, but did you know that leaves came from Yapıncak?

The first vinification for Yapincak happened in 2010, in 2011 it won the prestigious San Francisco International Competition. We had Yapıncak as part of our line up - and I was so excited that this grape variety tastes pure and quality, unlike the same variety made by other wineries in the country today.

So this is how their story begins. And the same workflow is required for each extinct grape variety - mainly going around the mountains, hills, forests and then asking the local villagers what is this grape, why it's not grown anymore, what used to be its' name. Then - DNA analyses to ensure it's not a bewildered common grape and then first vinification to understand what can be expected from this grape. Then cuttings and grafting on rootstocks, "raising up" a new vineyard and doing your best to let the grape and soil express its' best. If you are doing wine this way, like Seyit Karagozoglu then you won't have a day of boredom while at work.

Turkish wine tasting in Amsterdam with Terroir Journey and The Wines of at Levant restaurant
Levant restaurant in Amsterdam was a perfect match for these special wines

whichever Paşaeli bottle you opened you have a guarantee to discover how that specific part of Turkey tastes ;)

By the way, all Paşaeli red wines are wild ferments, so fermented using only native yeast present on grape berries bloom (skin) and all of their wines are bottled as single vineyard wines. This means that whichever Paşaeli bottle you opened you have a guarantee to discover how that specific part of Turkey tastes ;)

As all wines are single vineyard (parcel) bottled, sometimes it's just 500 bottles to a maximum of 15.000 bottles per label.

As for the numbers:

  • The total production is currently around 150.000 bottles a year.

  • As all wines are single vineyard (parcel) bottled, sometimes it's just 500 bottles to a maximum of 15.000 bottles per label. A very, very boutique production!

  • Paşaeli has four vineyards of 15 hectares in total (one near İzmir, two near Tekirdağ and one more near Çanakkale).

  • All grapes are hand harvested.

Now let's move on to the actual wines.

Paşaeli Sultaniye 2020

Turkish Wine tasting in Amsterdam in Levant restaurant, tasting Sultaniye an indigenous grape variety from Denizli.
The label shows Buldan - the town where the Sultaniye grapes for this wine are grown

Produced from the vineyard of Gürbuz and Meryem Salman, the founders of Wines of Turkey Netherlands. The couple wanted to build a house in their native town of Buldan, in Denizli. That's right where the Güney plateau is, where the best grapes of this country come from. And they thought why not dedicating a part of their land to a vineyard. The tough question was which vine will they plant and even though soil analysis were made the couple decided to return what belongs to this soil - Sultaniye. Before they bought the land it was a Sultaniye vineyard which was unfotunately uprooted for the sake of the sale.

Knowing Seyit Karagözoğlu personally and sharing the same ideas and goals for promoting the Turkish wine heritage they decided to give their first harvest to Paşaeli to see how good a wine their Sultaniye can be. Thus their collaboration started in 2016 and I've tasted the 5th vintage of the Buldan Sultaniye.

white wine - 13,5% - bone dry - Sultaniye

Region: Aegean

Label: On the label you can find a photo from Buldan, the town where the Sultaniye vineyard is located.

Profile: Pale golden colour. Tropical nose and palate with hints of melon, peach, gooseberry and some vegetal notes. Slightly high alcohol (13,5%) for such a gentle wine, I wish it was 1% lower to be in balance with the medium acidity.

Vinification: stainless steel tank with 3 months sur lie (ageing on lees) to give body and complexity to the wine.

Paşaeli Sıdalan (white wine)

Badem the Monk Seal on Pasaeli's Sidalan wine label
Badem, the Mediterranean Monk Seal, became the face of all Monk Seals after her rescue in Turkey by Mustafa Koç

My first encounter with this grape variety and I was double excited since at the same time we tasted two of Sıdalan's - a white and a skin contact amber (orange) wine.

Sıdalan is an indigenous to north Agean region white grape variety. It's native to the Kaz Daglari (Kaz Mountains) that are close to the ancient city of Troy. The grapes for this wine are grown 300 mts above sea level, a perfect altitude for preserving some acidity in a Mediterranean country like Turkey.

white wine - 12% - bone dry - Sıdalan

Region: Agegean

Label: Do you know Badem? The label shows a Mediterranean Monk Seal - an endangered species, there is just 500-600 of them left in the world. They live mostly in eastern Mediterranean. The one on the photo has become a famous one. Her name is Badem which means "almond". She was found hurt and then was saved by a friend of Seyit, Mustafa Koç - a well known businessmen from Turkey, who passed away a couple of years ago. He was a famous person so she became the “face” of these seals in Turkey and in the world. The photo on the label is used with his permission, it won an important award by Whitley Foundation in the United Kingdom.

Profile: Pale lemon coloured, chalky, herbaceous, fennel, camomile with a hint of forest-like, fresh wood. This wine resembles Chablis if you're looking for a comparison. Melon and pear are the primary fruits here coming along with a hint of butter from the lees ageing.

Vinification: Whole cluster press - this is usually done in Chamnpagne to create a pure and delicate wine. Then the wine is vinified in stainless steel and aged on lees for 3 months.

Paşaeli Sıdalan Skin Contact (orange wine) 2020

Pasaeli Sidalan Wild Ferment Skin Contact Orange Amber wine on a wine tasting in Amsterdam by Wines of Turkey and restaurant Levant
Such a delicate colour after a 58 day maceration on skins, wonderful orange wine!

A wild ferment orange wine from a native Turkish grape variety. This sentence is like a quintessence of what I want in my wine life. Pay attention and compare - this is the same grape variety as the wine before but with extended skin contact to create orange wine.

orange wine - 11,5% - bone dry - Sıdalan

Region: Aegean

Label: All amber (orange) wines show a bush trained vine on their label.

Profile: Medium gold colour. Cane sugar, caramelised apricots, herbal, freshly cut asparagus, with apricot and pear and some gentle tannins from the skins.

Vinification: Destemmed grapes were fermented at 18 C only with native yeast. Prior to pressing, the must (grape juice) stayed in contact with the grape skins for 58 days. That's an extremely long skin contact and yet, the colour and taste profile remained so gentle. The wine was aged sur lie with lees stirring once a week. All these are usually done to add body, complexity and natural stability (to avoid wine faults) to wine.

Paşaeli Blanc De Noirs Çalkarası 2019

There should be a reason Çalkarası was made as a Blanc de Noirs, I'm always curios about what drives the decisions of a winemaker, you? So in this case, we have a black grape variety with a low amount of anthocyanins - the colouring compounds in grapes. Usually Çalkarası is made into a rosé, but I loved the creative approach of making it a Blanc de Noirs.

white wine, blanc de noirs - 13,5% - bone dry - Çalkarası

Region: Aegean

Profile: Pale straw with a hint of blush, very delicate berry-full nose with raspberries, orange blossom, cherry, chocolate, sandal wood and a hint of flint.

Vinification: Whole cluster press with only the first juice used for wine (it's called tailles) - classical Champenois winemaking. Fermentation in stainless steel at 18 C and 3 months sur lie ageing (on lees).

Paşaeli Yapıncak Skin Contact (orange wine) 2020

Yapıncak was one of the "drivers" for Seyit Karagözoğlu to start Paşaeli - a winery with an aim to preserve the extinct grape varieties of Turkey and make such good wine so that they become the country's benchmark.

orange wine - 12% - bone dry - Yapıncak

Region: Thrace (Trakya)

Label: All amber (orange) wines show a bush trained vine on their label.

Profile: Yapincak is an oily grape variety, it reminds me Viognier. Grassy and greasy, with herbaceous spice, smoke, orange peel and dry aprictos. Fresh tannins to clean the palate after the generous profile of this orange wine.

Vinification: just like the Sıdalan orange wine, this is also a wild ferment with an extended skin contact. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks at 18 C with native yeast and 52 days of maceration on the grape skins. Ageing on lees with weekly lees stirring.

Paşaeli Çakal Skin Contact (rosé)

Turkish wine tasting in Amsterdam at Levant restaurant tasting indigenous Turkish grape varieties  with Wines of
This grape variety's name is Çakal because the jackals come from the hills to eat its' sweet and early ripening berries

This grape variety was discovered while Seyit Karagözoğlu and their wine consultant Andrea Paoletti were at the Kaz Mountains looking for Sıdalan vines. While checking the Sıdalan vineyard Seyit noticed a couple of vines with red grapes (Sıdalan is a white varietal) and turns out it was an old grape variety not cultivated anymore here nor anywhere else. The locals literally called it "Eski Üzüm" ("old grape") because once it was planted everywhere but it didn't do well as a wine grape so they uprooted it and planted other grapes. The other "name" for this "Old Grape" was "Çakal" (jackal) because it ripens a month before other grapes the jackals from the mountains come down to eat the sweet ripe berries.

You'll ask why it didn't work as a wine grape before so it became extinct? This red grape has a really pale skin, it wouldn't make a proper red wine. But today in times of ever popular rosés that's not a problem but an advantage.

rosé wine - 13,5% - bone dry - Çakal

Region: Aegean

Label: The same bush trained vine as on the "kehribar" wines (orange/amber wines)

Profile: Although pale, the flavours are powerfull and due to the place it comes from (high altitude, at 850 mts asl, Kaz mountains) it has a beautiful acidity. Wild forest berries, those small but opulent raspberries, wild strawberries, blackberries that you find in forests - all of them here. Hints of chocolate, cinnamon and cane sugar.

Vinification: stainless steel tank, skin contact for an hour and a half.

Turkish wine tasting in Amsterdam with a WSET certified wine expert

And that's how I added another Turkish winery to my list of wine favourites. Didn't expect such thing to happen outside of Turkey but when you share the same ideas and goals with winemakers and wine importers then borders don't exist.

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