Thrace Wine Route - visiting Chateau Kalpak
Updated: May 13
It’s been a while I was looking forward to an opportunity to visit Turkish wineries. Turkey is one of the oldest winemaking countries in the world, viticulture here dates back to 4000 BC. But we don’t see much Turkish wine in wine lists, do we?
Turkey is one of the oldest winemaking countries in the world, viticulture here dates back to 4000 BC.
Unfortunately, winemaking is not very supported by the current government. It is difficult to be a winemaker in Turkey, high taxes, lack of vine nurseries, lack of workforce, restrictions on advertisement and marketing… The list can go on, but I’d like to focus on the exceptional people that despite all these dare starting a winery in Turkey.
And let me start with one of the best - Chateau Kalpak in Trakya.
Chateau Kalpak - from investment banker to winemaker
Bülent Kalpaklıoğlu spent many years living and working abroad until his roots called him back to Turkey, where he started an experimental vineyard in 1992. It took him more than 20 years of experiments with various clones, trellising and pruning systems, winemaking techniques to finally open the door of today’s Chateau Kalpak in 2003.
Viticulture is all about patience, so the first wine was made only in 2010, and released in 2013, after 3 years of maturation. The launch was successful, to say the least, as six gold medals were won in AWC Vienna and another three in Concours Mondial Bruxelles.
The winery is run by father and son. Berk is too young to drink the results of their work, but the second blend - BBK, is created with the boy’s active involvement - BBK, as you may have guessed, means Bülent & Berk Kalpaklıoğlu.
My excitement was on as soon as we approached the winery, or actually the vineyards. I literally said ‘I’m so happy to see a proper estate in Turkey!’.
Vineyards of Chateau Kalpak
The focus here is on Bordeaux varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot. It’s a single estate - single wine concept. So the Bordelaise idea of ‘chateau’ made real in Turkey with 100% accuracy. And yields are much lower than in Bordeaux - just 28 hL/hectar. They make two wines - the Chateau Kalpak and BBK blends, all from their own grapes, all manually harvested and carefully sorted on site.
The panoramic view is simply spectacular - vineyards surround the winery, the greenery of the vines continues to a pine forest, which then leads your eyes to the blue waves of the Marmara Sea and Gulf of Saros. And this is perhaps the answer to making wines with high acidity, fresh fruit and high tannins. Slopes for the diurnal range that keeps your acidity high, the proximity of the sea and forest that will refresh the vines during the day and help to avoid the jamminess that would otherwise appear in this hot Mediterranean climate. The growing season is thus prolonged to mid-September - October, which ensures full physiological ripeness (flavour - aroma - tannin). Excellent choice of location!
In the Winery
A while ago, before visiting Chateau Kalpak, I read about the gravity flow winemaking and was really curious to see it ‘in action’. Imagine my excitement when I entered the cellar and saw that they’re actually experts in gravity winemaking. So let’s go through the process:
Grapes are sorted and crushed upstairs on the ‘belvedere’ terrace of the winery. It’s a double sorting with first machine and then manual control.
The berries flow down through a pipe that takes them to the allocated tanks.
Cold-maceration takes place for a couple of days.
Then fermentation starts, techniques like punching down are used for more extraction of colour, flavours and tannin. It takes around a month to complete fermentation (including malolactic) and various vessels are used - large oak fermenters and stainless steel tanks.
Maturation is in barriques and large oak casks. The wine spends in tight grain oak up to 3 years.
Bottling again a level below - if I remember it right, tanks were raised up for the bottling machine to be below and inert gas is used to avoid oxidation.
Using gravity helps avoid oxidation and create a more delicate wine. I say delicate because gravity naturally facilitates extraction (so less punching down or pumping over will be used). Less sulfur will be added to wine during the vinification and bottling, as the wine is less prone to oxidation. This technique is a new trend, although it’s been around since the 19th century and apparently was invented in Australia (at least, mentioned for the first time). Often new is well forgotten old, isn’t it?
Wine tasting at Chateau Kalpak
Bearing in mind that they produce only two wines, the wine tasting won’t last too long. But if you made it to the winery, it’s a must to taste their wines on the beautiful terrace overlooking the Marmara sea (and the vineyards :))
Chateau Kalpak and BBK - are both blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Classics of Bordeaux from Turkish land. I know there are many bordelaise blends coming from all parts of the world, it’s by far the most popular blend.
Well, what I can say is that both wines are made in an outstanding way, tannins and acidity are high, the fruit is fresh, no sign of jamminess. The traditional black fruit-driven nose and palate - blackberry, black currant, blueberry and elegant hints of vanilla, nutmeg and maybe a pinch of clove. Good wines to age, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do with my bottle of Chateau Kalpak (ask me in 5 years how did it go).
I hope my short story inspired you on visiting wineries in Turkey. Many thanks to the team of Chateau Kalpak for having us and answering all our viti-questions :)
Planning a wine trip to Turkey's Thrace Wine Route? Have a look at another jewel of Turkish winemaking - Chateau Gali.