As most of us followed, the social media accounts were shaken by the 10 year challenge: People shared their photos from 10 years ago, next to their current photos, and showed how things changed after all these years. To be honest, this was a real challenge, but maybe one of the most useful ones, since it gave me a chance to have an overview of the last decade. While I was browsing the photos, I’ve realized, I’ve made my very first grape harvest exactly 10 years ago, in 2009.
In the autumn of 2009, I was a young and curious student who wants to learn wine making. So, Kavaklidere Winery was the place for me to learn it. It is one of the leading wineries of Turkey, which was founded back in 1929. They have 3 different winemaking facilities in different regions of Turkey, including the one that I have made my first vintage: Cappadocia, to be more precise Côtes d’Avanos vineyards.
Before making any comparison of then and now, I’d like to give some general information about wine growing region Cappadocia. I know that wine might not be the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear Cappadocia – since it is more known with its special landscape with fairy chimneys, which makes this region a very famous tourist destination. However, looking from the wine side, that beautiful landscape also helps Cappadocia region to have a unique terroir for wine growing.
Terroir of Cappadocia
Cappadocia has continental climate, with hot dry summers and cold snowy winters. Although the region is broadly semi-arid, there are different microclimates created by effect of the Kizilirmak River, which is the longest river, which flows entirely in Turkey. When we come to soil, the important aspect is the influence by the ancient volcanoes, and their lava streams, ashes and tuff stones.
This soil, apart from giving a unique environment for vineyard, it also creates underground caves where it’s a great place for wine aging. I had chance to actually visit one of these underground cities, it was an unforgettable experience. It is hard to imagine the people lived in these caves thousands of years ago. Nowadays, some of them are open for visiting, while some are used for storing fruits and vegetables. There are also modern wine cellars where you can taste and buy wine.
Grapes of Cappadocia
The local white varieties that are grown the best in this region are Emir and Narince.
Emir, pronounced as “eh-meer” and it means “lord/ruler” in Turkish. (Most of the local Turkish varieties have names with a meaning.) It’s very well adapted to the climate and soil type of Cappadocia, that’s why it’s grown only in this region. The wines made from Emir have generally light yellow colour and light-medium bodied with relatively high acidity and delicate aromas of apple, pear, pineapple, blood orange, kiwi and melon.
Narince, pronounced as “nah-rin-djeh” and it means “delicately”. It is mainly produced in Tokat, and followed by Cappadocia. The wines made from Narince have straw-yellow colored wines with floral notes like acacia, stone fruits and citrus aromas, with medium acidity and generally have a good potential of aging.
To give a better idea about them, it’s possible to point out their similarities to international varieties: Emir to Albariño and Pinot Grigio, while Narince to Chardonnay. Categorizing them this way might not be the best idea, but it can still give you some clue of what to expect if you haven’t taste them before.
10 years ago in Côtes d’Avanos
Looking back that harvest 2009, I have many good memories. First time I have learned how to make wine, how each detail counts for producing a quality product and how to work efficiently for something that I appreciate immensely…
I’ve also found many photos from that year; grapes coming into winery, carried to press with gravity method, me in my white lab coat selecting the grapes on the sorting table in the grape reception and of course me discovering estate vineyards… Looking at those photos, what is more inspiring to see is the vineyard workers hand harvesting the grapes. As far as I’ve observed there, most of the workers who contribute to harvest and sorting the grapes were women. They were all very careful with the crop, cutting the stems without damaging the clusters and they were also very fast. The same situation was in the sorting table, the women were selecting the grapes with diligence, and discarding those which were not in the desired quality. Most of them didn’t know anything about wine making or wine, but they knew the importance of working for their soil and for their own territory. I believe, this, the commitment of these people to their soil, is one thing that wouldn’t change, no matter how many years would pass.
Today in Côtes d’Avanos
The last time I’ve been to Cappadocia was in 2011. To be able to understand what are the things that have changed in Côtes d’Avanos vineyards, I’ve contacted Sanem Karadeniz, Wine Production Manager of Kavaklidere Winery. She has been working in this winery for many years and has extensive experience in terroir of Cappadocia. Once she has listed every single effort they’ve been putting in the soil and grapes of the Côtes d’Avanos vineyards, I was totally impressed.
Sanem Karadeniz explained me that in the last years, they have been working intensively in the vineyards to increase the acreage of Narince grapes, to get the best quality of them, and also adapting their viticulture management, to avoid the possible effects of global warming.
“Narince has been planted in Cappadocia in 1995 and since then, we have been watching its growth and positive development in the vineyards with joy. With affirmative adaptation of this grape variety in Côtes d’Avanos, we are increasing the area of the plantation of this grape: In 1995 we have started with 25 decares and today we have reached to 150 decares.”
It was so exciting to hear all the positive efforts of Kavaklidere Winery in Côtes d’Avanos vineyards; choosing the most suitable training system and row direction for plantations of Narince, making trials with the rootstocks to choose the most suited one, and always working towards best quality rather than aiming for high yields. Moreover, since 2010, organic viticulture practices are applied in these vineyards, and they are getting closer to accomplish biodynamic practices.
From wine point of view, it’s not a surprise to see the positive results of these viticulture efforts in the cellar. The high quality grapes are processed delicately in the cellar until becoming the highest quality wine of the winery. Of course, there are a lot of details come together to secure this quality. Since Narince is a variety with medium acidity and already with rich oily texture, this makes the barrel aging difficult, says Sanem Karadeniz. That is why, in the last years, they have been working with bigger barrels to balance the characteristics coming from oak, and also to have a better integration of oak aromas with varietal aromas.
From a decade ago, until today, these were some of the changes happened in Côtes d’Avanos. My feeling is that, as long as there are producers as Kavaklidere Winery who adopts the most suited viticulture practices, winemakers as Sanem Karadeniz who work for the best quality and local people who loves their land, wines of Cappadocia will continue to change, evolve, adapt to new era and be present in our glasses at their best.
All images © 2019 by Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.
Special thanks to Sanem Karadeniz for sharing all these information.