A small group of sommeliers, oenophiles, and a minimum of one brave food and drink writer are gathered outside Grape White wine Store in Istanbul’s Teşvikiye area. More than when does a passing vehicle feel the requirement to beep as the crowd, tasting glasses in hand, spills into the narrow street from the even more narrow pathway. As the first cork is pulled, a worried energy spreads amongst the group.
We have actually gathered to taste the first authorities vintage of Mesashuna White wines, the only certified winery in Turkey’s northeastern Artvin province, a rugged region not far from the border with Georgia. At the center of the circle stands attorney-cum-vigneron Safiye Arifağaoğlu. In her hands is a wax-crowned bottle, its label highlighted with four goat horns. As Arifağaoğlu fills our glasses with a cloudy, gold-hued Rkatsiteli, she explains the significance of the image.
“There are 4 siblings in my family– Melek, Safiye, Şule, and Nazim,” she states. “Our moms and dads established the winery as an inheritance for us.”
“Mesashuna” is a portmanteau of the Arifağaoğlu brother or sisters’ names.
The horns are khantsi, the traditional drinking vessel of Georgia. These khantsi admire a white wine culture that goes beyond political borders.
“Our winery is on the Georgian border. Lots of Georgian individuals live here,” says Arifağaoğlu.
Georgia boasts what some archeologists have actually recognized as the world’s earliest white wine culture. For more than 6,000 years, human beings have actually been making white wine with buried clay amphoras and local grape ranges. Even the Soviet Union’s efforts to update red wine production in state factories and ban private wine production stopped working to remove Georgia’s proudest custom.
Over the last few years, Georgia has actually become the darling of the natural wine movement, which celebrates the country’s organic viticulture and dazzling range of regional grape ranges. Maybe most notoriously, the Georgian tradition of longer macerations with white-skinned grapes, which produces a more tannic, amber-colored red wine, caused a proliferation of natural winemakers from Italy to Australia using the strategy.
But for the Arifağaoğlu household, Georgian-style white wine, made by Georgian buddies and next-door neighbors or sourced on regular journeys to Georgia, was just a part of life. Seventeen years ago they planted two Georgian grape ranges, Saperavi and Rkatsiteli, on their family farm and started making white wine for their own usage.
A visit from Sabiha Apaydın, founder of the Turkish red wine symposium Kök Köken Toprak, influenced the household to share their red wines with a wider audience. They made an application for and got a license to commercially produce white wine, making them the only licensed winery in the whole province.
These very first commercially licensed bottles use a look of Artvin’s mostly undiscovered terroir.
“Artvin is a farming paradise. The biodiversity boggles the mind,” states Arifağaoğlu.
Like much of Turkey’s Black Sea region, Artvin has a temperate climate with year-round rainfall. Arifağaoğlu credits the terroir for the various expressions of Saperavi and Rkatsiteli– the two grapes often called “the jewels in Georgia’s crown.”
“Instead of high alcohol, we have high-energy wines,” she states. “Around 12.5% alcohol for Saperavi and 11-11.5% for Rkatsiteli.”
That energy is specifically palpable with the 2021 vintage Rkatsiteli. Notes of orange blossom and grapefruit enthusiasm on the nose pave the way to flavors of bruised apple, quince and walnut. The red wine is juicy and revitalizing with none of the tannin one gets out of a longer maceration. A tip of smoke in the surface reveals the dead giveaway of a qvevri (or kvevri) white wine.
“I decided to focus on this mystical procedure of qvevri red wine,” says Arifağaoğlu. “Qvevri is a clay vessel. It’s used to ferment and shop the red wine.”
A few weeks after the tasting we catch up with Arifağaoğlu over Zoom. An abnormally warm summertime is requiring Mesashuna to gather the brand-new vintage a month previously than planned. Arifağaoğlu and her team have been hard at work labeling the previous year’s vintage and preparing her household’s 17 qvevris for the brand-new harvest.
“We trying to adhere to the conventional methods, from the tools that we utilize to the wine-making methods,” says Arifağaoğlu. “Among the most crucial things for us is keeping everything as natural as possible without any intervention, from the vineyard to bottling no chemicals are used.”
Mesashuna’s low-intervention technique to making red wine is by no methods hands-off.
“The grapes are fermented with their natural yeast, so health is really important,” she says. In the case of the bigger 750-liter qvevri, that really includes climbing inside the amphora to thoroughly clean the permeable clay interior before the harvest begins.
“After hand-harvesting the grapes, we gently squeeze the selected grapes and take the free-run juice, skins and finest stems and everything enters into the qvevri,” states Arifağaoğlu.
Once alcoholic fermentation begins, the red wines must be “punched down” at least four times a day– a procedure where long paddles are used to push the grape skins and stems that float to the surface back in the fermenting must.
After fermentation, the wine is transferred to a brand-new qvevri to rest. Arifağaoğlu repeats this process monthly, a strategy called “racking” in the wine world, in order to naturally clarify the white wine as sediment sinks to the bottom of the qvevri gradually. Mesashuna’s white wines do not undergo any business fining or filtering.
This year, Arifağaoğlu is using a handful of smaller sized qvevri for some speculative fermentations.
Saperavi and Rkatsiteli are grapes primarily associated with Kakheti, a wine area in Eastern Georgia. However Artvin borders Western Georgian, and Arifağaoğlu wishes to explore how western Georgian grapes will fare in Artvin’s environment. This year Arifağaoğlu plans on explore Kartlis Tita, a lesser-known grape sourced on one of the Arifağaoğlu household’s many journeys around Georgia.
“Experience is the best instructor,” says Arifağaoğlu. “The more experience I have, the more curious I become.”
Mesashuna’s production is exceptionally restricted, even by boutique winery standards. In between the two cuvées, their annual production is around 2,000 bottles. However those who aren’t able to make the journey to Artvin can discover Mesashuna’s red wines at a choose variety of Istanbul dining establishments and white wine stores.
on November 29, 2022 Associated stories November
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