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Details for Kayra Narince



Anatolia is the Turkish peninsula, bordered to the north by the Black Sea, and to the west and south by the Mediterranean.  It has a very long winemaking history; Eastern Anatolia may well be where the vine was first domesticated, around 8000 years ago.
It has long been one of the world’s largest grape producers, though in largely-Muslim Turkey only 2% - 3% of the production becomes wine.  The rest is eaten, dried into sultanas and raisins, or distilled into Turkey’s aniseed-flavoured spirit, raki.
The climate varies enormously, from Mediterranean in the coastal west and south, where more than half the country’s wine is produced, to extremely continental in the centre and east, where winters can be so harsh that the vines have to buried to protect them from fatal frosts.  In the north, close to the Black Sea, the Tokat region enjoys milder temperatures and year-round rains.


Turkey’s second-largest producer, Kayra is a nevertheless a great deal smaller than it used to be.  For most of the 20th Century it was the wine-producing arm of state-owned tobacco and spirits monopoly Tekel, and consequently far and away the largest producer.
It was privatised in early 2004, and aggressively downsized by its new owners to focus on quality and exports.  Seven wineries have been reduced to two: in the West, Şarköy in Thrace, and in the East, Elaziğ.  Improvements have been funded by foreign investors: first Texas Pacific Group, who brought in Californian Daniel O’Donnell as Consulting Winemaker, and latterly international drinks giant Diageo.
Still a huge operation, Kayra produce more than twenty different wines, with a particular focus on indigenous varieties like the red Öküzgözü, Boğazkere and Kalecik Karasi, and the white Narince and Emir.

about this wine About this wine

Anatolia is the Turkish peninsula, bordered to the north by the Black Sea and to the south and west by the Mediterranean.  Eastern Anatolia was part of the Fertile Crescent, where humans first developed farming and towns.  Some of the earliest evidence for both lies within present-day Turkey.
So does some of earliest evidence for viticulture and winemaking, in the form of grape pips in an Early Bronze Age shrine, and tartaric acid deposits in some Neolithic jars (grapes are practically the only fruit to contain significant amounts of this acid).  This is backed up by analyses comparing wild and cultivated grape DNA: wherever wild grapes show the most genetic diversity and the most similarities with cultivated varieties is likely to be where early man first domesticated the grapevine.  Eastern Anatolia scores highly here, as do parts of Iran and Georgia to the east.
Bizarrely, beer seems to have predated wine as man’s first alcoholic drink.  Beer is much more difficult to make, whereas a load of grapes squashed into a jar will start to ferment all by themselves.  It may be that the very ease of winemaking leaves fewer traces in the archaeological record by comparison to the malting floors and kilns needed for beer; it is also the case that wheat and barley were domesticated earlier.
In any case, such a long history means that Anatolia is blessed with a rich variety of ancient indigenous grape varieties, even if most of the grapes grown in present-day, largely-Muslim Turkey are not destined for wine.  The variety used to make this wine is called Narince (pronounced Na-rin-ja), and is regarded as the best native variety for whites, though it too is also grown as a table grape for eating.
It comes from the plateau around Tokat, in northern central Anatolia.  Though the Black Sea is not far away to the north, the land rises steeply and the vineyards lie at around 600 metres.  Moist air blown off the sea is forced to rise and cool, making rain a year-round occurrance, in marked contrast to the viciously continental climate found further south and east.  To counter the consequent risk of rot and disease, the vines are planted on old dry riverbeds which drain very well.  Cold nights at this altitude preserve acidity.
Though wine has been made here for thousands of years, it is only in the last two decades that modern methods of viticulture have made any inroads.  From 1927 onwards, virtually all wine was made by the government-owned spirits and tobacco monopoly Tekel, which would buy all the grapes from every grower as a social benefit, regardless of their condition.
In 2003 the new Islam-leaning government, uncomfortable with owning a giant booze business, sold off Mey Içki, the wine-producing arm of Tekel, to private investors.  (They retained the rather larger raki-producing business.  Wine is specifically prohibited in the Koran, but spirits hadn’t been invented in Mohammed’s day.)  Three years later Mey Içki was renamed Kayra when it was acquired by foreign investment group TPG, who brought in Californian Daniel O’Donnell as consulting winemaker.
O’Donnell first had to preside over a 75% cut in production to focus on quality and export markets, which led to riots by growers who were consequently forced to sell their grapes for raki at much-reduced prices.  “The army came to the winery to take me away for my protection,” he recalls. “There were 300 people with guns outside and I was the guy who didn’t buy their grapes.”
These Narince vineyards were some of those to make the cut, and Kayra has been working closely with the growers to improve quality.  However, it has proved easier to introduce modern trellising systems than to persuade them to stop stripping the youngest, most succulent leaves off the vines to make dolma.  Apparently Narince produces the best leaves for wrapping these rolled-up delicacies stuffed with rice and meat.
Narince’s versatility extends to its wines, which cover a wide spectrum of styles.  This one shows off its lighter side, at only 11.5% alcohol.  It was fermented and aged entirely in temperature-controlled stainless steel to preserve its fresh acidity and pure aromas.

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