Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BARBARE WINES: Tis' the Grape Harvest Season!

Dear Readers,

It has been a very long time since I have had a chance to post in my blog... in fact, I believe the last time was in February.

I'm not going to get into the details because it would take up too much unncessary space, but I lost all mom on March 8th and my life has been in an upheaval since then with another death in the family and so on...

But, life goes on and MUST go on and I have so so much to share and have to make up for lost time!

So... here I go!!!!

I LOVE WINE!!!! I guess it can't get simpler than that to start off this topic! I love trying different wines from different local and international producers any and every chance I get! Living in Istanbul, I have less choice of varieties to taste from international brands, but for the last 5 years, many new and boutique Turkish winemakers producing great and up and coming wines have entered the market and it's a very exciting time in Turkey!

One such wine brand is BARBARE WINES... I was first introduced to this new brand in mid 2010 when I attended a wine tasting they held at a restaurant in Taksim to introduce their wines to the market. First, I was struck by their name and found it quite interesting! In Turkish it is pronounced in 3 syllables "bar-ba-re", in French "bar-bar" (the e is silent) and I guess you can pronounce the name as "bar-bare" in English. In short, the Barbare Vineyards are located in Tekirdağ (more on that later) close to a village called "Barbaros", hence the name.

I remember being quite impressed with their selections of wines, but as is common with smaller wine producers in Turkey, their wines are only available at a limited number of retailers and restaurants at that time and I didn't get a chance to "renew" my acquaintance with Barbare until May 29th of this year!

Barbare Wines held another wine tasting this year at the lovely fine-dining Sunset Grill&Bar Restaurant with a breathtaking view of the Bosphorus from its hillltop location in Ulus and this time I had a chance to get to know Can Topsakal, the owner and Xavier Vignon, a noted onolog from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region in France for the last 15 years. Also, my friend Tülin Bozüyük who I met while she was at Kavaklıdere Wines was appointed the General Manager of Barbare Wines at the beginning of this year...

Can Topsakal, Tülin Bozüyük, Xavier Vignon (left to right)

Sunset Grill&Bar (lounge area)
Suffice to say we had a lovely evening, had a chance to taste a variety of wines from the latest harvest and in fact, a small group to include myself, Can, his lovely other half Yudum, Tülin, Xavier and a couple of journalists had a wonderful dinner, more wine and great conversation at Sunset Grill&Bar after the wine tasting event!

As far as the title of my post goes, the grape harvest season begins around August 15th and lasts through October 15th - or sometimes longer depending on which region the vineyards are located.

My dear friend Tülin called me a couple of weeks ago and invited me to the grape harvest at Barbare Vineyards on September 9th and she didn't have to ask me twice! I also had the opportunity to attend a grape harvest at Pendore Vineyards (you can also read my post on these vineyards from my archives) when she was at Kavaklıdere Wines and had a fantastic time.

A group of wine lovers (about 15 of us) met in front of Akmerkez Shopping Mall in Etiler at around 10:00am on Sunday and departed on our trip to Tekirdağ at 10:30am arriving at the vineyards at 12:30pm.

Barbare Vineyards (Tekirdağ)

Tekirdağ, also in the Marmara Region of Turkey is about 130 km from Istanbul and the vineyards are about 5 km from the city center.

It was a lovely sunny and slightly windy day and we started our "tour" with a glass of Barbare Rosé wine (80% cabernet sauvignon and 20% mouvedre) while we soaked in the setting...

Figen Mertol, Vildan Yahni (left to right)
I met Figen when I attended the grape harvest at Pendore Vineyards last year and just a couple of weeks ago stayed at her fantastic boutique hotel called Katre in Alaçatı (more on that on my post on Alaçatı which I will prepare in the next couple of days hopefully) and if I look different from my other photos for those who are repeat readers is because I cut my hair really short, but more importantly lost 19 lbs or 8,5 kg (yea!!!!)

The Barbare Vineyards are about 230 "dönüm" which equals 23 hectares if I did my math right and entered the winemaking business in 2000 and their first wines to hit the market was in 2007. Although a "newbie", they have already won awards locally for some of their wines.Their grapes are cultivated with organic agriculture - that is, no chemicals or pesticides are used and wines are produced "Chateau-style". Interestingly, or rather not... Barbare only cultivates the following grapes: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, grenache, mourvedre and sauvignon blanc - that is they do not use any turkish grapes to produce their wines.

Our next stop on our tour was the production facility itself which is about 500 square meters. The current capacity at Barbare is 100,000 bottles of wine annually and in time, they have the capability of increasing this to 200,000 bottles/annually, but the major focus of this "boutque" winery is to produce "quality" wines and "quantity" is secondary.

Özcan Yetiş (General Manager of Barbare Vineyards Facility in Tekirdağ)
Here, Mr. Yetiş gave the group information on how they process and ferment the grapes at Barbare Vineyards...

Then we moved to the area where the grapes are aged in French oak barrels...

Our next stop and of course the piece de résistance was a visit to the wine cellar where the wine tasting began!

Vildan Yahni, Tülün Bozüyük (left, right)
Now, it was time to once again go "above ground" and tour the rest of the facility and to see the grapes "up close and personal"...

Normally, the grapes are picked by the workers in the early morning hours of the day before the weather warms up, so Tülin showed the group how the grapes are picked and also had the participants taste the grapes - which taste nothing like the grapes we buy from the markets!

After this mini-tour it was time for lunch and of course more wine!!!! During our particular tour, Maria, the owner of Maria's Bahçesi (Garden) restaurant in Istanbul prepared a variety of dishes for us, but during the "normal" official tours, participants are offered a BBQ feast.

Maria, Haşmet (Maria's husband), Vildan Yahni

The amount of wine offered during the tour is unlimited, so be very careful otherwise you will get a major buzz, which is okay if you arrived with a tour and are not driving! And, you also get a chance to try almost all the wines that Barbare has on the market (except the rare premier line)!

My personal favorite among the Barbare wines is Elegance 2009 (24% syrah, 54% grenache, 19% mourvedre, 2% cabernet sauvignon, 1% merlot), but I also enjoyed the Syrah & Grenache & Mourvedre  2009 (50% syrah, 25% grenache, 25% mourvedre), HOWEVER, I was very very impressed with the Premier Syrah!!! Prepared with 100% syrah grapes, unfortunately the wine is only available in a limited supply (it's on the menu at Ulus Restaurant in Istanbul) and it is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!!! Like I said, the premier line is limited, but knowing Can helped in getting a glass on the sly! 

After a couple of hours of eating and drinking, it was time to go home! We departed the facility at about 6:00pm and arrived back at the Akmerkez Shopping Mall around 8:30pm (there was traffic on the return home as we got closer to the city). It was a perfect day with perfect weather, great company, wonderful food and excellent wine! 

For more information on Barbare Wines, you can visit their website however, the website is in the process of being updated and is only available in Turkish, but at least you can see what wines they offer and some of the restaurants/cafes around town where they are sold, so that you can get a chance to try them - you will definitely not be disappointed! 

I recommend that all wine lovers or new wine enthusiasts attend at last one grape harvest in their life time! It is so much fun and you learn so much too and since each vineyard and the wines produced are different, you won't be "repeating" yourself if you attend several grape harvests either! You still have time to attend one this year, so I recommend you give Barbare Vineyards (or any other vineyard of your choice) a call to find out the prices and schedules as they all differ. Also, if in the neighborhood, you can also just "drop by" a vineyard and they will be more than happy to give you a wine tasting and information and you can usually buy bottles of wine at discounted prices.

In fact, a good friend of mine Burçak Desombre, a certified sommelier is planning a trip to Barbare Vineyards on Saturday, September 15th and you still might have time to join in on the fun if you live in Istanbul and there is room on the tour. Burçak is fluent in Turkish, French and English so no worries! You can visit her website for detailed information on this tour or any upcoming event she is planning.

May your glass always be full with good wine and cheer!


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