Double Checked in Istanbul!

I spent an extended Easter weekend in Istanbul judging Turkish wines with six other Masters of Wine. I was amongst terrific palates: Sarah AbbottTim AtkinNed GoodwinTim HanniPeter McCombie and Sheri Sauter-Morano.

I’m not a newcomer to Turkish wines, having spent five weeks in Istanbul in 2008, opening a Spice Market restaurant in the then-new W Hotel with Jean-Georges Vongerichten. When I was invited to return for this competition, I was delighted. I tasted much potential on my first voyage, and I was eager to return to see how Turkey’s wine scene had developed.

Yunus Emre Kocabaşoğlu created this event four years ago. Yunus Emre is a mastermind of statistics. Judging many wine events, I was thrilled (no exaggeration) by his use of statistics to prove the coherency of our tasting results. Not only did he use statistics to prove inarguably whether or not our scores meant something, he imbedded two sets of eight blind wines in our tastings that were not Turkish wines to judge our consistency. Thank goodness…we all passed, rating them all very similarly both times ‘round. That’s something when you taste 80-100 wines a day.

Clearly, the schedule was intense. Not only did we write tasting notes for every wine we tasted, but we had a feedback carousel with the producers on the last day. Explaining to producers why you did or didn’t rate their wines well takes wine judging to a higher level. You’ve got to take very good notes in order to justify your scores.

I can’t wait to return to Turkey to taste more from their energizing wine scene. Everything is game in this ambitious and open-minded wine country. Just last night I had a long and intriguing discussion with a producer, Chamlija, who has planted Alvahrino and Grüner Veltliner there! The wines aren’t easy to find in the US but do look out for them.  Here’s a list of our top picks from Hürriyet Ekonomi. From the small to the large and the newcomers to the old hands, these producers make note-worthy juice!