Vitis Wanderlust

Yesterday I was chatting with an old pal, recounting my stops in seven countries over the last ten weeks. Chuckling, Alaric replied, “You’ve always had a tendency to wanderlust, Christy.”

I travel frequently to visit vineyards and to speak about wine, and my love for exploration extends beyond well beyond border controls. I’m intrigued by wine grape varieties I’ve not yet encountered, and I’m delighted when their resulting wines taste delicious.

About a month ago, Burak Özkan, visionary at southern Turkey’s Mediterranean winery Likya, pulled me aside during a walk-around tasting at the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Izmir. I had already tasted through his line-up, but this time he wanted to share a surprise named Acikara.

Local elders had told Burak many stories about Acikara. Until nine years ago, however, he’d never seen a single vine, much less tasted its wine. He felt the vine must still exist. After all, this variety was often grafted over to table grapes (a far more popular crop in Islamic Turkey.) Curious – and determined – to find to out if it did still grow, Burak embarked on a climb through the mountains. A shepherd named Ramazan accompanied him and led him to one, single vine.

For nine years, Burak worked with a nursery to propagate this solo vine into many. It’s quite hard to imagine one, 200-year-old vine root birthing a vineyard. But, it did!

The deep, black wine I tasted in Izmir was only the second vintage, and the first vintage produced a mere 50 liters. That first vinification was no more than a test to see if Likya should continue its experiment. From what I tasted of the second vintage, I certainly hope they do! This wine showed vivid, grapey aromas accompanied by wild cherries, liquified loganberries and underbrush. It plopped itself down in the center of my mid-palate, reminding me of Merlot. However, its tannins were coarse-grained and structuring, something more akin to Tannat. Most interestingly of all, for a technical taster, the wine lingered on the palate. This wine has character and potential!

I do hope to see Acikara on the label of a Likya bottle in the next few years. To Burak and his fellow seekers and savers of old varieties, wherever they may be, I implore, “Please keep going!”