The Scooby gang and I conducted our second pairing. For the evening we chose the Kalecik Karası. A fairly widespread varietal, the grape gets its name from the town of Kalecik just outside this country’s capital, Ankara. The grape might be Turkey’s favourite because of its easy drinking and versatility. To taste the full ability of the grape the lovely A brought over a Vino Dessera’s Blanc de Noir style of the grape (better explained here), Kayra’s Kalecik Karası rosé style, and the classic red from Vinolus.
On the table, we served a variety of Turkish and other goods from hummus, içli köfte, çiğ köfte and actual köfte served on a tarhana sauce to overly garlicked Caesar salads and spiced Bosnian cured meats.
Vino Dessera, Blanc de Noir Kalecik Karası, 2016
With noses full of citrus, we all agreed that this bottle was a “soft” Kalecik Karası. While I was expecting more acidity from the (for all intents and purposes) white version, it still held its own when paired with spicy, greasy or acidic food. Even with its little acidity, this KK paired surprisingly well with our corner store’s içli köfte (a fried dough stuffed with spiced minced meat, also known as kibbeh in some parts). Somehow the greasy deliciousness of the dough didn’t over power the texture or mouthfeel of the wine. In fact, the combination created the acidity that we were missing in the wine.
And the world continues to tell us, “don’t pair whites with meat.” Pf.
And then came the çiğ köfte.** As one of my favourite Turkish dishes, çiğ köfte should be included in every pairing, which is why I force them unto all who sit at my table. And, while I love it, the tomato-y, spiced, acidity of the çiğ köfte did nothing for the wine, nor did the wine do anything for it. The two came together in an extraordinarily mediocre way. They saw one another, they met, shook hands, and walked away from one another. Unfortunately, this was the consensus of the whole table – and not just concerning the çiğ köfte. Every dish following that first bite of içli köfte, blended with the wine in a particularly unmemorable way. A fantastic brie was downgraded and the delicious lemony Caesar meshed with the wine and quickly faded away. It was an odd experience.
And then came the Baba Ghanoush. Finally. Maybe it was the smoky flavour of the eggplant, the smooth texture of the tahini or the 4-cloves-of-garlic-isn’t-too-much acidity, but the wine perked up and the ghanoush exploded.
The takeaway: next time you stumble upon a Blanc du Noir made from Kalecik Karası go for some içli köfte (or some sort of fried breaded spiced meat) or a balance of smokiness, creamy and acidity like a baba ghanoush.
Kayra, Terra Rose, Kalecik Karası, 2016
The colour of the KK rose may have momentarily intimidated us, but we pushed through. Here, the typical cotton candy flavour of the a Kalecik Karası popped out. Luckily, the palette was not as sweet as the nose…and yet, there was still a want for acidity. Then again, I go through heads of garlic like apples. As the doctor says..
While the rose didn’t work with my one-bite köftes, it did pair very nicely with the tarhana yogurt sauce underneath it.
Vinolus, Kalecik Karası, 2015
Vinolus was an amazing relief. This bottle gave us everything that we were waiting for from a Kalecik Karası and then some. The deep candy flavour was thoughtfully balanced with earthy tones (insert “natural wine” joke here). However, it was not as full-bodied as we were expecting.
It paired well with the citrus of my Caesar salad dressing and with some Bosnian cured meats. Remember that these meats are not like the European pork sausage: gentle, smooth and fatty. These guys are heavily spiced, of which smells linger for a day or two. They paired well with the sweet, fruity notes of the Kalecik Karası. I could imagine that the beautiful subtleties of a cured pork sausage would be overwhelmed by the Kalecik Karası.
My hummus and baba ghanoush also danced well with this wine. The heavy garlic, cumin, and all-around acidity put up a great fight. With such acidity and spice I could imagine that a glass of wine would pair well with anything covered in a chipotle adobo sauce (taco pairing, anyone?).
For some strange reason, I always remember Kalecik Karası being more acidic than it actually is. So, don’t forget that this grape doesn’t hold up well against wonderfully fatty foods – that don’t have a strong spice component.
The takeaway: high acidity of lemon and garlic work wonders along with heavy spices and sauces like cumin and adobo.
**And while the name implies “raw meat balls,” it is currently illegal to serve customers raw meat in a fast food-type establishment. Unless you are out at one of the better meat restaurants, the çiğ köfte you’ve been eating is primarily bulgur-based and delicious.