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Umay Çeviker

Tasters - Take nothing for granted

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Tasters - take nothing for granted

Konu: Tasters - take nothing for granted
Tarih: 14 Ekim 2010
Yazar: Umay Çeviker
Yorum : Vedat Milor

Tasters - take nothing for granted
Umay Çeviker, the Turkish architect and wine lover who sent us this report back in March, sends the following thought-provoking account of the trials and tribulations of assembling wines for a tasting in a country with as limited a selection of imported wines as Turkey. It made me very glad to be based in London...
No wonder I was thinking about London the other day when jogging in the unexpected summer rain here in Turkey. It is such an irony that London, with its sophisticated merchants, amazing little niche shops, various tastings and wine columns in endless Saturday papers, makes me think about wine more than any other city on the planet.
Meanwhile in İzmir, the timetable at the international airport displayed yet another hour's delay for the arrival of the evening flight from London Heathrow. Ayhan Güleyen, an eminent local dentist, thought he should have anticipated the delay and come later. Despite his busy schedule he had to be there to meet his guest. After all, he was eagerly awaiting this particular encounter.
Sounds like romance? Well, not if you are doing this for the fourth time in a single month. The founding member of our tasting quartet, Crazy 4 Wine, was there to welcome someone he had never met before. The man was bringing with him three bottles of Cabernet Franc for our monthly thematic tasting. They were purchased, on request, from three different merchants, by a friend living in London and delivered to this fellow-countryman so that he could bring with him to Turkey.
This tasting of some unique Cabernet Francs and Petit Verdots from all over the world (see my account to follow) had to be planned months ahead in order to organise the logistics of their purchase and delivery in time. Earlier that month, Güleyen bought some California and Argentine bottlings via online auctions in the US and Canada, and arranged their shipment to a colleague living in New York, who later handed them to a patient coming back to Turkey. He also had to meet flights from Rome and Brussels in his quest for a decent range of wines for our tasting.
During a previous event featuring some outstanding whites, I remember asking for samples of the traditional qvevri-made whites from Georgia [see, for example, my recent tasting notes on those made by Pheasant's Tears by putting this term in the tasting notes search box; and see a series of pictures of new qvevri being delivered to Pheasant's Tears here - JR], driven by the desire to compare them with Gravner's surely rather similar 2004 Breg Anfora. Within a couple of days qvevris were opened in two different Georgian wineries to provide samples. A third bottle, a monastery wine Alaverdi Tradition 2010 Rkatsiteli, proved impossible to add. The monks responsible felt it was wrong to wake up the wine resting in the qvevri, although we had secured the blessing of the Bishop of Alaverdi - which turned out to be helpful when I chased the bus carrying workers and shuttle traders from Tbilisi on the Ankara ring road in yet another quest to get bottles for our tastings.
All this may sound exhausting for a UK consumer but it is daily practice if you are passionate about wine and living in a country like Turkey outside the EU. Accepting irrational customs duties is most of the time not enough to order a couple of bottles direct from the merchant. Official authorisations are needed as well as a technical analysis of the wine, given your order is imported for the first time. It turns out that hand-carrying the bottles is the only rational way.
What is common between us and British wine lovers, on the other hand, is that we follow the same critics to decide on what to search for. The UK consumer, blessed with the range and quality of wine widely available, may often opt for a great value rather than a handcrafted, individual wine. The current economic recession seems to shape most wine criticism today. Earlier this year, I got mixed up in a debate among wine critics and consumers sparked by the argument of Tim Hanni MW that 'the consumer should ignore wine critics and drink what they like'. A considerable group of consumers agreed, accusing wine criticism of snobbery, going as far as to blame critics for 'talking to each other or to a mere group of elitists'. This is such an apparent constraint among critics that Decanter magazine felt the need to ask leading wine writers in its August 2010 issue ('Write From The Heart') what their recommendations would be should they be free of their restraint and suggest a more off-beat style.
Where we differ, as enthusiasts in Turkey, is that we need to make our choices carefully and be selective, since purchasing wine is not a daily business. We believe elitism is necessary considering we do not have much chance to try things out and have only a limited number of shots. We will depend on British critics as there is a greater role for wine criticism in the UK than elsewhere, since French, Italian or Spanish consumers would not worry much about what a critic recommends and just choose to drink the local wine. That is why when the British write about a specific region or style, we are eager to know the names of the best examples as well as the good values.
Wine lovers based in the UK should feel lucky since all they need to acquire any recommended wine, it seems, is to make a couple of changes on the London Underground. So next time you feel pessimistic about the choice of wine available, think about what we have to do to get anything decent, and cheer up!

Yazan | Umay Çeviker
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