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July 25, 2010

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Finding the right wines to match Turkish delights

WINEMAKING in Turkey predates that of Western Europe but due to religious and political issues the industry has experienced numerous ups and downs. Exports are quite modest, mostly to Cyprus and countries like Germany with large ethnic Turkish populations.

So, what's our wine solution here in Shanghai when enjoying delicious Turkish cooking? My answer is to pick wines that emulate the tastes, textures and styles of Turkish wines that have evolved alongside their cuisine for millennia.

Wine and food cultures develop tastes as a whole, not in parts, meaning there's a strong synergistic relationship between Turkish foods and wines.

High-quality Turkish white wine varieties like emir and narince tend to make medium body wines with good acidity, not terribly dissimilar to some young Chablis and Sancerre wines from France. These French whites beautifully match the abundant grilled fresh fish from the four seas around Turkey.

Served with red onions, vegetable salads and often zesty dipping sauces, these dishes work well with the fresh, tart French whites as the wines accentuate the freshness of the fish while distinguishing any smoky notes. Two popular wines in this category are the Louis Jadot Chablis and Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Blanc. Other popular Turkish seafood like mussels, octopus and calamari also work well with these seafood-friendly wines.

Additional treasures of Turkish cooking are the grilled sis kebabs, chucks of skewered meat; and doner kebabs, ground meat on a skewer. My favorite kebabs are made with lamb or mutton. These grilled meats are often well-spiced and served with salads and are lovely with traditional Turkish red wines made from the Okuzgozu and Kalecik Karsi varieties that feature plenty of red fruit flavors and fresh acidity.

Similarly styled red wines readily available in Shanghai are the Italian Caldora Sangiovese IGT from Abruzzo and the Casa Masini Chianti Reserva DOCG and Ruffino Chianti Classico Aziano DOCG from Tuscany.

The delicious strawberry and other red fruit flavors of these wines complement the savory meat flavors while the acidity of the wines parallels the acidity of the sauces and salads.


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