Saturday, 10 November 2012
#EWBC – a tale of two Gayes
Gaye Molavali #EWBC12
Last evening I met two young female winemakers, who are part of the dramatic growth in the wine estates in Turkey. By coincidence they both share the first name: Gaye Özcan (nif baglari winery) and Gaye Molavali (Urla). Good to see that women are playing a significant role in Turkey’s expanding wine industry.
Gaye Ozcan #EWBC12
Gaye Özcan – Nif baglari winery
I met Gaye entirely by coincidence as I sat down next to her on one of the coaches going to Urla, our dinner destination. Naturally we got talking with her telling me about her family’s winery project.
Gaye Ozcan: “Our winery – Nif baglari – is in Izmir. We have 35 hectares of vines. We started planting in 2005 and have planted Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, which is particularly successful in Izmir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano and Sangiovese. More recently we have planted a couple of Turkish varieties – Bornova Misketi and Focakarasi.
"We made our first wine in 2010. As we had licensing problems we did not make wine in 2011. That year we sold the grapes to other producers. We will be releasing our two whites early in 2013 – an unoaked Chardonnay and a Bornova Misketi. Then around May (2013) we will release four reds: three single varietals – a Shiraz, Merlot and a Montepulciano and then a blend using these three with the addition of Sangiovese. We didn’t think our Sangiovese was good enough to release by itself.
"My father Hamit was born in Izmir. He moved to Istanbul and founded a high specification glass business, which is now run by my brothers. My grandfather grew grapes in Izmir. They were mainly table grapes but he had wine for our family’s own consumption. Hamit is now spending 80% of his time in Izmir on the winery project.
"I studied oenology at the California State University in Fresno. Afterwards I worked at the luxury brand winery – Artesa Winery in Napa – and then in Australia at Sally’s Paddock in Victoria.
"It is very difficult and time consuming in Turkey to get a licence to make wine. It took us three years. Once our wines are released I will be concentrating initially on the home market. Then later we will be looking to export to countries like Germany, UK and USA.”
It is decidedly ironic that Turkey is the middle of a winery explosion – now 140 wineries with the majority of these founded since 2000 – yet the conservative government appears to be trying to hinder this growth.
“The growth in wine consumption is being driven by the rising middle class, particularly those aged between 20-40 with experience of having travelled to other countries. The arrival of the new wineries has made the older wineries raise their game and improve the quality of their wines.
"Visits from MWs and other professionals to Turkey’s vineyards have been good as it has raised issues such as where and what to plant. The quality of grapes coming from grape growers is getting better, although it is difficult and slow to overcome the old culture of aiming for quantity rather than quality. There is also the problem of lack of education in rural areas.
"Investing in wineries has now become very fashionable – sometimes the investment is driven by ego!
"Protests against the arrival of wineries in rural areas can happen and there is a fear of vandalism, although this can happen in other countries.”
On the pre-conference trip to Thrace we experienced this when a farmer parked his tractor and trailer at the exit of the Gülor Winery to stop our coach leaving. It took about ten minutes or so to resolve this and raise the blockade.
After a little over an hour in the coach we arrived at Urla Winery. This is another recent winery, although built in a castellated style. With four coachloads there plus other guests, there was a big crowd. We were briefly greeted at the entrance but otherwise there was no explanation about the estate, winery or who owned. You just arrived, got a glass of red from the bar, found the food, helped yourself and sat down. I felt like one of the guests at one of Gatsby’s parties (Scott Fitzgerald – where people went to his parties having no idea who their host was.
Fortunately, again by happy coincidence, we met Gaye Molavali, the winemaker, who then showed us around the winery.
Gaye Molavali #EWBC12
“I have been here for four months and I work with two other female winemakers. Previously I spent four years at Corvus(http://www.corvus.com.tr). I’m a chemist by training. Recently I sent three months in New Zealand at the Yealands Estate in Blenheim.
The Urla project is a partnership between four business friends in Izmir with Can Ortabas as the leading partner. The first vines were planted ten years ago and there are now 35 hectares planted – a mix of national and international varieties, which include Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot.
The vineyards are organic. The winery was built in 2008 with the first vintage in 2010. Everything is hand picked into small cases and picking generally starts in the second week of August.
‘The winery has been designed so that grape and wine movement is by gravity. When the grapes arrive they are washed and dried. Ortabas insisted on this, so a special machine was developed.’ (This must presumably rule out the possibility of using the natural yeasts – Jim.)
‘Gerald Lafont is our consultant and he visits every two months. He is based in Marseilles but works in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Urla has an impressive range of stainless steel tanks in varying sizes, barriques –Radoux and Seguin Moreau. One unusual touch is having the swimming pool above the barrel room.