Saturday, March 26, 2011

Drinking Wine in Turkey

I love wine. I like to drink it of course, but I also like reading wine labels, I like visiting wineries, and I like reading wine reviews. I keep reading Frank Southerland to see if he can top “dusty tomatoes stems” in describing the bouquet of a wine.

I have been a serious wine drinker for probably twenty years. When I say serious, I don’t mean expensive. Most of my wine purchases are in the low-end price range. I simply can not enjoy plunking down $40 for a bottle of wine. Did I tell you that I am frugal? Luckily I know a liquor store that carries discount wines. These wines must be close-outs or overstock. They always carry wine priced at three bottles for $10.99. They always have a good selection of wines like Crane Lake, or Hardy’s, or Cato Negro and several other decent wines at this price. Occasionally however I will find a wine from some obscure French AOC or a Chilean wine that is fantastic. They may only have one case of that wine and it may never be stocked again. To visit Colonial Liquors is like a treasure hunt. You never know what you may find.

For many years my wife and I took a vacation every year. Enjoying new wines was a major part of our vacation experience. There are local wines all over Europe that never get exported. They drink all they produce. On a Greek island, we fell in love with a wine that was grown and produced on that island only and the wine was cheaper than coffee.

One year we travelled to Turkey for out vacation. We had an absolutely wonderful time and fell in love with Turkey. Knowing Turkey was a Muslim country and knowing of the Muslim prohibition on alcohol, we did not expect to have much wine in Turkey. Our first evening in Istanbul, we went out to eat and were pleasantly surprised to find a wine list at the restaurant at which we ate. I assumed that Istanbul, being such an international and cosmopolitan city, tolerated wine but did not expect to find wine in the other parts of the county. Once leaving Istanbul, we did not fine wine served in restaurants in those cities that were not tourist destinations. We just accepted that we would be without wine for a few days.

It was in Iznik where I had another pleasant surprise. Iznik is a lovely town that is the center of the Turkish tile industry. Turkish tiles are a work of art and Iznik has been a major center of tile production for hundreds of years. We had a modestly priced room that had a balcony on the corner of the building and the balcony overlooked the main cross roads of the city. In our travels we were adventurous and we never planned our accommodations in advance. We were excited about finding such a great room. It looked down on a large tile fountain and there was a lot of people coming and going just three floors down.

We had not had wine in several days. I thought I would go explore the city that first night in town and see if, just by chance, I could find any wine. I did not expect to find any. We had not gone many blocks however until we came to an open storefront convenience market and there in a back corner of this little market was a whole shelf of various wines. We bought wine, cheese, bread and olives and went back to our balcony and drank wine had our picnic and watched the evening street activity below.

This story has a point: In Muslim Turkey in the small town of Iznik, I can buy wine in a convenience store. In Nashville, I can’t. It is time to chance that. For more information visit Red, White and Food.

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