The wine regions of eastern Asia and the Middle East are among the oldest in the world. Artifacts and artwork related to winemaking and wine culture dating back thousands of years have been found across the entire region, including modern-day Israel, Turkey and Georgia. While these three nations share little in common in terms of grape varieties grown, they each make a wide array of intriguing wines that are now available in many markets across the United States.
Although winemaking in Israel extends back to biblical times, a major resurgence began in the 1980s, and today hundreds of wineries are vinifying international varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Among the five wine regions in the country, rolling hillsides and the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea in Galilee and the Judean Hills provide growing conditions that result in wines with ripe fruit flavors and strong acidity.
Although winemaking in Israel extends back to biblical times, a major resurgence began in the 1980s.
Turkish wines can be as delicious as they are difficult to pronounce. While international varieties are also grown here, Turkey’s best red wines are made from the indigenous grapes Öküzgözü (similar in weight and color to Pinot Noir) and Boğazkere, which may remind wine lovers of a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. White wines are often made from Narince and Emir; Narince tends to be full-bodied and fruit forward, while Emir is often made in a light, delicate style.
Georgia is also home to many different native grapes, and rich, dark Saperavi dominates red-wine production. Featuring flavors of blackberry and espresso, Saperavi is made in dry and sweet styles. White wines made from Rkatsiteli are sometimes fermented and aged in clay jars known as qvevris. This gives them an amber color and a complex flavor profile.
One thing is for sure—there are plenty of unique wines worth discovering from these classic cradles of winemaking.
Golan Heights Winery 2012 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon (Galilee); $32, 92 points. Deep garnet in the glass, this wine has a heady bouquet of black cherry, mocha and lavender. It is full in the mouth with supple tannins and a surprisingly refreshing acid backbone. Flavors of cherry, blueberry, espresso, chocolate and anise culminate in a cool, lingering finish with a soft floral lift. Yarden Wines, Inc. Editors’ Choice.
Jerusalem Wineries 2012 4990 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Judean Hills); $28, 92 points. Inky-ruby colored, this wine has a complex bouquet of strawberry, watermelon, chocolate, violet and bell pepper. There is a nice interplay of fruit and cool herb notes, featuring flavors of black cherry, orange zest, eucalyptus and mint. A strong but subdued network of tannins recedes at the finish, making way for a pleasing jolt of bright acidity. Kosher. Allied Importers, USA, LTD.
Dalton 2014 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (Galilee); $18, 88 points. Medium-straw in color, this wine offers aromas of Asian pear, guava and juniper berry. Featuring flavors of Seckel pear, honeysuckle and anise seed, it is bright on entry, goes through a short cool phase, and then brings the brightness back with a finish that includes lingering notes of white peach. Kosher. Allied Importers, USA, LTD.
Jacques Capsouto 2014 Cotes de Galilee Village Cuvee Eva Rosé (Galilee); $20, 88 points. Pale blush on the glass, this Rhône-style blend has a pleasing bouquet of strawberry and lavender. It is very refreshing, with flavors of strawberry, honeysuckle, orange blossom and watermelon. There is a light sense of coolness towards the finish, but bright citrus notes outlast that sensation. Kosher. Roadhouse Wine Merchants.
Kindzmarauli Marani 2014 Kindzmarauli Original Saperavi (Kakheti); $17, 90 points. Aromas of black cherry, violet and anise prepare the palate for luscious flavors of cherry pie, blueberry, violet and fennel in this deeply colored semi-sweet wine. Notes of chocolate mingle with silky tannins. A sweet touch of cherry with bright orange zest makes its presence known on the finish. Blue Danube Wine Co.
Amiran Vepkhvadze 2014 Otskhanuri Sapere (Imereti); $30, 90 points. This deep red-violet wine has a nose of blackberry, cassis and roast meat. With strong tannins buffered by equally strong acidity, it has flavors of cassis, black cherry, flame broiled meat, leather and violet. Rigid tannins are subdued by a bright burst of cranberry on the finish. Blue Danube Wine Co.
Shalauri Cellars 2013 Saperavi (Kakheti); $34, 90 points. Dark-garnet in color, this wine proffers aromas of dark plums, flint and lavender. With a pleasing interplay of fruit and tannins, the palate is rich with flavors of cassis, blackberry preserves, vanilla, mocha and violet. A nice touch of lingonberry on the finish washes away the firm hold of grippy tannins. Georgian House of Greater Washington, LLC.
Orgo 2014 Rkatsiteli (Kakheti); $21, 89 points. Medium-gold to the eye, this wine has aromas of white peach and bitter almond. There is an almost beer-like flavor profile, including peach, apple, hops and floral notes. Ever-present but not overpowering tannins and a bright, lingering finish make for an appealing and interesting wine. Georgian House of Greater Washington, LLC.
Vinkara 2011 Reserve Bogazkere (Ankara); $30, 91 points. Inky garnet to the eye, this wine offers aromas of cherry, black currant and orange peel. Flavors of blackberry, cassis, white chocolate, bell pepper and violet come alive on the palate amid mouth-coating tannins and nice savory notes. The finish is characterized by a lingering touch of orange zest. The Winebow Group.
Pasaeli 2012 K2 (Aegean); $28, 90 points. This Bordeaux-style blend is colored like inky violet and has matching aromas of black plums, cassis and violet. It offers a nice interplay of firm tannins and zesty acidity among flavors of blackberry, black cherry, violet, anise and toffee. The finish is characterized by an impressive burst of brightness and a lingering caramel note. Vinorai, LLC.
Turasan 2014 Öküzgözü (Cappadocia); $19, 88 points. Deep violet in the glass, this wine offers aromas of blackberry and raspberry infused with subtle earthy notes. It is surprisingly bright on the palate despite a rich tannic structure, with flavors of blueberry, cranberry and espresso. Vinorai, LLC.
Diren 2014 Collection Öküzgözü (Turkey); $17, 87 points. This wine features a bouquet of blackberry, toffee and mocha. It is very soft in the mouth, with flavors of blackberry, blueberry and vanilla and a nice tart finish. Vinorai, LLC.