Turkey’s Grape Heritage on the Feet of Mount Hasan

Gelveri-Manufactur cultivates indigenous grape varieties in small gardens on 1500 m above sea level, and vinifies them with spontaneous fermentation inside millennia old amphorae which date back to the Roman, Armenian, Ottoman, and Byzantine eras.

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Gelveri – Manufactur winery is located in Güzelyurt village in eastern Cappadocia, on the skirts of the inactive volcano Mount Hasan in Central Anatolia. Udo Hirsch from Germany and his Turkish wife Hacer Ozkaya are the owners of the winery in this village. 

The village and the vineyards are at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level. The area is unique compared to vineyards as we know in Europe: One can see four to six types of grape varieties planted together. There are also many surrounding orchards and private gardens of small farmers ranging from 500 to 5000 square meters. 

Udo Hirsch in their cellars

The grape varieties date back to pre-phylloxera era and are cultivated using  the traditional practice known as bush vine (alberello). Some grape varieties are destined for fresh consumption (table grapes), or dried to make raisins. Turkey in fact ranks first worldwide in raisin production, and third in table grape production. Other varieties are cultivated to produce pekmez, a traditional grape molasses, and the rest is used to make wine. 

In Turkey, the variety Kalecik Karasi is widely known for wine production. The two white grape varieties Keten Gömlek or Hasan Dede exist solely in this region, occupying a relatively small area of cultivation.

At Gelveri-Manufactur, they don’t treat the wines in any way, in order to obtain an authentic expression of the land, the vintage, and their know-how. The soil is worked in the spring. In case of humid climate, only low sulfur goat manure is used to treat the soil and no synthetic chemical interference is allowed. The aim is to stay in tune with the very dry and arid nature of the surrounding landscape, which comprises of a few trees and ancient vines with deep roots that hold onto all the available water to survive.

The harvest is practiced manually and starts by mid-October, continuing into mid-November. The winemaking takes place in amphorae above ground, known as kup in Turkish. Some of the amphorae are almost two thousand years old, dating back to the Roman, Armenian, Ottoman, and Byzantine eras. The amphorae have a capacity of three hundred to two thousand liters.

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After being destemmed, the skins, pulps, and seeds undergo a fermentation inside open amphorae. According to the vintage, the grape variety and quality of the grapes used, a 40-70% of stalks can be added.

Once the alcoholic fermentation is done – which can last for eight days to three weeks – the amphorae are closed for several months to be re-opened in March (or in June) of the next year. During maceration, the skins and stalks are in contact for several months. At this point the wine is ready for bottling, and a part can be spared for aging in amphorae. Each stage is done by hand, from pressing and mixing of the must to pouring out of the wine.

The grapes they use at Gelveri – Manufactur:

  • Kalecik Karasi, red grape very common in Turkey, originally from northern Cappadocia and cultivated in a large scale today.

  • Keten Gömlek, white grape used only by Gelveri. A part of the grapes is sold also in the village market of Güzelyurt.

  • Hasan Dede, white grape variety from Cappadocia. It was initially used by two local wineries which closed around twenty years ago. Gelveri has been re-planting the grapes to save them from extinction.

  • Koku Üzüm, another white variety known only by locals. It is mostly used to make a syrup. Currently only 700-1000 kg is produced per year.

  • Kizil Üzüm is a red grape also known only at the local level. Most is sold at the village market. Currently they are experimenting with it to understand its potential for winemaking.

As one of the themes of this year’s Cheese is naturalness in food products, Udo Hirsch will be at the meeting Towards Aegea and Anatolia on Friday at 1:30 pm at the Biodiversity House, with his natural wine Hirsch Keten Gomlek (B) 2014 provided by Velier.

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