First question! It's a very important one.
Booze is so expensive in Turkey! I know I should be polite and bring something to drink to dinner and parties but I am a young freelancer and have no money. Is it ever ok to bring Turkish wine or will I be shunned like a slutty Amish girl?
This is possibly the most vexing etiquette dilemma facing party-goers in Istanbul today. Since Istanbul Eats has slogged into the Turkish wine debate with a new column that should be called OK, This One's Not That Bad, your question is more timely than ever. It's wise to seek guidance.
Carpetblogger has long held that Turkish wine is the best of the Black Sea region, if you don't count Georgian and Bulgarian, and, some have argued -- but we don't necessarily agree -- Moldovan. We also believe that, while Muslims excel in many things, including hair removal and cooking meat on a stick, making liquor is not one of them.
Even we are willing to admit that Turkish wine is better than it used to be. It is possible to find a reasonably priced bottle that won't make you sick (if you do find one, buy it by the case). Some people may vociferously object to the following advice, but we here at Ask Carpetblogger are pragmatists and sympathize with the poor prole drinker. The short answer, is "sure, go ahead, bring Turkish wine but proceed with caution."
- Because of taxes and other Muslim what-nots, wine is stupid expensive in Turkey. Plus, there's the "if it's expensive it must be good" developing world elitny surcharge. Just because a bottle of Turkish wine is expensive, doesn't mean it's any good. It may, at the high end, be drinkable but it's still probably a terrible value. There are an increasing number of decent wines being produced by vintners on some of the Aegean Islands, and we would look them up and tell you what they are but you have google too. If you really, really, really want to try Turkish wine, go to one of these places. [update: be careful at Sensus at Galata -- we and people we know have bought skunked whites there and they can be tetchy about taking it back, even when it looks like urine and tastes like rotten vinegar. Most staff is not terribly knowledgeable, either.] They'll let you sample different varietals and explain which goes best with beyaz peynir and sucuk. Still, if you're going to drop some cash on a bottle that you're hoping will get you some action, do not buy Turkish.
- Do not bring any bottle of Turkish wine that costs less than 10 TL. It is wine-colored poison. You will be judged, harshly and publicly.
- Buy the best bottle of imported you can afford. You'll probably have to go to a wine shop, since supermarket/tekel supplies can be limited. Most wine shops usually have some off-brand French or Italian plonk for 20TL or less. It's still a ridiculous price for crap wine, but will be better than a Turkish label at the same price, guaranteed.
- Think of how much more popular you'll be if you bring something imported and unusual, even if it's cheap. Spanish? Sure. Italian? Great. Even Bulgarian gets an A for effort. Greek, if you must. Stuffing your baggage and maxing out at duty free is part of the social contract. Do your part.
- Do not, under any circumstances, bring local and drink imported. Some hostesses are implementing a colored wristband system at parties as a mechanism to publicly shame those who bring Buzbağ and drink Bordeaux. Some of those people are impossible to shame, however. They know who they are.
Before you go and say "Carpetblogger, why are you such a fucking snob?" (uh, why water is wet?), let us be clear that we do not discriminate against cheap wine. We LOVE cheap wine. We just hate shitty wine in general and expensive shitty wine in particular. Maybe someday Turkish wine will be as good as Greek wine and we'll have to find a new target.
In the meantime, if you're invited to a sangria or mulled wine party chez Carpetblogger you know that there's an oversupply of Angora, Buzbağ and Deluca. The next day will be rough. We call it payback.