We were supposed to end the day gathering grapes at the LA Vineyards, ‘under the star-filled sky’, followed by a tasting. Instead, we enjoyed the wines of the company named after its founder, Lucien Arkas, in a totally different place, but I think an even better one.
Harvest was already finished in the Aegean wine regions of Turkey by the time the 280 bloggers from all over the world arrived in Izmir, on November 8th, to attend the fifth European Wine Bloggers Conference. So no picking of grapes for the 25 or so participants during the Sunday trip to Ephese, and no ‘sharing of micro-vinification methods’, as the programme said. But since the owner of LA Vineyards was one of the main sponsors of the conference, and owns an art gallery as well, a good alternative was at hand: tasting the organically produced wines from LA at the Arkas Art Center, in Izmir, at a stone’s throw away from the conference hotel.
And what a great experience that turned out to be: first of all the Art Center is housed in the former French Consulate on the Izmir waterfront, a beautiful classical building. In the days when Izmir still was Smyrna and merchants from all over Europe had their offices along the Kordon, French citizens found their interests taken care of in this building. After the earthquake that destroyed almost all of Izmir in 1904, the building was heavily damaged, but it was rebuilt in 1905-06. Recent restorations have been carried out by the Arkas Holding, a big transport and shipping company.
Libraries and opera houses
On display at the Arkas Art Center were very large colour pictures of libraries and opera houses by famous Turkish photographer Ahmet Ertuğ. Ertuğ’s work shows not only how the auditorium of an opera house appears to an opera star standing at the centre-stage, but also what royalty sees from the private box at the opposite end of the view. In the libraries, very often part of big monastic complexes, the reading room and bookshelves are portrayed, and visitors to the exhibition can even read the titles on the backs of the books sometimes. Every detail in Ertuğ’s photographs is as clear as if the visitor were in the library itself! You are drawn into the pictures, as it were, and could wander around these great halls of our cultural heritage forever. An explanation to the works was provided by curator Károly Aliotti and a very charming lady whose name unfortunately I do not know. They told us many an interesting anecdote. Needless to say we overstayed our time at the Art Center big time!
Tasting good wine and enjoying the company of other wine and art lovers with these stunning works of Ahmet Ertuğ around you was a very happy and impressive occasion, of which I have great memories. It really felt like a big present after an already very interesting and eventful day. To me, this tasting and art show was one of the many highlights of the EWBC!
To give you some information on the wines we tasted: LA is a young company, founded in 2004; since 2010 Lucien Arkas (now 67) is the sole owner. At LA international grape varieties are important: we tasted a very pleasant Sangiovese rosé, a good Chardonnay-Chenin Blanc and a full Tempranillo at the Art Center, the last one without too much oak. (Tasting notes are not available, I am afraid: the art works took pride of place over the wines!) The vineyards are situated in the vicinity of Izmir, at Torbah, and form the largest single plot of vines in Turkey. Quality production is aimed at the local market, so you won’t find LA wines abroad very easily. Aim of the company: to produce quality wines with fair prices for the consumers in the domestic market. And that is no mean thing in a country with a growing Islamic influence and consequently high taxes on alcoholic beverages. The company has an Ecocert certification and works completely organic.
You will find more information on LA Wines here. Wine writer Elin McCoy held a small interview with Lucien Arkas, that you can find on Bloomsberg.com. The visit to Arkas Art Center was part of the Sunday trip to Ephese, on the last day of the conference. My pictures of that day are here.
The exhibition ‘Echoes of Silence’ is on display at the Arkas Art Center in Izmir till December 30, 2012. So grab your chance