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Munskänkarna – Don’t call them monks

As I was reading through the week-end papers I came across a small discreet advert for Munskänkarna. Intrigued, I checked in my dictionary and discovered that the hard-to-pronounce-word means “the cup bearers”. I peruse the advert and after more leafing of my dictionary – or rather tapping on my phone’s dictionary app – I find out that Munskänkarna is a wine tasting club. Moreover, it claims to be the world’s biggest one. With more than 145 branches all over Sweden as well as abroad, the society offers regular wine tastings, seminars, wine education courses and also recommends wine travels. It publishes a newsletter, gives notice to members of new wines to be released by Systembolaget (the Swedish monopoly) and provides reviews of the wines as well.

Constantly on the look-out for new opportunities to taste wine – trade fairs and tasting events in Stockholm are few and far between – I promptly fill in the application form and pay the reasonable yearly membership fee of 375 SEK (£28). A few days later an envelope drops through my letterbox. Upon opening, a little golden pin with a capital M atop a bunch of grapes drops out and falls onto my desk. There is more, a welcome letter and a booklet about the society tucked firmly inside the envelope. I browse through the upcoming tasting events. There are plenty of them, four to five per month, with different speakers and topics of interest. First on the list is a presentation of wines from Etna given by Niklas Jörgensen, who also happens to be a Madeira expert and 2015 Wine Blogger Awards finalist (www.madaboutmadeira.org). These events appear to get booked up pretty quickly and unfortunately such is the case for the Etna one. There is also a tasting of 1990 DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) for which there are a few places remaining. I have never had the privilege of experiencing those wines and am sorely tempted but the cost of the tasting, 11000 SEK (£815) holds me back. I settle for a SEK 1000 (£74) tasting of 2003 Bordeaux wines. The 2003 vintage was of course a scorcher in terms of weather. Many producers nevertheless managed to make some outstanding wines. Whether these wines have what it takes to age and develop harmoniously is the question. Thus, on a very cold and wet evening I set off with piqued curiousity, and an umbrella…

I make my way through the dark and sheets of rain, and come to a garage door. Hesitant, I peer inside. A sign above my head with the words Vinkällaren (wine cellar) reassures me that I have reached the right place. I walk down the dimly-lit tunnel-like corridor and reach another utilitarian door. It has been left ajar. I poke my head in. Two long tables lie side-by-side in a confined cellar space partially enclosed by red brick walls. Four rows of mainly grey heads are all turned in the same direction towards a speaker at the front of the room. I stand there for a good five minutes, wondering whether I should have brought my golden pin to gain admittance and whether I will be invited in. Finally, at the back of the congregation a hand rises through the gloomy thick air, and points to a vacant seat.

Bordeaux vintage 2003, Munskänkarna, Stockholm

Bordeaux vintage 2003, Munskänkarna, Stockholm – November 2015

After a summary of the climatic conditions of 2003 and its impact on the different appellations in Bordeaux, we are served eight wines. Their identity is known to us but their order is not, and we taste them blind. It transpired that they were poured from the lightest to the more powerful, and incidentally in ascending order of Robert Parker’s scores!

  • Château Grandis, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc, 178 kr
  • Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, Margaux, 1100 SEK (RP 90)
  • Château Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan, Cru Classé, 977 SEK (RP 91)
  • Château Hosanna, Pomerol, 902 SEK, (RP 92)
  • Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, 5ème cru classé, 800 SEK (RP 95+)
  • Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2ème cru classé, 1100 SEK (RP 96)
  • Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe, 2ème cru classé, 1680 SEK (RP 97)
  • Château Angélus, Saint-Émilion, Premier Grand Cru Classé A, 2000 SEK (RP 98)

In spite of the baking summer, 2003 was considered a good vintage for Bordeaux reds albeit an atypical one. There was much talk as to whether these wines would be able to age. Some thought they might just collapse. Twelve years later we can see that this clearly has not happened. Today critics are divided as to which wines should be consumed soon and which will keep. The general recommendation is too drink them fairly soon. For Robert Parker Angélus and Cos d’Estournel were the superstars of the vintage. Indeed, the Cos d’Estournel showed freshness on the nose and palate. With its lush plum colour, it has a particularly lovely nose with some vegetal, floral, cedar wood and red fruit notes. Lots of fine tannins, pencil shaving aromas, bitter chocolate and evolved fruit. The heat of the vintage has imprinted many Bordeaux wines with power, strong tannins and ripe, dense, jammy red fruit. The latter, ripe cooked strawberries, are present in the Château Grandis, the St-Julien (Léoville-Poyferré) and the Pauillac (Pontet-Canet). The Pontet-Canet, however, also has fresh blueberries and flowers in addition to the ripe red fruit. With nice acidity and good length, this wine is elegant and harmonious. The Hosanna did not show well though. More port than wine, it was oxidised and reminiscent of an aged sake, with flavours of old strawberry cordial, prickly alcohol and drying tannins. This could be down to bad storage as opposed to poor natural development of the wine, and merits another tasting out of a bottle sourced from a different cellar. Alongside Cos d’Estournel, Angélus is the most tannic of the line-up. Its nose is restrained with red fruit, savouriness, herbs and some mint. It provides quite a tannic mouthful but is very silky and imparts toastiness and notes of bitter chocolate. It might very well be reaching its peak and should be drunk soon. At a little over a half of the price of Angélus, Pavillion Rouge’s 2003 does not display baked red fruit. Dark in colour, it has more of the classic Cabernet and Médoc blue tones: blue fruit, cassis, smokey tannins and a good length.

I would have happily drained many of my glasses, and had some food with them – especially the more tannic ones – but had to refrain as I was driving home. I should have known better…

This was an interesting seminar given by Munskänkarna. I will definitely attend future events. My Swedish friends might even come along with me, especially now that I have nailed the pronunciation of the word Munskänkarna, and am able to explain to them that I have joined a wine society and not Munkarna, the monks. Four letters and a world of difference. Or maybe not.

For more information on Munskänkarna visit www.munskankarna.se.


  1. Charles Jefford says

    Dear Sarah, Once again, another superbly written article on those top Bordeaux wines. I particularly liked the term pencil shaving aromas. Perhaps next time you could bring in a’whiff of saddle leather’ as a wine note. I remember, years ago, buying in a small wine shop in Plan les Ouates some bottles of Cos d’Estournel for 25 francs a bottle! Today’s prices have soared. Love from El Dado


  2. Tomas Tedgren says

    I thought I have told you about the Munskänkarna. Nice you have joined the club.


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