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Is Sweden a good country for women? Debunking a myth and why I can’t afford to buy wine anymore

This month I celebrate eight years of living in Sweden. Celebrate, however, is not really the adequate word. In 2014 I left London very abruptly with my son in the middle of a school year as my husband, out of the blue, was offered a job in Stockholm he said he couldn’t turn down. He promised us a wonderful new life and told us that Sweden was the ideal country for raising a family. Although it didn’t fit with my job situation at the time – I was working in a winery in Bordeaux and the family plans had been to live somewhere where both of us could work – I was excited. I saw it as an adventure and was looking forward to discovering a new culture, beautiful landscape and the northern lights. It was not supposed to be forever either. We had met in Switzerland, lived in London and were, so I thought, internationals. Unfortunately things did not turn out to plan. My husband focused all his attention on his important job and on an employee in the office. Without any attempt at conciliation he walked out on his family leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

The call of duty

For three years now I have been fighting to be able to leave Sweden and return to my family and friends and rebuild a life for myself and my son. My ex-husband, however, will not allow me to leave with my son. He turned his son’s life upside down and broke the family up very brutally, making sure that my son would have no tie left to him and to the life we had together in Sweden. He moved his son out of his home, out of his school, out of his area, away from his friends, his sport activities, he got rid of the family summer house, his son’s childhood toys, small boat, football goal… Everything he could throw out he did. He has slipped into his girlfriend’s life and has not created a space for his own son. He does not contribute financially to his son’s upkeep, does not help in any way to ensure his son leads the best possible life, even though as the CIO of one of Sweden’s biggest pension funds he is a top earner. When his son has pleaded him for help, he has repeatedly reminded him that he owes him nothing. Indeed, under Swedish law after divorce there is no alimony and virtually no child support. My son has been so disturbed by the situation that he cannot face school nor spending time with his father. I find myself in a situation where I cannot change my son’s school even though that is what he wants, I cannot find private therapists for my son, I cannot leave the area, the town, let alone the country without my husband’s consent and he is refusing to give it. I don’t have a proper income and am not in any position to rent a property, to buy a flat. I am living on savings that are running out. I cannot go anywhere, scale down my life because my ex-husband will not allow it. I have been offered jobs in the UK but cannot take them. I am denied the possibility of earning and putting money aside for my retirement. I should be suing my ex-husband for loss of earnings. 

Swedish law states that they do not care about what a parent wants and that only the good of the child is important. But they are kidding themselves. Of course the parents’ situation is going to impact the child. In other countries, such as Switzerland, where they really do think about the good of the child, it is considered important to maintain a child’s stability after a divorce. This is why they will make sure that the child is not uprooted, does not lose his house, his friends, his school nor his economic stability if possible. If one parent has the ability to contribute financially that parent does. That is only fair. Not only fair but morally the right thing to do. If you are a parent, how can you not want to do everything in your power for your child? 

Are family values a thing of the past?

So today after eight years of living as an expat in Sweden I find myself after a divorce in my late 50s with a very unhappy son who is not attending school, no house, no savings, insufficient income and no pension. Rock bottom. The reason for me writing this – as no one likes a sob story – is to make others aware and especially to make expat women aware. People are under the impression that Sweden is country that is particularly good to women. But beware and do your research if you are planning on moving here. In reality Sweden does not especially favour women on the job front nor on the home front. You only need to talk to an expat to find out how difficult it is to find a job in Sweden. You will not get hired if you don’t fit into the mould. Recent research has highlighted problems of ageism and sexism in the labour market in Sweden. As for the treatment of women after a separation, men and women are deemed equal. After a divorce, assets are split up equally but pension is not. Each worker has to earn his/her own pension. There is no split of pension nor redistribution of pension if one parent has taken time out to look after a child or parent or for whatever reason not been able to work. There is no alimony and no child support, or a very minimal one (approx. Euro 170/month) given to a parent looking after the child.  

My advice is to not get divorced in Sweden (and probably to not get married either!). I got married in London, at Chelsea town hall, a favourite wedding venue for many celebrities. It did not occur to me that were I to get divorced it would be the law of the country of residence that I would be subject to and not the UK, my home country, nor the country where I got married. I never would have thought either, that the divorce law in Sweden would be so unfair towards women and in particular those that have taken care of children or supported their husband’s career. Had I known that I would never have agreed to move to Sweden and would not have supported my husband’s career.

Equality is bandied about a lot in Sweden as the best way to treat people. But equal does not mean fair. People do not have equal needs and do not live equal lives. A progressive society, like the one that Sweden seems to take pride in being, should take context and circumstances into consideration, should look out for the disadvantaged and weaker members of society and should change their view on equality of treatment. As regards the end of a marriage, you cannot apply a strict 50/50 approach, let’s-treat-everyone-equally, if one person is earning a fortune and the other doesn’t have a job, if one person is a native and the other not, if one person is healthy and the other is not, if one person has their family and network in Sweden and the other abroad, if the children are unwell or have disabilities, et cetera, et cetera…  What kind of a society is this going to lead to? This is not fair and even if the treatment is equal, the outcome will not be. This is a sure way for the rich to get richer, the poor to get poorer, the young, sick and elderly to get excluded and not looked after as they should. Swedish society leaves it up to the individual to make decisions and to do what he or she deems right. Sadly, the individual will rather conform to what the law has laid out and will not be motivated by higher principles if he or she can get away with it. More worrying still, the laws of the country seep into people’s psyches and set the standard for what is right or not. That is how my ex-husband sees nothing wrong in the way he has been behaving towards his son and myself. 

Why should a woman have to choose between her freedom and the child she has been taking care of?

In a world that is becoming more individualistic and selfish by the day, having a systematically “equal” approach towards all beings and situations is dangerous. It can only create a society where citizens do not care about, do not commit to and do not support each other. Responsibility is outsourced and handed over to external and governmental bodies. That is ultimately a recipe for loneliness, sadness and soullessness. The word equality has become synonymous with justice and fairness, and that is how most people hear it. The reality, however, is quite a different story. 

In survival mode: not waiting on the dock but setting my sights on new horizons

Swedish divorce law where both parties are treated equally, no matter the circumstances, is grossly unfair and shortsighted. It makes a painful situation worse and brings about further conflict. It can prolong unhappiness over years and draws in other parties such as lawyers and courts and school counsellors and heads and the dreaded social services. It is a waste of resources and time. How can a child be chased out of his home on his father’s whim when his mother does not even have a job?  A divorce needs to be properly planned. How can an ex-wife not be allowed to move anywhere nor leave the country, when there is no obligation for a father to financially support the mother of his children? How can a father not be required to provide proper financial benefit to his children after a divorce, especially if he was doing so during matrimony? How can a man prevent his ex-wife from rebuilding her life when he has left the marriage and has everything he wanted? Let’s not even talk about the fact that there is no division of pension nor any kind of adjustment. The sad thing is that those that suffer the most from divorce are the children. Divorce will affect them negatively for the rest of their life. If on top of the trauma of divorce children have to endure conflict, the loss of economic and social stability, the loss of their home and everything that goes with it, the impact on them is catastrophic. The very ones that Swedish justice is claiming to be protecting, i.e. children, are suffering more than they should have to. Swedish divorce law has to be amended for the sake of our children, for their future, and for a more, not equal, but fair world.

Handle with care! Our children are a gift and the most precious thing that will ever be entrusted to us in our lifetime.

Which Wine for Oysters?

With it being the 31st of December and oysters featuring traditionally on the evening’s menu, two questions arise: which wine is the best match with raw oysters and how do we open them ?

Oysters are the perfect meal for convalescing according to an old French medical dictionary

When pairing food and wine there are a few general guide lines to follow:

  • find a wine that will not overpower what you are eating;
  • match (or contrast) the main features of the food/dish;
  • and not least importantly choose a wine that suits your budget and that you enjoy.
Raw oysters are just perfect served with a wedge of lemon, a vinaigrette with chopped shallots or with a drop of tabasco sauce

What are the main attributes of oysters? Undoubtedly their utter freshness above all things, as well as their lightness and their delicate mineral, salty taste.

You will want to choose a wine that shows the same characteristics as the oysters: a wine that is light, fresh with a clean finish, that will not override with power nor complexity the delicious, subtle taste from the sea.

So don’t think so much about the grape variety but more about the style of the wine. Your ideal wine should thus be dry, white, young, and unoaked with refreshing acidity. Many wines will fit that description and that leaves a wide choice of grape varieties and points of origin. Here are some classic suggestions of wines to choose from.

  • A Muscadet from the Loire Valley, France
  • A Sauvignon de Touraine, or another young Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley such as a Menetou-Salon or a steely Sancerre
  • Gros Plan du Pays Nantais, from the Loire
  • A Chablis, from Burgundy, France
  • An Entre-deux-Mers, a Pessac-Léognan, a Graves, a Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, or a Bordeaux Blanc from Bordeaux, France
  • A Riesling from Alsace, France

From outside of France:

  • An unoaked Chenin Blanc from South Africa
  • A Pinot Gris from Oregon, USA
  • An unoaked Chardonnay from Sonoma, California
  • A Sauvignon-Sémillon or Chardonnay from Margaret River

And the list can go on…

What about bubbles with oysters? Doubtful that a celebratory bottle of fizz won’t be opened on the 31st, so can it wash down the oysters?

If champagne is your drink of choice throughout the evening, select one that is as dry as possible and that has a high proportion of Chardonnay in the blend. An Extra Brut Blanc de Blanc will work nicely.

Now to opening the bivalves… I confess that I have until last year been nervous about doing it myself and have left the feat to others.

I found out, however, that – holding the oyster steady under a folded tea-towel with your hand in a thick leather gardening glove whilst your other hand prises the oyster open – does the trick!

Click here for a short video showing you just how it is done.


In the hands of the chefs at Sushi Sho

I finally made it to Sushi Sho.

Sushi Sho has been for some years now on my “must-go-and-eat-there-before-I-die” list or, if that sounds rather unnecessarily tragic, on the “must-go-and-eat-there-before-it-closes-down” list. I say that because I never made it to Fäviken to partake in Magnus Nilsson’s edible artistry before it closed. That is one of my big regrets.

Back to Sushi Sho. 

I was commissioned recently to write an article on sake, so I seized the occasion to venture down to this much talked-about restaurant whose traditional Tokyo-style sushi have been making waves in Stockholm since its launch in 2014. I threw to the wind the idea that feasting in a one Michelin star warrants either a celebration, or diners-in-crime, or the end of the week, and rocked up on my own, casually, on a very cold Tuesday night. 

The restaurant is located in Vasastan, right opposite Bacchus Antik, an antique shop I used to love spending time in when visiting Stockholm, in the days before I settled here. The shop is crammed full of Scandinavian ceramics, furniture, lamps and other household goods. I would glance through the earthenware hoping, as one does, to find an affordable vase or figure by the iconic Swedish designer Stig Lindberg.

On the other side of the road, tucked away behind a small windowed front is Sushi Sho, an unassuming cosy eatery with an L-shaped bar that seats twelve people. The sushi is served omakase お任せ, meaning the meal is left up to the chef, and he will have selected only the best and freshest produce in season. The food is presented as otsumami お摘み, the Japanese equivalent to tapas, i.e. small dishes to pair with drinks .

The idea at Sushi Sho is that you book a time and you share it with all the other diners. It’s a bit like being invited to a dinner party without knowing the other guests. You make yourself comfortable at the bar and the chefs prepare the food in front of you and serve everyone the same menu at the same time. One platter is followed by another. I lost count but I think there were about 8 or 9 dishes in total. Here, there is no risk for a waiter to forget your first course, or to leave you interminably stranded with no main. Like a ballet performance, your empty earthenware dish is smoothly whisked out stage right and a delicious new course makes an apparition from stage left. 

Sushi Sho's glazed octopus
Mean looking glazed octopus at Sushi Sho, Stockholm

So bravely I relinquished all control and let the restaurant decide on both my food and the sake. I say bravely as, like most people, I play it safe and tend to stick to what I know. Furthermore, eating raw fish feels slightly risky and the most comfortable for me has always been salmon or tuna with rice. At Sushi Sho I broke through my mental boundaries and the whole meal was an adventure. 

The first dish threw me into the deep end. It was a sashimi 刺身 with the thinly sliced fresh raw fish served with nothing other than a little wasabi 山葵 paste and nori 海苔 dip. No salmon, but razor clams, octopus and scallops. This was followed by ankimo あん肝, monkfish liver, cooked in a sweet dashi and sake sauce. Unknown to me (I had no idea that the flat-faced ugly looking monkfish had a huge liver – what has he been drinking we wonder…), ankimo has become a delicacy and I was struck by the airy and creamy texture and how little it tasted of fish. Another surprise for me was sushi 寿司 or to be more specific nigiri 握り (sushi without seaweed) made with “röding” (char) a typically Swedish fish, that is caught in mountain lakes and streams. Delicious, but my preference went for Sushi Sho’s seabass and yellowtail nigiri.

If fish is the main staple, a few less fish-only dishes punctuated the menu: a wonderful classic cooked daikon 大根 (winter radish) with a white shiro 白 miso 味噌 sauce, and Sushi Sho’s signature dish, a soy cured egg yolk with okra, puffed rice and of course … a little sashimi.

At the end of the meal the chefs offered as an extra some special tuna they had in and let us choose how we wanted it prepared. I opted for sashimi and I have to say it was the best and tastiest raw tuna I have ever had. It was a cut from the fattiest part of the tuna’s belly, otoro, おとろ. The pink flesh is streaked with thin lines of fat that melt in your mouth thereby releasing sweet, savoury and meaty flavours.

Maybe about so? Preparing tuna at Sushi Sho, Stockholm

There are a few places in Stockholm that you have to go to if you want to drink good sake and Sushi Sho is one of them. I took the sake package and was not disappointed. It included four different styles of premium sake, nihon-shu 日本酒.

The opening sake was a Junmai 純米 Daiginjo 大吟醸 from the brewer Dewazakura. Delicate, precise, alive, creamy and light in body with very fruity aromas, it was a perfect accompaniment to the sashimi. (Dewazakura Ichiro Junmai Daiginjo Muroka Nama Genshu – Picture: top left)

The second sake was a Tokubetsu 特別 Junmai 純米. Crisp and clean with a neat finish and elegant richness. This palate cleanser of a sake was a good transition from the fish to the daikon. (Hirotogawa Tokubetsu Junmai from the brewer Matsuzaki Shuzo in Fukushima Prefecture – Picture: top right)

A pretty pink label with white and silver writing was the next sake tasted. As the colour of the label suggests, this is a fun sake, easy to drink and quite popular at the moment. It is an Origarami おりがらみ – as can be read on the neck of the bottle. It is a little cloudy, slightly spritzy, fresh, with very fruity tones, a hint of vanilla and some sweetness. This is a result of the sake being unfiltered 無濾過, unpasteurised 生 and with a high rice polishing ratio. It is also non-diluted 原酒 and at 17% abv, a little higher in alcohol. You can pick up this information through the kanji on the left side of the label. (Fudoh Junmai Ginjo Origarami Nama from the brewer Nabedana in Chiba Prefecture)

The last sake tasted was an earthy Junmai 純米. A memorable punchy orange label, which helps with identification, it is a trophy sake from the same brewer as the first one tasted. The sommelier poured out two glassfuls of the ninhon-shu, one cool and the other warmed, to compare its expression. Junmai sakes are characterful, flavourful, have more body and acidity. They are well suited to be served at room or warmed temperatures. This brings out the ricey and earthy flavours of the sake. In addition to that it procures physical satisfaction on a cold evening. (Dewazakura Dewanosato Junmai)

I am very pleased to have made it to Sushi Sho. The food is outstanding, the sake excellent and last but not least the staff was welcoming, friendly and totally invested in creating the best experience for the diner.

Sushi Sho
Upplandsgatan 45
113 28 Stockholm

Is Corona helping restaurants remember the basics?

The sun is finally out and when that happens Sweden morphs into a different country. Suddenly the streets, parks and gardens are filled with people whose existence one did not even realise during the dark winter months. Smiles, laughter and babble become welcome accompaniments to daily life. 

Although there is no confinement here, most citizens are respecting social distancing. Restaurants are open but are having a tough time with many of them going under due to lack of customers. 

With the arrival of the warm weather, however, restaurant terraces are enticing trade. I myself have been adhering to working from home and restricting my movements to shopping for essentials and walks in nature. One sunny day, when a friend recently suggested coffee, it was with some unease that I agreed to meet on a terrace.

With Corona on my mind, I sat at a distance from my friend. We ordered some coffee and water but were rather taken aback when the waitress pinched the lip of the water glasses with her index and thumb and put them down on the table. She then clasped the coffee cups with her hands, all her fingers curved around the drinking edge of the cup. My friend and I were slightly horrified and worried. 

There are elementary rules of hygiene that need to be followed when serving food and drinks. These apply to the professional environment but also to the private home. One such rule is to avoid handling the area of a cup or of an implement such as a knife or fork, that will come into contact with lips and mouth. 

Anyone working in the restaurant business should adhere to these basic practices. Any member of staff not aware of such practices should undergo proper training.  

If this is important for the general health of the population during normal times, it is even more important during a pandemic. Customers will not return to a restaurant or bar if they fear that they risk catching a virus or a bacteria. Restaurants would do well to ensure that their staff has received appropriate training. By taking such measures they ensure that their customers remain healthy, content, and that they will come back and keep them in business. 

Coffee in the sun

Springtime in Stockholm

With Corona on the rampage, most of us have a heightened awareness of potential sources of contamination. Bad practices in restaurants will not go unnoticed. This has to be one positive element amidst the wreckage of the pandemic: the reinstatement of good rules of hygiene. No one forgets washing hands anymore. If one could add to that other basic rules such as restaurant staff refraining from wearing strong scents during service, the dining world would be a better place…

Wine’s fall from grace

Summer is over. It is back to a new school year, a new start and work. The days have become noticeably shorter and once the sun has disappeared over the horizon the evening air is gently chilling. Daytime, however, is still mostly bright and warm, carrying with it the echoes of holiday enjoyment and carefreeness. “Sensommar”, late summer. The streets of Stockholm are bustling once again with local inhabitants back from time off. The wine trade is in full swing again, presenting the season’s new products and trends. Restaurant terraces are full of happy diners sipping on transitional rosé.

Summer is the period of the year when alcohol consumption is at its highest in Sweden. This would point to a rather responsible society that mainly consumes alcohol during leisure time and vacation as opposed to during the working week. On the other hand, this could also translate as overcompensation for not spreading drinking evenly out over the working weeks resulting in excessive drinking over the summer months.

Drinking in large amounts over a short period, in other words binge drinking, is, as most 
know, highly damaging to health. Drinking wine in moderation, on the other hand, provides health benefits. In men over 40 and post-menopausal women alcohol wards off the risk of a stroke or a heart attack (Alcohol in Moderation). Moreover if the alcohol is red wine it also protects against free radicals and the ageing process. Or so we have been led to believe…

Not too long ago I came across a 2016/2017 report, Alcohol and Cancer, published by IOGT-NTO, the Swedish Society of Medicine and CERA in cooperation with Forum Ansvar. The report focuses on alcohol as a cause of cancer. It explains how research has clearly linked seven types of cancer – including breast cancer – to the consumption of alcohol. It aims to prevent the occurrence of the disease through increasing public awareness, which in Sweden is allegedly the lowest in the EU.

Whilst most of us are aware of the health damages caused by the overconsumption of alcohol, what did come as a total surprise was that the report sets the danger threshold for alcohol intake at a new low. Moderate or low consumption –  not so long ago thought of as the key to a healthy life – according to new findings is putting your life at risk. Alcohol is carcinogenic and damaging to health. With the consumption of alcohol, the risk of cancer is ever present. Reducing the amount of alcohol consumed merely lowers the risk of contracting cancer. “30% of all alcohol-attributable cancer cases in Sweden are caused by moderate or low levels of alcohol consumption” (Alcohol and Cancer, IOGT-NTO, 2016/2017).

Wine's downfall

Ideas about most things come and go. What’s in today is out tomorrow. Alcohol, a potion with both pleasure inducing and poisonous properties, is a constant subject of controversy. But why has the wind changed? Is consuming alcohol comparable to smoking? Is it a habit that needs to be kicked? I contacted Sven Wåhlin, a doctor and expert in the field of alcohol and health, working at Riddargatan 1, in Stockholm.

Sarah Jefford. Red wine in moderation has for some time now been considered to have health benefits. These are mainly attributed to the antioxidants, the procyanidins found in grapes. What do you think about the recent launch on the Asian market of a wine called Vitis Vinae that has been made from a selection of grapes with high levels of procyanidins?

Sven Wåhlin: There are more anti-oxidants in an onion than in a bottle of wine. Moreover, oxidation isn’t all bad. It also has a positive role. But the negative effects of the alcohol outweigh any positive ones from the anti-oxidants. 

SJ. Why has drinking alcohol in moderation, particularly red wine, been considered a contributing factor to a healthy life?

SW. Studies have indeed shown that light or moderate drinkers have a reduced risk of contracting a number of life-style influenced diseases. Determining whether or not this lower risk is due to the consumption of alcohol is complicated. Researchers have been unable to find a perfect reference group. In the main, the evidence for alcohol’s ability to prevent disease is considerably weaker than the evidence for alcohol having a wide range of damaging effects.

SJ. Why has moderate drinking lost its stars?

SW. A new Swedish study claims that information gathered on the health benefits of moderate drinking is wrong. It has revealed that the group of non drinkers – used in comparative studies of non drinking versus moderate drinking – were reformed alcoholics and people abstaining from drink for health issues. As a consequence, the non drinkers have shown up in study results as unhealthy and the moderate drinkers as healthy.

SJ. This view that moderate drinking is a health risk, is it mainly Scandinavian or is it global?

SW. The positive effects of alcohol are increasingly coming under criticism. There are more and more articles being written about the harmful effects of alcohol and lots of corroborative new studies are being published and underway. In the British Medical Journal the positive effects are evaporating. (SJ. This seems in part to be due to the improvement in the methodology and research tools which put into question past results Back in 2011, the WHO published a “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health” where alcohol was found to increase the risk of cancer, and notably breast cancer with as few as two drinks per day. There were too many confounders and more research was needed for the evidence to be conclusive but moderate drinking was already suspected of being damaging.

SJ. Is this the end of one or two glasses of wine with a meal?

SW. Consumers need to be informed and should not be led to believe that drinking alcohol is healthy. Alcohol is not good for your body but driving cars is more dangerous than moderate drinking…

Freedom wine for France

It was no surprise. The country whose motto is Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité wanted out of its shackles. Too many rules and regulations, no wiggle room, not enough space for creativity. Winemakers in France had had enough. They had been dreaming of possibilities that they couldn’t realise. They requested carte blanche. And they got it. They got it in the form of VDF. Vin de France. They nickname it the Freedom Appellation.

France is one of the five most important wine producing countries in the world. Along with Spain, China, Italy and Turkey it holds 50% of the world’s total vineyard area (including vineyards for the production of juice, table grapes, raisins as well as wine). France’s share is 11%, Spain’s 13%, China’s 11%, Italy’s 9% and Turkey’s 6% (OIV, April 2017).

As far as wine is concerned, France produced last year 43.5 million hectolitres which is  less than Italy (50.9 mio hl) but more than Spain (39.3 mio hl), the USA (23.9 mio hl) and Australia (13 mio hl). France does well on the export side. In 2016 together with Spain and Italy its wines accounted for 55% of the world market in terms of volume. By value France is the leader, with 28% of market share worth 8’255 mio Euros. It is followed by Italy with 19% of market share worth 5’354 mio Euros (OIV, April 2017).

If this all looks rosy for France, the country’s 2016 wine production nevertheless dropped by 7% from 2015, and the latter year’s production was lower than that of 2014 (OIV, April 2017). The outlook for the 2017 harvest has taken a turn for the worst with the terrible frosts that have swept across the country this spring severely damaging parts of Chablis, Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux and that will result in lower crops this autumn. Global consumption of wine has been diminishing since 2008. In France, according to Valérie Pajotin, managing director of Anivin, the young have lost interest in wine and need something fresh and new to make them fall in love with it again.


Consumers today have a fabulous choice of wine from all corners of the globe. France rules supreme in the fine wine category but cheap, entry level wine has not been its forte. That has been the New World’s hunting ground. To take Chile and Australia as examples, both countries have shown how good and enjoyable cheap wine can be. France, on the other hand, has been reproached for its inability to offer reliable quality in its cheaper wines. Such inconsistencies have been making international consumers turn away from France and look towards other countries. In France itself, were it not for the lack of choice of vins du monde or non-French wines in French supermarkets and wine shops, sales of non-premium indigenous wine might be having a much rougher time.

Selling French wine has its challenges. One of the main reasons is the labelling and appellation system. A lot of consumers think that the labels are too complicated. How can they understand what they are buying when the bottle does not display the grape variety?

As explained by Laurent Delaunay, president and winemaker at Badet Clément & Co and in charge of marketing at Anivin, “the French approach to making wine is terroir driven”. Wine is a produce, an expression of the characteristics of a specific locality, of terroir. This is reflected in the classification system, i.e. the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) and Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP). Along with qualitatively designating the terroir of origin, the classification system also regulates the way vines are cultivated and wine is produced. These regulations were initially put in place to ensure quality but they often cannot guarantee it and what’s more, can be restrictive for a winemaker and prevent creativity. This is where Vin de France, the “freedom denomination” comes into play.

Created in 2009 as a rebranding of Vin de Table, the new appellation addresses the shortcomings mentioned above linked to the AOP and IGP appellations of origin. The first big innovation is that the grape variety can be stated on the label. Anivin, the promotional body for Vin de France, brands the appellation “the national French denomination dedicated to grape varietal wines”. This change is a huge step forward for the French wine industry. It can now produce varietally branded wines and compete in that category on the world stage.


Bélénos Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and La Belle Angèle Rosé de Syrah 2016 are 2 Gold medal winners from the yearly Anivin wine competition

Vin de France, which can also state the vintage on the label – unlike the Vin de Table category – encompasses both single varietals and blends. Blends is where producers can really get creative. VDF wines can be made by blending grapes from different wine regions, from opposing parts of France, from fresh regions with warm ones. Wine designers can put together, for example, Gros Manseng from Gascogny with Vermentino from Provence. They can mix local and international grape varieties; create wines that have not existed before. This not only enables them to be imaginative with the taste profile of their wines but it also allows them to work with the diversity of climate and it gives them the tools to produce consistent quality wines, wines that will retain a similar identity vintage after vintage. This consistency is key in creating strong brands.

Laurent Delaunay: “If you want a brand approach, your wine must not vary too much from year to year and that is what blends help us achieve. French market share has declined. Twenty, twenty-five years ago we didn’t take a brand approach and didn’t listen to the consumer. Now we have Vin de France and it is consumer led. Wines are made according to what consumers want”.

Since its creation in 2009, VDF has been growing in strength. It has doubled its production to 185 mio bottles between 2010 and 2016, and is doing particularly well on the export market, where 70% of its output is directed.  Sales to many markets are increasing. Sales to Sweden have risen by 16% from 2015 to 2016. The major part of VDF production is high volume wine with much of it being well made and representing good value for money. The category attracts the likes of big producers such as Castel, François Lurton but also small vignerons, natural wine producers and winemakers who for a variety of reasons either purposefully opt out of an AOP or IGP, or whose creativity is at odds with their appellations of origin. The category ranges from entry level to luxury brands.

Tina's VDF

Tina’s Le Bistro, Grande Crevette Sauvignon Blanc and Bouchard Pinot Noir are some of the VDF wines sold in Sweden at Systembolaget

“Vin de France is the way to get into wine. It makes things simple for the consumer and offers value for money. Varietals and brands are easy to recognize and understand” says Valérie Pajotin. “With Vin de France we hope to get the young men and women of our country interested in wine again and of course we would like them to become initiated through French wine rather than through New World or non-French wine. We next wish for them to progress on to more complex and subtle wines, to wines of origin, IGP and AOP wines from France and connect with their land’s rich cultural heritage”. Undoubtedly France’s new President, Emmanuel Macron, would hope for the same. “Le vin, c’est l’âme de la France”, he said in an interview to Terre de Vins (8.5.2017).

I’ll drink to that and to the wine-loving new President of France.


Travelling with wine

Upon arrival at Stockholm airport, I received an sms from Air France informing me that they were “tracking my suitcase”. I had just come back from a trip to Chile and my suitcase appeared to have missed the Paris-to-Stockholm leg of the journey. I wasn’t unduly concerned, clothes are replaceable – and in this instance Air France would probably be doing me a favour if they were to be lost forever – but in my suitcase I did have six bottles of rather good Chilean wine that I was looking forward to consume.

The following day my luggage made it back to Sweden and a courier service obligingly delivered it to my door. Somewhat unsettlingly, though, it came wrapped in a huge thick transparent sack. I removed the plastic – it was reassuringly dry inside – and next unzipped the case. All my clothes were their original colour, no red streaks anywhere, but there was a distinct perfume pervading the air. I initially thought a cosmetic bottle might have leaked until the smell started to make sense. Lees, apples…It was Chardonnay.

Whenever I travel I tend to bring bottles of wine back with me. Usually not just one but many, and in all the years I have been flying and packing wine in checked-in luggage I have only ever had two breakages. In both instances it was, of course, the favourite wine of the lot that got broken and incidentally in a Burgundy shaped bottle.

So what are the best ways to bring wine back home if one is flying?

The simplest and cheapest option is of course to wrap bottles up in socks and clothes and place them in a hardcase bag or a fully packed soft bag. You need to have enough clothes with you to cover the wine and make sure that a bottle is not close to another hard object that could impact and smash it. This is not ideal for short trips nor in warm weather when there will not be enough material to pad out the suitcase. This is also risky as any broken glass and spilled wine will damage the contents of your case.

There are a number of brands that make suitcases specifically for the transport of wine. These suitcases have foam inserts and hold up to twelve bottles of wine. Some suitcases, such as those designed by VinGardeValise, have removable inserts. Room can thus be made for other items, such as clothes, should less than twelve bottles need to be transported. The price for a VinGardeValise on Amazon UK is £249 .


VinGardeValise (

Such a suitcase is a perfect choice for a preplanned trip. You know you are going to purchase lots of wine and you are happy to travel with two pieces of luggage: one for wine and one for clothes. Alternatively, the case is shared for clothes and wine, and whatever space is not used for clothes will dictate the amount of bottles that can be purchased. Remember to check what baggage allowance you are entitled to – a fully packed VinGardeValise will weigh 20-23 kg which corresponds to the standard maximum limit per bag on most airlines.

If you are flying out and need to bring perfectly cooled white wine for a dinner party, the Transbottle is the one for you. Made of polypropylene it weighs only 0.6 kg. It can carry three 0.75 l bottles (including champagne sized bottles) and comes with a handy shoulder strap making it easy to have as an extra bag. At €46 (£38) the price is very attractive as well. Unless you are buying wine at a Duty Free the Transbottle will have to be checked in and travel in the hold of the aircraft. This is not a problem as the material is shock resistant and your bottles will arrive shaken but not broken. A €14 (£12) “Travel Kit” sold separately will allow you to securely fasten and padlock the bottle carrier. The Transbottle also comes in a bigger six bottle size.


Transbottle-3 with space for a corkscrew (

The solution that wins my vote when I need to travel with a minimal amount if bags is WineSkin. This is a plastic pouch that is lined with bubble wrap and that seals with a very strong band of tape, thus able to contain any leakage. As it is flat – about 6 mm thick – it takes up no space in your luggage so you can take a whole load of empty ones with you. As its name indicates, when filled with a bottle, WineSkin thinly but efficiently covers and protects it, taking up minimal space in a suitcase. Even a suitcase relatively full of clothes can be filled with a surprisingly large amount of bottles in WineSkin pouches. An American product, WineSkin is now widely available in specialist wineshops and tasting rooms, on their website and on Amazon. A non-reusable single pouch retails at $3.50 (£2.70) and at $9.50 (£7.40) through WineSkin’s website for a pack of three. A pack of five costs £17 on Amazon UK. WineSkin sells a range of different single use and reusable pouches.


Skinny WineSkin (

I personally have been reusing my single usage WineSkin pouches as they offer such good protection and are so convenient, despite the fact that once used they are no longer sealable nor leakproof. Whatever solution you decide on for travelling with wine, do not pack a two-bottle cardboard wine carrier in your suitcase even if the bottles have been specially bubble wrapped and the shop assistant has insisted that the cardboard box was fit for plane travel. You have been warned…

It’s all pink!

The temperature in Stockholm has been below zero for a number of weeks now but there has been a change in the skies which have gone from grey and gloomy to include some rays of sunshine and moments of blue sky. Warm weather and spring are still a way off but clearly they are on people’s mind, and the newspapers last week-end have been surprisingly full of advertisements for rosé wine! On second thoughts, it probably isn’t so much the call of spring but the fact that Tuesday is Valentine’s day, a day that calls for celebration with all things pink and heart shaped. For those of you who might have forgotten this day, here is a reminder for you to go and buy that card and gift!

In following with the spirit of the moment, here is a little sampler of some of the pink festive beverages that are currently available at most Systembolaget shops in Sweden. All of these are with bubbles, bar one – bubbles being synonymous with fun and festivities. (But what is it with bubbles anyways…).

Monte Rossa, Flamingo Rosé Brut, Franciacorta DOCG, Italy
12% abv, SB 7615, 160 SEK

Pale onion-skin in colour. Dry, fine lively bubbles, aromatics of red and yellow apples, grapes and a touch of red fruit. Quite a full, muscular body, good acidity and plenty of bready, yeasty notes, a good length with a touch of apple skin on the finish. 

Champagne is not the only area in Europe to produce sparkling wines in the traditional method. Franciacorta, in Lombardy in northern Italy, is another area that is known for its world-class sparkling wines. This non-vintage wine is made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The fermented wine has spent two years of lees ageing in bottle, giving it those rich toasty aromas. Franciacorta can be quite expensive but this one here is priced at 160 SEK, which is a little more than a good bottle of Prosecco but less than a cheap bottle of Champagne.

Berberana, Marqués de Monistrol, Selección Especial, Rosé Brut, Cava DO, Spain
11.5% abv, SB 7415, 80 SEK

A pale intensity of pink. Dry, fine mousse that fades away in the mouth, medium aromas of red and dark fruit, pepper, gravel and toasted bread. A medium body with a slight bitter finish. 

Cava is both a region and a style of sparkling wine made through the “metodo traditional” with the bubbles coming from a second fermentation in bottle. It can be elaborated in many different areas of Spain. Most Cava, however, comes from the Penedès region – as is the case for the Monistrol – and is usually a blend of the Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada grape varieties. This rosé is made with 70% Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) and 30% Pinot Noir.

Lanson, Champagne, Rosé Brut, Champagne, France
12.5% abv, SB 7495, 400 SEK

Light pale pink. Dry with very fine bubbles. Aromas of sweet candy floss, peaches, redcurrants, raspberries, sweet juicy apples, blood oranges. A delicate body, refreshing acidity, a long fruity and biscuity length that tapers gently off.

This non-vintage dry rosé Champagne is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and with its pretty pink label undoubtedly a perfect Valentine’s gift.


Different shades of Pink

Richard Juhlin, Non-alcoholic Sparkling Wine, Rosé, France
SB 1983, SEK 89

This is an alcohol-free version of a pink sparkling wine from the Swedish champagne expert, Richard Juhlin. Light pink in colour, this sparkler has aromas of baked apples and red fruit. Lively bubbles with a little froth, the body is medium full with good acidity balanced out with a sweet texture. This is a good choice for a non-alcoholic sparkling rosé and the appearance of the bottle and wine is a good look-alike to rosé champagne. The texture of the body without taking the bubbles into consideration is reminiscent of alcohol-free beer.  Made from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir.

Barefoot, White Zinfandel, California, USA
8% abv, SB 2215, SEK 70

There is an extra label on the bottle which states “Deliciously fruity” and sure enough, this wine is pure fruit. With a pink screw cap to match the colour of the wine, this bottle contains aromas and flavours of peach candy, apricots, ripe strawberries and blackberries. The alcohol is low, the acidity is medium and the finish is juicy and sweet (33 g/l of residual sugar).

If you want to say it with fruit and are on a low budget, this is the one for you.

Garcia Carrion, Platino, Flowery Sparkling, Pink Moscato, Spain
7% abv, SB 77072, SEK 50

Pale pink in colour, aromas of candy floss, orange blossom and raspberries, this is another crowd pleasing party wine that does not break the bank. Pink Moscato is a very popular beverage in Australia. This is something I only recently found out during a blind tasting when I tasted this wine for the first time and did not have a clue where the wine came from… Systembolaget only had this Spanish one on its shelves at the moment. Bubbly, quite full-bodied and very definitely sweet (75 g/l of residual sugar), this low alcohol wine is for those who really like sweet wine. This is a wine to serve as an aperitif.

Lastly, a pink sparkler that is not a wine but a cider:
Carlsberg, Somersby, Sparkling Rosé, semi-sweet cider, Sweden
4.5% abv, SB 88741, SEK 18.10

Pale pink, with aromas of pears, gooseberries, and mulberries. This is a sweet cider (77 g/l of sugar) that is nevertheless refreshing thanks to its fine bubbles and moderate acidity.

Enjoy Valentine’s day, whether it’s with rosé, or without…

Vintips – vecka 46

Det var på en tävling organiserad av Spanska Viner nyligen som jag provade Navaherreros Blanco de Bernabeleva för första gången. Ett spännande vin men inte ett som gör alltför mycket väsen av sig. Det är inte en fruktbomb eller ett aromatiskt vin. Det är snarare ett ganska subtilt vin med silkeslen kropp som bjuder in till ytterligare ett glas. Oftast tänker man mer på röda viner än på vita när man pratar om Spanien. Landet har fantastiska vita viner men kanske på grund av att de inte är alla gjorda på aromatiska druvsorter så får de inte lika mycket uppmärksamhet. […]

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