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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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Unleash the winemaker in you

How often do you order a glass of wine and think, mmm, quite nice, but it would be so much better if it were a little more fruity or maybe a little more tannic… No, the tannins are fine, what is lacking is more power? Or more acid? In other words, if you were the winemaker, you would have made the wine differently and you might even have come up with a better product, or in any case you would have created a wine that corresponds to your taste.

If that is how you feel, Högberga Vinfabrik is just the ticket for you. Located in Lidingö on the grounds of a country hotel, it is a small winery that makes its own wine and that offers wine tasting sessions to the public. These sessions include a visit of Vinfabrik’s premises with detailed explanations into the winemaking process as well as a tasting of their range of wine accompanied by delicious Italian cheeses and cold cuts.

Winetasting at Högberga Vinfabrik

Rosé, red wines and a passito with a plate of pasta, Italian cheeses and cold cuts at Högberga Vinfabrik, Stockholm

Visiting a winery in a country not known for wine production, and what’s more in the centre of a city, is unusual and interesting and the tasting session at Vinfabrik is equally innovative. You don’t just sit and sip, but you mix and assess. Vinfabrik invites you to discover its single varietal wines and to experiment into making different blends with two or three of them. The winery sources its grapes from Bolgheri in Italy, a region known for its Super Tuscans, where the main varieties are the French Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the indigenous Sangiovese.

We arrived at Vinfabrik to find three glasses of red wine, a measuring beaker and some empty glasses waiting for us. The sommelier hosting the event invited us to first taste each one of the single varietal red wines, which were a young Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, and to pick out their main feature. The consensus was that tannin came to the fore in Cabernet Sauvignon, fruit in Merlot and acidity in Sangiovese.

Winemaking at Högberga Vinfabrik

Blend your own wine at Högberga Vinfabrik

He next requested that we pour two measures of Cabernet Sauvignon and one measure of Merlot into a glass. What did we think of it? Was the blend more interesting than the individual wines? How did the different characteristics of the varieties balance out? Those proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are in fact typical in a Bordeaux left bank red wine. Our next task was to mix 0.3 dl Cabernet Sauvignon, 0.3 dl Merlot and 1 dl Sangiovese, a Robert Parker-like recipe, the sommelier told us, to give power and complexity to the thinner, more acidic and light-coloured Sangiovese. Once our introduction to blending was over, we were provided with some more empty glasses and a top-up of wine. It was now our turn to experiment. The idea is for us to come up with our very own blend, the combination that we think works the best, a wine that we tailor make to suit our taste. But this is not an exercise for a one-off moment of pleasure. The winery will prepare your preferred blend for you. It will bottle, label and package it so that you may enjoy your very own wine back home. All you need to do is give the winery “your recipe” and the desired number of bottles. Your order will be ready for you to pick up at some later date from a Systembolaget shop.


The have got the kit at Högberga Vinfabrik in Stockholm

Urban wineries have been popping up in cities all over the world, in the US (New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Cincinnati), in the UK (London) and in Hong Kong, to name a few. Stockholm has even gained a second one, The Winery Hotel, which opened in January 2016. The services provided vary from one winery to another. Some offer hotel accommodation, dining, spa, and can be hired for conferences and weddings. The core attractions that all have in common are wine tasting, an introduction to the winemaking process and equipment, and some form of hands-on experience whether it be participation in the winemaking process or blending your own wine.

Högberga Vinfabrik started off in 2004 as a hobby in a garage in the southern outskirts of Stockholm city. Two friends, one of them having previously lived in Tuscany, thought it would be fun to get hold of some grapes in Italy and drive them back to Sweden to make wine. Neither of them had any experience in winemaking but they managed to get help along the way and their project took off. The hobby turned into a commercial venture and six years later the whole operation moved to its current location at Högberga Gård. Here the winery can house tanks, barrels, and bottles and has a tasting room to accommodate visitors. Today Högberga Vinfabrik is busy catering to wine consumers who are ever more knowledgeable and eager to broaden the scope of their experience of wine.

Högberga Vinfabrik and The Winery Hotel in Stockholm both offer winemaking sessions. They also have a restaurant, a hotel and can be booked for conferences and weddings.

c/o Högberga Gård Hotell & Konferens
Grindstigen 5-6, 181 62 Lidingö
Stockholm, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)8 546 46 100
Fax: +46 (0)8 546 46 200

The Winery Hotel
Rosenborgsgatan 20
169 74 Solna
Stockholm, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)8 146 000


Högberga Gård on Lidingö, Stockholm, Sweden


Wine tasting on Paros island at Moraitis Winery

I spent some of the summer of 2015 with my family on the island of Paros in Greece. Our hotel had no dining facilities and so we ate out in the small fishing town of Naoussa every evening. The restaurants we visited were all excellent as was the wine. We made a point of choosing Greek wines and on quite a few occasions we had local wines suggested to us. Local included wines from other islands such as neighbouring Santorini but also wines from Paros island itself. The latter were quite unique and made from grape varieties that I had not previously encountered. The producer of those intriguing wines was Moraitis and happened to be located in Naoussa, a short distance from the town centre. One afternoon when it was simply too hot to be on the beach I set off to find out more about the winery.

Moraitis Winery, Naoussa, Paros island, Greece

Moraitis Winery, Naoussa, Paros island, Greece (photo by Sarah Jefford)

I stepped into the cool building and found myself in the main tasting room. I was not alone. Quite a few tourists were there too, having escaped the heat, and were propped up against a long bar, sipping on wine that was being poured out to them by a member of the winery. In adjoining rooms, a collection of old harvesting and cellar equipment was on display for the benefit of visitors. Cellars on the floor below housed barrels and bottles of old vintage wine.

Savvas Moraitis came to greet me. His family owns the winery and has been making wine on Paros island for the past century. Now the younger generation is actively involved in the running of the winery. Savvas studied business administration in Athens and looks after the business side of the winery whilst his brother is the winemaker.

Barrels in the cellar of Moraitis Winery, Paros, Greece

Barrels in the cellar of Moraitis Winery, Paros, Greece (photo by Sarah Jefford)

The family have 25 hectares of vines that they manage and farm organically. They also buy grapes from a group of fifty-eight growers that have vines all over the island. Their annual production is 300’000 bottles split roughly between 55% white and 45% red. They also produce some rosé and some sweet wine.

Savvas explained to me how in the last fifteen to twenty years a revolution has been taking place in winemaking in Greece. Winemaking itself remains traditional but huge investments have been made in new machinery, in stainless steel cellar equipment.

Sixty percent of their wine is sold on the Greek market, all over Greece. The remaining forty percent is exported to North America, UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland and China.

Savvas Moraitis at Moraitis Winery, Paros

Savvas Moraitis in the tasting room at Moraitis Winery, Paros, Greece (photo by Sarah Jefford)

Sarah Jefford – What is special about Paros?
Savvas Moraitis – Viticulture in Paros is ancient. It dates back to 3000 BC. On the small island of Despotiko, adjacent to Antiparos, archeological remains have been found attesting to the most ancient civilisation in Europe.

In antiquity Paros was renowned for the quality of its marble, which was particularly fine and transparent. Venus de Milo and Hermes have both been sculpted out of Parian marble. 

On the viticultural front, Paros has not been hit by phylloxera. Vines here are not grafted. Vines that grow on their own root system have a long lifetime and thus many of our vines are very old.

What is the climate and the soil like here ?
Paros has its own microclimate. It is very dry, there is little rainfall and we have north winds all year round. The soil is poor. It is mainly sandy clay and sand on the coastline. In the more mountainous areas the soil is rocky with often a layer of marble underneath.

You have lots of different grape varieties, what is a typical harvest for you?
Our harvest usually begins in August and finishes at the end of September. The order in which we pick the varieties is Assyrtiko, Malagousia, then Monemvasia and we finish with the red varietals. 

What is your outlook for this year’s harvest?
2015 has been a good year for Paros with a good rainfall in the spring and good winds in the summer. 


Paros island, Greece, a view from Kolimbithres (photo by Sarah Jefford)

Where are your vineyards located?
Our vineyards are scattered in many different areas of the island: in Ambelas and Isterni on the eastern coast, as well as from Marmara all the way down the coast to the southern tip of the island; Kamares on the top western part of the island, between Naoussa and Parikia. Our vineyards in Lefkes and Thapsales, in the centre of the island, are the highest and the oldest.

How are the vines trained? Are they trellised?
The winds on Paros are very strong. We therefore only use trellises on sites that are sheltered from the wind. Our Assyrtiko and Malagousia which grow in Isterni are trellised. The rest of the vines are free standing. 

Are your free standing vines woven into baskets like on Santorini?
The main technique that we use here is “Aplotaria”. The vines are planted some distance apart and are left to sprawl without support. This system protects the vines from the wind. As the plant is close to the ground this enables it to capture humidity from the wind at night time under its leaves. This is an important source of water in this otherwise dry climate.

Moraitis white wines. Syllogi, Malagousia, Paros.

White wines at Moraitis Winery made from varieties such as Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Monemvasia (photo by Sarah Jefford)

Moraiti, Sillogi 2014, PGI Cyclades, Greece
(Product of organic farming)

A dry white wine made from the Assyrtiko and Malagousia grape varieties.

Tasting note: the colour is a pale lemon with a hint of green. On the nose ripe lemons, some sweetness, lime zest and green apple. On the palate sweet lemons, lime with a dry backbone, bitter apple skins, silky body and medium acidity. The assyrtiko’s searing acidity and powerful body has been tempered by the aromatic Malagousia. The resulting wine is light in body yet with texture.

Ktima Moraiti, Malagousia 2014, PGI Cyclades, Greece
(Product of organic farming)

Malagousia is a grape variety that according to Greek wine author Lazarakis (2005) “has the power of a Chardonnay, the extract of a great Semillon, a great affinity with oak, and an aromatic character that could only be described as unique”. A previously “forgotten” varietal that is believed to have originated in the western part of continental Greece, it has today found renewed interest.

Tasting note: Wafts of Williams pear and salty citrus. A nice weight on the palate, peach, apricot, orange and bitter lemon peel.

Moraitis, Paros 2014, Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Paros, Greece

The grapes for this white wine come from vineyards all the way along the east coast of Paros, from the level of Marmara right down to the south. The soil is sand. The grape variety is Monemvasia which is thought to have its origins in the southern Peloponese, from the area surrounding the town which gave it its name. It became extinct on the mainland under the Ottoman empire but was preserved on the island of Paros. Today it is only really found on Paros though there have been some new plantings in Laconia, close to its region of birth.

Tasting note: Aromas of lemon squash, white flowers, lemon, apple, pineapple. Dry, light bodied with medium acidity, with a little bitterness, minerality, citrus, white flowers, green apples. 

This white wine has been fermented classically in stainless steel.

Moraitis white, rosé and red wine

White, rosé and red wines at Moraitis Winery, Paros island, Greece (photo by Sarah Jefford)

Moraitis, Estate 2014, PDO Paros, Greece
abc – 3’000 bottes produced)

The grapes are Monemvasia sourced from top vineyards close to Kamares, on the north-western side of the island. The soil is poor and sandy, and offers good drainage. These are Moraitis’ own vineyards and are organically grown. The grapes are handpicked. Eighty percent of them are fermented in stainless steel and the remaining twenty percent in barrels. The wood is 100% new French oak with a light toast. Once the fermentation has taken place the wine that has fermented in oak is added to the stainless steel fermented wine and is left on the lees for six months. In addition to the latter procedure, skins are left in contact with the juice before the fermentation to create complexity. Fermentation temperatures are kept low.

Tasting note: Pungent on the nose with aromas of apricot, white peach, pear. Med+ acidity. The wine is dry and has been fermented to dryness but Savvas Moraitis tells me that the Monemvasia grape variety has sweet aromas that give an impression of sweetness.

This is one of their top range wines which can be aged up to ten years.

Moraitis, Paros 2013, barrel fermented, PDO Paros, Greece
(13% abc – 5’000 bottles produced)

The grape variety is Monemvasia. This white wine is entirely fermented in oak barrels and is left on its lees for six months with regular stirring. The barrels are medium toast, 100% new French oak from Tonnellerie Nadalié in the Médoc. This step adds extra richness and complexity to the wine. The grapes are sourced from Moraitis’ group of grape growers, from vineyards in the Lefkes area, in the mountainous centre of the island.

Tasting note: Aromas that are smoky, evocative of lemon and lime cordial and pear “tarte tatin”. Intense with quite a full body, medium acidity and a long length, the palate unfolds sweet limes, citrus, almond paste, a hint of bitterness, Bassetts’ blue liquorice sweets and pomegranate. 


A refreshing glass of white Paros from Moraitis at Yemeni restaurant in Naoussa, Paros (photo by Sarah Jefford)

Ktima Moraiti, Rosé 2014, Aidani Mavro-Mandilaria, PGI Cyclades, Greece
(Product of organic farming)

Moraitis’ rosé is made from a blend of Aidani Mavro and Mandilaria. The Aidani Mavro is a grape variety that is only found on Paros, in the Cycladic islands and on Crete. It is adapted to the hot and dry climate of the islands and copes well with water stress (Lazarakis, 2005). Mandilaria is the most common red grape in the Cyclades. According to Savvas it is the darkest grape varieties in Greece. It has high tannin and high acidity. This rosé displays the colour of the Mandilaria and the aroma of the Aidani. Both varieties are fermented separately. There is a three hour period of skin contact for the Aidani Mavro. For the Mandilaria the press cycle has to be kept very short.

Tasting note: Bright cherryade colour. Very fruity, strawberries, cherries, peach, caramel, red sweets. Appealing, quite full on the palate, dry and fresh. 

Moraitis, Sillogi 2010, Greece
(Product of organic farming)

A blend of 75% Aidani Mavro and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines are thirty years old but are in the process of being phased out to be replaced with indigenous grape varieties. The vines are from vineyards on either side of the island: Kamares, on the north-western side, in from the beach where the soil is sandy clay and rock; Ambelas, on the north-eastern coast where the soil is sandy clay.

Tasting note: An earthy and floral nose with violets and irises. A spicy, earthy body with savoury and sweet notes including red cherries, sun-dried tomatoes, pansies, caramel and coffee. Silky with a long length.

Moraitis Winery: red and rosé wines are made from Mandilaria

The Mandilaria red grape variety is used in Moraitis’ rosés and reds (photo by Sarah Jefford)

Moraitis, Paros 2011, PDO Paros, Greece

This is a red wine but it is unusual in that it is made with 75% Mandilaria, a red variety, and 25% Monemvasia, a white variety. This blend is particular to Paros and has a long tradition. The vines were planted together and used to be pressed together. Mandilaria is very tannic, has a very high acidity and a very deep red colour.

Tasting note: Intense and generous nose with floral tones, prune, orange, cinnamon. A very spicy palate, with more cinnamon, smoke, dark fruit and black olives. The wine spent twelve months in 85% French and 25% American oak.

Moraitis, Paros Reserve 2009, PDO Paros, Greece

This is a red wine, a traditional Paros blend of the tannic red Mandilaria and the aromatic white Monemvasia. The grapes are sourced from Lefkes, from the oldest and the highest vineyards on Paros. The old vines, low yields and elevation bring concentration and freshness to the wine.  Paros Reserve matures for twenty-four months in oak and one year in bottle.

Tasting note: Monemvasia’s peach and apricot aromatics come through on the nose amidst Mandilaria’s dark fruit and savouriness. The palate is fresh and complex and offers floral notes, dark fruit, prunes, plums, caramel, dried raisins and hints of very concentrated strawberry jam. 

Moraiti, Liastos 2008, Produce of Greece
(13.8% abv)

A beautiful dessert wine made from the white Monemvasia grape variety. The grapes have been left out to dry on the soil for fifteen days. The wine is aged two years in oak barrels.

Tasting note: See-through mahoganny with amber coloured rim. Fresh aromas of caramel, coffee, orange, grapefruit, fig and waxy honey. Luscious and silky sweet on the palate but not overbearing, medium bodied with fresh acidity, raisins, prunes, toffee, fresh orange, apricots, figs and a little heat. A long finish. Does not need to be paired with dessert. It is a good accompaniment to nuts.

Moraitis Winery, Naoussa, 844 01 Paros, Greece – 

Lazarakis, K. 2005, The Wines of Greece, Kindle ed., Mitchell Beazley, London