All posts filed under: About town

Munskänkarna – Don’t call them monks

As I was reading through the week-end papers I came across a small discreet advert for Munskänkarna. Intrigued, I checked in my dictionary and discovered that the hard-to-pronounce-word means “the cup bearers”. I peruse the advert and after more leafing of my dictionary – or rather tapping on my phone’s dictionary app – I find out that Munskänkarna is a wine tasting club. Moreover, it claims to be the world’s biggest one. With more than 145 branches all over Sweden as well as abroad, the society offers regular wine tastings, seminars, wine education courses and also recommends wine travels. It publishes a newsletter, gives notice to members of new wines to be released by Systembolaget (the Swedish monopoly) and provides reviews of the wines as well. Constantly on the look-out for new opportunities to taste wine – trade fairs and tasting events in Stockholm are few and far between – I promptly fill in the application form and pay the reasonable yearly membership fee of 375 SEK (£28). A few days later an envelope drops …

A fine day for Australian wine

October 1st was World Sake Day, a day to celebrate sake and traditionally the start of a new sake brewing year in Japan. That event appears to have flown under the radar here in Sweden. On the 5th of October, however, it was Australia Day. Not that one was celebrating Australia up and down the country. It was, in fact, the name given by the nordic co-organisers of Wine Australia’s Annual Tasting in Stockholm. More than thirty exhibitors from different wine growing regions in Australia gathered in the Opera house in rooms overlooking a sunny Norrström and The Royal Palace. A quick glance at the list of exhibitors confirms that the usual suspects are taking part, i.e. Penfolds, D’Arenberg, Hardys, Jacob’s Creek and Lindeman’s to name a few. I make my way around the tables and try to get a feel for any new trend or new angle in this year’s trade show. The welcome note from Australia’s wine marketing body made a point of the country’s diversity, and the theme of the introductory masterclass (reserved …

Wines of Macedonia, the doppelgänger from the Balkans

This week was the trade tasting for wines from Macedonia. Not wines from Macedonia in Greece but from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) or Republic of Macedonia as it is officially called. If the country, confusingly, shares its name and a border with a Greek region, its wines could not be more different. In the Republic of Macedonia you will not encounter, as you do in northern Greece, Xinomavro, Negoska or Assyrtiko. Instead, the grape varieties are mainly a mix of classic French and local ones. These include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot for the international grape varieties and Vranec, Temjanika, Zilavka, Kratoshija, Plavac Mali for the local varieties. Located in the Balkans, the country does not touch a sea. It is enclosed by Albania on the west, Kosovo and Serbia on the north, Bulgaria on the east and Greece on the south. Its capital is Skopje. The country is fairly mountainous and is cut across from north-west to south-east by the valley of the Vardar river. The Vardar river …

Go West Stockholm - Mark de Vere MW

Fair Maidens and Cowboys – Part 2

Austria conjures up Riesling and Grüner Veltliner but the wines Austrian wine producer Dorli Muhr presented us with were from the red varietals Syrah and Blaufränkisch. Her path to becoming a wine producer is an interesting one. Born in Carnuntum in Austria to parents who are farmers, she is an entrepreneur and set up her own PR business whilst still studying. Her field of expertise is the good things in life but most specifically food and wine. When she met her husband Dirk van der Niepoort of Douro fame they decided to produce wine together. But Dorli was very particular about what kind of wines she wanted to make. No jammy notes, the wines had to be fresh and elegant. Austria seemed to be the ideal place to produce Dorli’s style of wine. She thus left Portugal where she had been living and with Dirk she set up her winemaking venture where she was born, in Carnuntum. Carnuntum is today one of the eight wine regions in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria). During Roman times, Carnuntum was …

Fair Maidens and Cowboys – Part 1

Stockholm has a lively drinks and restaurant scene. Nevertheless, the city is fairly small and consequently the number of trade and tasting events that occur here are quite limited. Earlier this month, however, not only one but two tasting events took place in the same week – luckily not on the same day. Each set up was totally different in style to the other. The first event was organised by Lars Torstenson and his team at Terrific Wines. A charismatic, maverick Swedish winemaker, he spent many years in the South of France producing idiomatic wines. Nowadays, as well as making wine, he consults all over the world and imports wine to Sweden. And he writes, quite a bit, mostly books on wine. He also publishes a daily blog (www.vinifierat.se), humourous, rock’n’roll, at times irreverant yet topical. In the second week of March he showcased a selection of his wines. He did better than that however, he invited winemakers along to present them. He may also be promoting women and wine, or maybe he simply enjoys …

Pushing the limits – Grape growing and winemaking in Sweden

A few weeks ago I met successful asset manager Christer Wachtmeister for a coffee in Stockholm. The reason for visiting him was to find out about his hobby: grape growing and winemaking in Sweden. If some years ago the idea that grapes could grow in Sweden might have seemed far-fetched, today with global warming and a thriving sparkling wine production in the United Kingdom, Swedish wine comes as no real surprise. According to the Swedish monopoly Systembolaget, it is thought that there are now approximately 40 hectares of land under vine cultivated by some 250 producers. Official figures for 2009 from the Swedish Board of Agriculture state that Sweden produced 17’859 litres of wine for commercial use (6’695 litres of red, 7’737 litres of white and 3’427 litres of rosé wine) from a vineyard area of 20 hectares. Most of the vineyards are situated in the south of the country in Skåne (the southern tip of Sweden) and on the islands of Öland and Gotland (in the Baltic sea off the south-east coast). There are a …

Stockholm – Lights and mulled wine

Up here in the North the cold and darkness have firmly set in. The days now start in the dark and by 2pm the light is beginning to fade. Thick coats and gloves are a necessity. To counter this gloominess the Swedes have lamps on all their window ledges to softly brighten up their houses. In Advent the atmosphere is especially cosy with candles and illuminated red or white paper stars hanging at the windows, fires roaring in wood stoves and much drinking of mulled wine, here called glögg (from glödga “to heat, to mull”). Mulled wine is a tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages. Spices and heat enhance the warming effect of alcohol and improve a poor wine’s drinkability. Red wine is usually used for mulled wine and the traditional spices are cinnamon and cloves. Mulled wine – Glühwein in German and vin chaud in French – is enjoyed during the Christmas and New Year festivities but also whenever the weather calls for a hot, sweet, alcoholic beverage. In the mountains, on the slopes, it is …