Wineweek 24: The Beginning of May in Helsinki

If last week I “complained” that there was not that much wine-action, this week there has been an abundance. The start of the week was very slow, but starting from Thursday, it has been a continuous celebration. May 1st is a day of spring and festivities in Finland, when the students as well as almost everybody else hit the streets to enjoy the start of the warm season. As every year, it is too early to rejoice sunny weather, but that seldom stops people from having a picnic. The Finns don’t believe in bad weather, it is something the right amount of clothing can solve. We did not go for a picnic this time (it was cold and at times a bit of rain), but did some friendly sabering in the backyard on May eve instead.

We were not in Finland to celebrate spring though, we were there for a friends wedding. And what a wedding it was! The bride was beautiful and the speeches moving, but what really set this wedding party apart from many others I have been to was the selection of wine. It was the wedding of some equally winecurious friends and they had made sure that the drinks were interesting. You cannot go wrong if you serve a vintage Palmer & Co. champagne as an aperitif. There was also a wine quiz (mainly with questions about the couples wine trips) and the winner got to go and select an interesting wine from the couples cellar to enjoy with the main course (the bottles were pre-selected so not the entire cellar). We were in groups of 4-6 people and there was a different bottle for every group.  Good that we were seated next to the best man (and an oenology student), so we got to select our wine second, right after the wedding couple.

We also attended a brunch on Saturday at the couples wine cellar. It was a private cellar in the residential neighborhood of Töölö with around 60 wine cabinets you can rent. There was also two tasting rooms and a kitchen that all the members could use. It was not as fancy as Magnussons Fine Wines we visited in March (Wineweek 19), but a very practical space with all the equipment (nice glasses, cutlery) for holding tasting events. If we lived in Finland, I would definitely want to have a cellar like this. There are not that many, but they are not too badly priced.

We were also lucky enough to visit another cellar the same evening while having dinner at restaurant Carelia in Töölö. A good friend of mine is the sommelier there, so she was able to give us a tour. Carelia is a very traditional restaurant that has been built into an old apothecary. It is located next to the Opera, so it is very popular pre- and post shows. We spent the whole evening there, from five to almost midnight trying wines and eating some great food. All the dishes we tried were a positive experience, nothing innovative, but traditional food made exceptionally well. The white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce was perhaps the best I have had in a long time. I will write a separate post about Carelia and the wines we tried, but to give a taste of the nights wine list, we started the meal with a Pierre Gimonet 2008 Champagne, and finished it with a bottle of Lilbert & Fils Vintage 2007. We also had some amazing Riesling from Thomas Haag.

Sunday came fast but not a moment too soon. Three evenings in a row meeting with friends, having wine and staying up late have taken their toll. While lugging our bags to the airport (way too early) this morning, M and I reminisced about all the great wines we had this weekend. There was not a glass that we could have skipped (maybe just the refills) or an event that would not last in our memories for a long time. However I am glad that not that many weekends this coming summer will be as eventful.

3 thoughts on “Wineweek 24: The Beginning of May in Helsinki

  1. Sounds like a great fun weekend! I have a question if I may: I’m very curious to learn about the business model of that private cellar with the rooms to rent etc. Is there a web site with information in English? or may be you can send me an email with some details? Appreciate it!
    Carelia sounds like a great fun in itself – looking forward reading about it.

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    1. Hi! All of the cellars have a similar concept, but are a bit different in the financing model. The one that my friends have their cellar at was financed by buying stock, I think that it was something between 4-5 k eur (one time fee) plus a smaller annual fee for upkeep (temperature control etc) of around 200 eur. They had their own key and could at any time pop by to pick up some bottles (so no staff around). When I was browsing online, I saw that before they started building this cellar, they had already started selling the stock, so they made sure that there was enough investors before starting work. The Carelia cellar had a monthly fee of around 60 eur (you pay a year at a time), and you could order catering to the tasting rooms from the restaurant. Also accessible 24/7. And Magnusson fine wine in Stockholm also had an annual fee (12000 SEK) per every 200 bottles, but the membership includes access to the bar where they have different producers holding tastings every week and a certificate on how the wines have been stored, so I could really imagine having all of our more expensive stuff there (just in case we want to sell something). They arrange catering from several starred restaurants that are close by, so if you cant score a table at one of those, you can just have your meal at Magnusson with a bottle from your own cellar. How handy is that =). You can look for some more info from http://en.magnussonfinewine.com

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