Sail and Shop on the East-Sea

Last week Thursday we headed for some wine shopping on the boat. The ferries going between Sweden and Finland are known for two things: getting insanely drunk, and buying duty free wine. Now these two things are often related to each other, however, the Winecurious was there to bring the bottles home (not consume them upon purpose), and that we did.

It has been years since I have been on a Viking Line ferry. The last time I recall was when I was a student closer to ten years ago. Around 7 am we stepped on-board Viking Grace, the newest of the fleet, ready to start our journey to Åland and back. We strolled around (not that much to see) and lounged on the sofas waiting for our reservation in the breakfast restaurant. There was not much to do for two adults intending to stay sober (at least until noon). Breakfast was somewhat of a chaos and the weather too cold to escape the crowds to the deck. It was exactly what we expected, so no real disappointment there.

Finally after our meal we hit the Fine Wines shop. This is what we came here for. We had a shopping list acquired from the Viking Line web-pages and we had heard that one could expect to find other treasures on the shelf as well. We saw a wonderful list on the wall with Best Buys by Essi Avellan, Master of Wine, and were already pumped up by some bubbly. And what happened? The conversation when something like this:

Me: Excuse me miss, I cant find any of these wine on the shelf. Are they perhaps somewhere in the back room?
Sales woman: No, if they are not on the shelf we don’t have them. And anyway, that list is from last November and we got something like 20 bottles to sell.
Me (pointing to a list of ten recommended wines): Ok…so you don’t have any of this stuff that you advertise? What about this wine from Agrapart & Fils that you have on your web-page, and the Salon 2002?
Sales woman: Never heard, perhaps they are in the big Duty Free Shop.

And of to the Duty Free we went…

M (in Swedish): Excuse me, but are all of the champagnes you have there on the shelf? We are looking for one from Agrapart & Fils, it’s on your web-page.
Sales woman: Never heard of it, is it in our (printed) catalog?
M: No, but its on your recently updated May price list on the web-page
Sales woman: let me check with our warehouse.

The sales woman gets on the phone and starts talking with the warehouse manager

Sales woman (now in Finnish to the warehouse manager): Jukka, there are some weird people here who claim that we have some thing called Akrapaaaart in the champagne selection….yeah, I have never heard of it either, but they claim they was it on “some” web page….I don’t know how it’s spelled, Akrapaaart or something
Me (first time speaking Finnish since we stepped into the shop. Hah! Fooled them with my classy Stockholm accent): Agrapart! It’s spelled A-G-R-A-P-A-R-T.
Sales woman (slightly flushed): Oh ok, Agrapart. Can you check if there is any wine by that name?

The call ended, she apologized that the wine we are asking for is not there. We thanked her for her help and moved on.

After less than a minute she runs after us. Excuse me! We found it in the cellar, our manager will come out in a minute with your bottle. Yay!

As the warehouse manager emerges with our precious bottle of Agrapart. He mentions how there is another box from the same producer but of another champagne and asks if we would like to have a bottle of that as well. We do. Actually, he explains, we have all kinds of weird (read: not major brand) champagnes down in the basement from last weeks wine-event, but we haven’t really had any time to explore what they are. This Agrapart looked so boring that we did not put it out yet. Now I get it why people have been saying that there are finds to be made. You just need to ask the staff to dig the treasures up from the bottom of the cellar to get to them.

Happy with our finds, and slightly agitated that I wasn’t able to go rummage around in the cellar myself (what other great champagnes might have been just lying there in their boring boxes?) we disembarked Viking Grace on Åland and boarded Viking Amorella, starting journey back to Stockholm. Amorella is one of the older ferries and exactly how I remember the boats being. It had the right “party boat” vibe with disco lights and wall to wall carpeting.

On the older boat the fine wines shop was located in the a la carte restaurant. It was minimal compared to the big shop on Viking Grace, but very much better equipped. The shelf was filled with Selosse, Pasqal Doquet, Bereche & Fils and other great champagnes. These babies were right out there and not gathering dust in a cellar. And it seemed that there were not that many people queuing for the cash register.

We arrived back to Stockholm in the evening with bags packed with great bottles and a slightly thinner wallet. We did some expensive purchases, however it was totally worth it as we saved perhaps 20-40% on the sales price of all of the wonderful bubblies. It was totally an investment (or that it what I tell myself). Overall the collection we took home was wonderful, however I was slightly disappointed regarding the effort we had to make on Viking Grace to find them. Also, I was not happy that they were flaunting around 6 month old price lists with bottles they have not had around in ages. It seems like the selection of wines has been done with care, however managing the actual stock and sales of them is something of a chaos. On the older boats, I expect there are not that many wine-enthusiasts, so the reserves last longer.

All in all, it was a fun trip, but I don’t need to do it more than perhaps ones a year. Best possible outcome is if you can convince someone else (like your parents) to take the trip for you.

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