Wineweek 81:A Fresh New Look

We have worked all week. Every evening after dinner, we have opened our laptops to work on our new Shopify web shop. It has felt good doing some extra work for the business, as we have admittedly been slacking off lately. Or rather been focusing on tasting wines instead of actively selling them. Today we launched the new website with great pride! Not that it looks as good as many professionally made web shops, however, I consider this quite an achievement as we are complete amateurs in this field. Oh, the possibilities one has today with  To honor the launch, we have also added some great new wines to the selection. Continue reading “Wineweek 81:A Fresh New Look”

Work In Progress

It has been quiet on the blog for a few days. The reason is that I have been working day and night on launching our new web shop. Our old, and might I mention free, Tictail account does not look too shabby. So M and I decided it was time for an upgrade. We toyed around with the idea of paying someone to do this for us, however we have been buying so much stock recently that we did not have the budget for it. So yours truly ended up as the website-monkey (maybe M did some stuff as well). Tomorrow morning, we will go live with a new fresh look, and here are some sneak peeks. Continue reading “Work In Progress”

Say Welcome to Torelló!

The reason I am posting today as opposed to my usual time on Wednesday is very simple. I was just too busy. Too busy introducing the newest member of the Winecurious family, Torelló, to some of our best clients. This deal has been cooking for a while. We have been in discussions with Torello for almost half a year, and finally all of our efforts have been rewarded. Our first shipment of Torelló wines will leave Spain next week.  Continue reading “Say Welcome to Torelló!”

Nebbiolo Night

This week, we had our first tasting for our new producer to-be, Mamete Prevostini. They are a small family producer from northern Italy, making 100% Nebbiolo wines. We have already decided to add them to our selection, but we held an extra tasting to get some confirmation for our thoughts regarding the mix. We were not disappointed as our brave tasters gave us great feedback for making our decision. The wines will now be ordered (as soon as our new warehouse deal is signed), and they will be available (hopefully) for purchase in the end of April.  Continue reading “Nebbiolo Night”

The Spring Tasting Schedule

The long awaited spring comes always as a surprise to me. Our wine business builds towards the highlight of Christmas, and then we always extend our holiday from the business way too long. I know its still winter outside, but the rose season is soon upon us. At least from the point of view of a wine merchant. Continue reading “The Spring Tasting Schedule”

Wine and Charity

It has been a quiet week, mostly because my mind has been somewhere else. The Mediterranean to be exact. As many people around the world I have been shocked by the images in the news covering the migrant crisis in Europe. It has just felt silly trying to write about wine, and if it does not come from the heart it will just sound fake to the reader. The truth is that I have been sad. My feelings have been up and down. I have been in tears at one moment and full of energy and determination at others. I have thought about ways to help: old clothes I can donate, supplies I can buy and charities I can support. As many others I have wasted days, even years just thinking about helping and thus not helping at all. Now I have had enough and it is time to stop considering what % of charity money goes to the actual person in need (the truth is that I will never know) and to pick up my wallet and give. I have bread on my table today and bread on my table tomorrow; I can cut a few restaurant nights here and there and walk past that bottle of Selosse in the store for now and forever. I will lose nothing. What I cannot win back is those lives that have been lost at sea. That is tragic and permanent…what if that was my family out there?

My thoughts are out at sea
My thoughts are out at sea

So it is time for the Winecurious to give. Give like we’ve never given before. Give to those who know exactly how to help. I have spent days looking at charities and considering where I want our aid to go.  SOS Children’s Villages is an organization that arranges a safe and caring home for children who are victims of crisis and war. Doing my homework I found out that the company’s board are all working for free and 85% of the donations go directly to the children and only 15% into administration. That sounds reasonable, and I have a weak spot when it comes to children. I want them to feel welcome and loved, and to know that there are people around Europe who care that they have a safe place to live, even if it means sharing our own country and benefits. SOS Children’s Villages is also present in other areas making sure children never have to take that dangerous boat trip over the sea. Sounds mushy, but who cares, this is how I genuinely feel.

So what will we do to help? We will give money to SOS Children’s Villages catastrophe fund! The Winecurious will make a donation and on top of that we will include all the profit that we get from our coming order window. So if you want to be a part of our charity, come to our tasting in Stockholm on the 12th of September and order some fall wines with a conscience.  RSVP to info@thewinecurious.com by the 10th of September and we will send you the address and details. Alternatively you can of course support the charity directly or any other charity helping with the crisis.

Tonight I will raise a toast to all those who have found in themselves the will to help (it won’t be Selosse but a nice cava will taste even better tonight). Towards a brave new world and a brighter future!

The Road So Far and a New Selection

When I started this blog, it was meant to be about the business. The business of selling wine that is (Introduction to the journey here). Along the way I started writing more about other wines and restaurants. I like getting tips about new places, so it was mostly about sharing it with fellow foodies and the wine curious. There is not that much to write about the company to really fill a blog (yet). However, today I would like to move the focus back to the business and write about something exciting, our new selection.

Our business started around one excellent product, the Llagrima d’Or cava. We did our research on the Swedish market and came to the conclusion that this product would fill a gap. A premium cava was not unheard of, however the selection was (and is) weak. The selection may still satisfy the masses, but not the quality conscious consumer who does not want his/her cava pumped up with sugar to hide the compromises made with the production. Small producers are often artists, they make something that they can be proud of and want to have on their own table every weekday and the weekend (in Spain cava is an every day drink). These small producers however do not have the volumes to make it into the shelf’s of (one of) the worlds largest buyer (Systembolaget).

After two years of planning, sampling, paperwork and some personal investment, we have moved forward. Next week our updated web shop will feature five new and exciting producers from Spain and Portugal: Rimarts, Cellers Carol Valles, Antonio Madeira, Quinta do Escudial and Quinta da Pellada. All of our new partners are small, family owned vineyards with a vision and a passion for making honest wines. With honest we mean that the wines have a minimal amount (if any) added sugar, they are mostly produced without any oak (or at least without excessive use of it) and often with as natural processes as possible. The focus is on good ingredients and no compromises on the time or effort that it takes to make the wines. We have visited them all, roamed around their vineyards and spent hours studying their production. Not to mention all the hard work we have done with trying out their wines (*smirk*). So here are a few teasers on our upcoming selection and we will be writing more about each producer the coming weeks.

1. Rimarts is a company owned by two brothers, Richard and Ernest. They have learned the fine art of making cava by following in their father’s footsteps and are today using the same equipment for their production as he did back in the day. When touring the Rimarts cellars, Ernest was joking about all the other kids going out to play football while he and his brother had to sit in with their dad and bottle cava. The Rimarts wines are disgorged by hand and all except for the the 18 month cava (which has a very small dosage) have no sugar added. Our initial selection will feature three different bubblies from them, the Rimarts 18 month (Brut Reserva), 24 month (Reserva Brut Nature) and 40 month (Gran Reserva Brut Nature) cavas.

2. When we pulled into the drive way of Cellers Carol Valles, we felt like we were entering someones home. That’s because we were. Joan Carol greeted us with the family dog and a boy from the neighboring house to translate from Catalan to English. He had fit a very impressive production line in the cellar of his family home and greeted visitors in a small tasting house next to the living quarters. He told us that most of his cava is sold at that property with hundreds of locals stopping by every now and then to fill up their cellars. He houses an impressive selection where even the entry level wine is a Reserva Brut Nature. Our selection for the summer will include the Parellada i Faura (Reserva Brut Nature, the Guillem Carol Extra Brut and Brut Nature (Gran Reservas) and the Guillem Carol Gran Reserva Barrica (a cava with a light oaky flavor).

Rimarts Cava
Tasting wines at Rimarts
Rimarts Cava
Ernest showing us how to bottle cava
Cellers Carol Valles
Cellers Carol Valles

3. A Frenchman with a Portuguese descent Antonio Madeira is the rising star of Dão. He currently sells just one wine (more are coming) and he makes it well with natural techniques (no additives or pesticides). Antonio has a vision, he wants to bring out the terroir in his wine and he seeks out old vines to do this in the best manner. Our selection will feature, surprise surprise, his best (and only) wine, a light and sophisticated red made from old vine. As with many older vineyards in Portugal, there is an abundance of grape varieties growing in the field so the exact number of grape varieties is not easy to get to.

4. Feeling that there was something missing from the market, Quinta do Escudial is producer making solely no-oak wines. It is a family business to the core. The wine is made by the father of the family, the finances are handled by his wife and sales by their son. Our selection will be featuring their Branco (white), Tinto (red) and the Vinhas Velhas (old vine red). When we visited them we sampled the full range of wines and these are truly extraordinary wines that really proves that it is not necessary to use oak to make fine Portuguese wines. These wines are really nice in the way that they are all great on their own as well as with food.

5. Alvaro Castro, the owner of Quinta da Pellada is ‘The’ winemaker who brought Dão back on the wine-map. Originally a civil engineer he inherited his family’s vineyards in the 1980s and changed profession awakening a family tradition that had been dormant for a generation. Today his daughter Maria is also very much active in the business and she will ensure to carry the family tradition on. Our selection will be featuring wines from the vineyard the family lives on, Quinta de Saes. We will have the Saes Red, The Quinta de Saes Rose (for the summer) and the Encruzado White. They also have several other brands and we hope to expand our cooperation with them in the future as their high-end wines really deserve an audiance and once tasted it is difficult to not just want more of them.

All in all, we are increasing our selection from two excellent wines to 17: nine cavas, five reds, two whites and one rose. Some wines are available in very limited quantities (due to the small production) so orders will be processed in the order they come in.

All in all, I think we have managed to create a good selection. We have a working supply chain, a logo, website and enough samples. What you can really see is that this company has been put together by two procurement professionals, with a high emphasis on the back end of the supply chain, contracts and working partners; and an entertaining lack of focus on sales. So now we are really stepping out of our comfort zone and introducing to the world what we have done. We are hoping that good quality will sell it’s self, and in time our customers will learn to trust our judgement.

However, this will not come free and to give it a push we are arranging an open house tasting next week Saturday in Stockholm to introduce our wines. In case you are interested in joining, then send us a message to info@thewinecurious.com. This will be the best sales period (yet) for our company yet, and I am looking forward to all of the feedback people can give us about our new selection.

Wineweek 23: Reims Edition

If you don’t count Monday, this has been a pretty quiet wine-week, at least when it comes to drinking wine. Perhaps we overdosed, in terms of tasting not drinking, in Paris and Reims, and this weekend we have just had a few glasses. However, I still have a lot to share with you from last Sunday in Reims and also some news regarding our company.

As Paris seemed to quiet down for the Sunday, we headed to Reims a day before the Terres & Vins event. A few big champagne houses had their doors open and we decided to take a tour or two, just to see how a big producer is organized, and well, to taste a few glasses of champagne. We basically had three, decent ones, to choose from: G.H. Mumm, Tattinger and Vranken Pommery. As Pommery charged close to 70€ for their tours with any decent tasting options, we opted for Mumm, one of my old favorites. Luckily our hotel Mercure also had a nice discount for the tours, so we got a significant reduction for the Blanc & Noir experience which was a tour through the cellars and a tasting of two champagnes: the blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs (25€ per person). We were already familiar with Mumm de Cramant, the 100% Chardonnay champagne (review here), so our expectations were high.

TGV from Paris to Reims
TGV from Paris to Reims
Touring at the G.H.Mumm cellears
Touring at the G.H.Mumm cellears
The Blanc and Noir tasting at the end of the Mumm tour
The Blanc and Noir tasting at the end of the Mumm tour

After touring at Mumm, we walked around in Reims admiring all the beautiful champagne houses and headed for afternoon bubbly at Les Crayeres, a beautiful mansion hotel with supposedly a great champagne bar. We had heard some good things, but after the disappointment of the much hyped about Bar 8 (Wineweek 22) we were cautious with our expectation. However, Les Crayeres did not let us down. The bar was absolutely beautiful with a lot of light and plush sofas. We had our drinks in the garden, which was like a scene from a movie with an international and happy crowd sipping wine. Les Crayeres also has a two Michelin star restaurant, which was to our disappointment fully booked (we tried making reservations earlier in the week). To compensate, we had to go to the town three star instead.

Sunday evening we headed to L’Assiette Champenoise, the three star restaurant of Arnaud Lallement. We don’t go to such extravagant places that often, but I have visited a few three star restaurants before this one. It is always a small investment to eat in such a place, but you pay not only for great food, but an experience. I will write more about the the restaurant later, but to describe the evening with a few words, the service was not as impressive as I have seen at many other starred (especially three starred) restaurants. Perhaps it was speaking English that made some of the staff uncomfortable. However it was nothing to really complain about and the food was out of this world.

The Reims Cathedral
The Reims Cathedral
I wish we could have gotten in here
I wish we could have gotten in here
Les Crayeres
Les Crayeres
Aperatiffs at L'Asiette Champenoise
Aperatiffs at L’Asiette Champenoise
My dessert at L'Asiette
My dessert at L’Asiette

That is about it regarding Reims, and now to some good news regarding our company. We will be taking in at least four new producers this spring: Rimarts (Cava), Quinta do Escudial (red and white), Antonio Madeira (red) and Quinta da Pellada (red, rosé and white). Orders to our Danish warehouse have been made and we will open for orders of these in mid May. This is a perfect time to stock up on wines to enjoy over summer vacation. We are also waiting for order confirmation from a fifth producer, but more about that when we have some certainty. It feels wonderful to be able to extend our selection. Of course we will also continue to have our trusted Llagrima d’Or and Peret Fuster wines for sale.

Our day at Terres et Vins de Champagne

There have been few events this year that have excited me as much as Terres et Vins, the grower champagne festival in Reims France. It is a cooperation between 22 small and medium-sized champagne houses that manage the production process from growing their own grapes (100%) to labeling their own wine, arranging an event for wine professionals (restaurants, wine merchants, journalists, blogger and other wine professionals) from around the world to taste their wines. All of the producers had selected around three champagnes and three vins clairs (the base wine that is used to make the champagne) to be tasted at the event. Perhaps if you are a friend of sparkling, you can imagine why I was so hyped about it.

When arriving at Palais du Tau, an old building next to the Reims cathedral, the place was already buzzing with people swirling, slurping and making notes. The producers only had a few meters of space each, and there was continuous movement in between the tables and the spitting bowl. The sight was slightly daunting, but we pushed our way through to the first table.

Arriving at the event
Arriving at the event

Maps of where to find the producers
Maps of where to find the producers

We are at the right place
We are at the right place

Zalto glasses
Zalto glasses

Tarlant wines
Tarlant wines
We had a plan: it was to taste all of the champagnes, but skip the vins clairs as these are a bit more complex to taste and we felt that it was perhaps to much for us to try to taste 60+ vins clairs. Here we were clearly out of our league. Tasting vins clairs is an art of its own and challenging as the young wines are fairly acidic. However, after we had reached the halfway point, it was quite clear that our relatively unaccustomed taste buds where not up for the challenge. We soldiered to the finish anyway, tasting all together 60 champagnes and 3-4 vins clairs (just to have a try at it). However the second half of the tastings is a bit of a blur and I cannot really trust that I got everything out of the wine that I would have if it was the first sip. Next time, we will make a better plan, that will then be not to try to over reach and rather focus on the 20-30 wines we want to taste rather than try to go through all.

I will not write about every producer we met, but rather mention a few special ones that we really enjoyed. Just to be clear, all of the producers were very good.

1. Francoise Bedel is ‘The’ producer that really got us into grower champagne. The wines are fresh and minerally produced 100% biodynamically. They are also low in dosage (residual sugar), only 3-4g per liter. We tried the “Vin Secret”, Entre Ciel et Terre (available in the Monopoly) and L’Âme de la Terre 2004.

2. Olivier Horiot, one of my absolute favorite champagne producers. He is a prime example of a next generation of “rebellious” producers making wine in his own way. His champagnes are like premium white and rose wines spiced with bubbles. We tasted the Métisse, Seve Rosé de Saignée 2009 and the 5 Sens 2010. If it has not yet become clear in this blog, 5 Sens is one of my favorite wines (in the world). It is a mix of five grapes (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunieur, Chardonnay, Arbanne and Pinot Blanc), five soils and five barrels. It is a wonderful mix of white fruit and deep underlying earthiness.

3. Fabrice Pouillon is a new acquaintance. He uses sustainable agriculture to grow his vines. He believes in a natural order of plants and bacteria letting the green around his vines grow. This, he believes, is reflected in his wines via a healthy terroir. He is definitely on to something as we were vastly impressed by his Champagnes. Especially the Les Valnons 2007 was one of our favorite champagnes of the entire day (we also tasted it during the first half of the day when we our taste buds were much sharper).

4. David Léclapart is a fourth generation grower and winemaker. He has vineyards in the village of Trépail, Ambonnay and Bouzy. His four principles as a winemaker are purity, energy, pleasure and ecology. In accordance with these, he chose to apply a biodynamic approach to his work in his vineyards and use only malolactic fermentation for the aging of his wines. I must confess, this was one of the last stands we visited, as it was so crowded all day but we still liked the wines, especially the Astre 2011 was interesting. So I am really looking forward to buying a few bottles and dedicating an evening to solely his wines. We tasted the Artiste 2010, Apôtre 2009 and of course the Astre 2011

5. Vincent Couche, certified biodynamic since 2008. He farms his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in southern Champagne in the Aube. Couche’s approach to Champagne is more in line with traditional Burgundian wine making – small parcels kept separate, high-density plantings, with a focus on wines of terroir (a sense of place), rather than wines that are blended to a “formula”. We tasted the Chloé Extra Brut, the ADN Montgueux 2009 and our favorite of the bunch the Reserve intemporelle (66% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay) which is not yet available to buy.

Pouillon wines
Pouillon wines

Inside Palais du Tau
Inside Palais du Tau

Finally the Leclapart stand starts clearing out
Finally the Leclapart stand starts clearing out
Can you see a pattern here? Biodynamic, terroir and low dosage. I have been previously haunted by the low-ish quality of the biodynamic sparklings (mostly Cavas) I have tried. But Terres et Vins really convinces me of the contrary. The honest earthy flavors of all the producers at the event make me think that there is more to the the talk of terroir and letting the vines do their job without too much interference.

All in all it was a wonderful day. All work, no play, but when you love your work it’s ok. If you don’t count the small space (for each producer) the event was well organized with nice glasses from Zalto for tasting and cute notebooks with all of the wines that were on display. We also discovered that the festivities continued for the next few days with other tasting events, so we should have stayed in Reims the whole week. However, we were quite done with sparkling after the day, so I need to practice more before I can do several days of tasting that much bubbly.

Visiting the Vineyards of Vilarnau

A few months back (more like four) I posted a wine review of Vilarnau Grand Reserva 2010. At that time the producer was just a name amongst others, however, with a style of wine that I am very fond of (chalky, minerally with hints of fruit). Then I was complementary of the Cava, but I knew nothing about its maker. After the review was published, Vilarnau contacted me and invited us to visit their vineyards if we were ever in the area. Well, of course we took the chance as soon as we could and cruised to the estate of Vilarnau on our most recent visit toBarcelona.

The Vilarnau bodega stands out from the local style. Or better said, it does not stand out too much! Vilarnau has constructed their site to blend in with the surrounding vines and nature. There is a modern or perhaps even Scandinavian style about the building with its straight lines and wooden exterior. Pine trees are growing in the yard, its almost like coming home to Finland (but just much warmer). I felt very comfortable when stepping in the doors. The Bodega as well as some of the bottles are designed by Antoni Miro.

The Bodega
The Bodega
Water reserves
Water reserves
Pine trees around the vineyard
Pine trees around the vineyard

We were greeted by Georgina, who was in charge of showing us around and telling us about the production. She walked us through the vineyards and told us about the organic methods used at Vilarnau. They are perhaps not certified as organic, but you could have fooled me. Many precautions were taken to make sure to avoid use of pesticides, water was circulated from soil and rain and extra irrigation was provided only to the grape varietals that were not indigenous to the region (like Chardonnay) and needed it. The soil is clay and limestone which ventilates water well without leaving the ground soggy after heavy rains. A large part of the grapes come from Vilarnaus own vineyards, where they tend to them with care, focusing on quality, not highest possible yield. The house of Vilarnau being very popular, are however in the situation where their own grapes are not enough so they also buy from some well selected local growers.

After the tour, it was time for the tasting and there we were joined by Damià, one of the head winemakers. All together we tasted six different wines

In tasting order:

  • Vilarnau Cava Brut Nature Vintage
  • Vilarnau Cava Gran Reserva Vintage 2010
  • Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva
  • Vilarnau Cava Coupage Prive Reserva Brut Nature(100% Subirat Parent)
  • Vilarnau Cava Rose Brut Reserva (for the domestic market)
  • Vilarnau Cava Rose Brut Reserva (for the international market)
  • Vilarnau Xarel.lo white (white wine)
All the wines we tasted
All the wines we tasted
Lights snacks with wine
Lights snacks with wine
Good quality corks
Good quality corks

I will review the wines individually in later posts, but there are a few I would like to mention already now. I general the Vilarnau selection is very fresh, dry and with flavors of peach, apricot and minerals (from the clay and limestone soil). The longer the ageing the nuttier the aromas get with hints of brioche and butter. Very well made, traditional Cavas! What stands out is the Coupage Prive made from 100% Subirat Parent. This is a grape variety that is indigenous to the are surrounding the town of Subirat. It is unfortunately quite susceptive to disease, so a risky grape for growers. So naturally it is not that popular. But oh my the result, it is worth the risk! The scent of this wine is of tropical fruit, pineapple and mango; but the taste is fresh and dry. It is very different from the other Cavas.

Another interesting feature about our tasting was that we tried out two versions of the “same” Vilarnau Rose Cava. The difference between these wines was the time that the grape juice has spent with the peel of the grape. If you look at the pictures, the difference is quite outstanding just by adding a few hours to the process. Vilarnau explained that the lighter version was for the international market, as the darker red is associated with sweeter tastes (although it was not sweet at all). In Spain however the darker Cava is more popular, as it is how Rosé is “supposed” to look like. There was no difference in the sweetness of the wines, but you could taste the difference created by the extra 4-6 hours with the peels. For me, the lighter Rose tasted very much like a “white” Cava, with the main distinction being the light pink color (very pretty). This would be a perfect aperitif on a hot summer day. The darker Rose had a hint of more body  and I could imagine it pairing well with food, some barbeque for example.

We also tasted an interesting white wine made from 100% xarello that had been aged in chestnut barrels. Very different white with some tropical aromas (mango) and flowers combined with a hint of chestnut. Very pleasant indeed! I cannot wait to taste the Cava made out of the same wine (Yes, there is a Cava!).

Coupage Prive 100% Subirat Parent
Coupage Prive 100% Subirat Parent
The Roses
The Roses
Me, M and Damià
Me, M and Damià

All in all we had an absolutely wonderful day at Vilarnau. The vineyard is beautiful, the Cavas are tasty and the people lovely! They have a shop and they arrange nice tours around the vineyards, so I warmly recommend giving Vilarnau a visit if you are in the area. We will for sure keep in touch with our new friends, and we hope to score some of the more special Cavas into our selection some day.