Wineweek 172: Booking for Grand Champagne

I am a bit late to the party here, but better late than never. Grand Champagne, my favorite wine event of the year is coming, and it is time to book tickets – at least for the amazing Master Class tastings, held by some of the greatest winemakers in the region. The event is held in the center of Helsinki, from the 19th to the 21st of April, and is one of the biggest gatherings of Champagne houses in Europe. I would say that only events held in the French wine region its self can compare.  Continue reading “Wineweek 172: Booking for Grand Champagne”

Wineweek 132: At the Champagne Event of the Year

Sun fun and champagne, those are the ingredients for a great weekend. And a great weekend it has been indeed; time well spent in Helsinki and the Grand Champagne wine fair. Grand Champagne is a one of a kind event. Fifty great names from my favorite wine region in France, all under one roof for three days, filling the glasses of the wider public. There are also master classes for those who are deeply interested. Continue reading “Wineweek 132: At the Champagne Event of the Year”

Take me to Grand Champagne

I am super excited: 50 producers, 200 different champagnes and 16 different master classes organized by famous champagne personalities, cellar masters and head-winemaker – all under one roof in Finland in may. Grand Champagne is by far the biggest bubbly event of the year in the Nordic countries (as far as you ask me), and its happening in my birth town of Helsinki where we visit frequently. And the best news is, that this year we are going! Continue reading “Take me to Grand Champagne”

Wineweek 102: All Aboard

It is cold outside; +5 celsius, windy and drizzle. November is approaching, the end off fall and the beginning of winter. I consider November the worst time of the year. March comes in as a close second. It is a perfect time to do some indoor activities. So I booked my trip to Finland this time with the boat, this time Viking line. Actually I chose the boat because of flights being enormously expensive, but there is the perk that our toddler enjoys it very much. So here I go again, with the floating disco to my birth city of Helsinki.

Continue reading “Wineweek 102: All Aboard”

Late Night Drink at la Maison, Helsinki

Last week when in Helsinki, I found a truly great little place for wine. It is not a new spot, so I did not write about it in my newbies post, but having ignored my friends recommendation far too long, this was my first visit to restaurant Maison. We popped in for a late night glass of wine right after dinner at our favorite restaurant, Chef & Sommelier. Little did I know before what a great wine selection I was about to discover. Continue reading “Late Night Drink at la Maison, Helsinki”

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.