Grand Champagne Vol.1

When thinking about what to write about Grand Champagne, I really had a hard time keeping it short. There is just so much to share. So I decided to split the story in two, starting with the press event and professionals tasting on Friday morning. The second post will focus on the consumer event as well as Master classes. Continue reading “Grand Champagne Vol.1”

Wineweek 100: A Hundred Weeks With Wine Writing

Wow! A hundred weeks of writing. I cant believe I have made it this far. I am a bit the type that I like the beginnings of things, so there is always a danger that I grow bored and quit after a while. But this blog has always given me new energy. I must confess, I had a great title in mind: what started with Cava will end with Cava. I have been a bit stressed with time this fall, so giving up the blog would have freed up a few hours. But I don’t really want to stop, so I will save this title for the day that writing is not fun anymore.

And its not only the writing that makes me happy. Along the way I have learned a lot about wine. I am a complete amateur after all, but these days can easily present myself around wine-knowledgeable people. If not for the blog, I would have not taken so many hours to myself to study. Additionally, I am becoming more and more of a confident photographer. I still struggle with pictures of people and other moving objects, but my food photos are beginning to look quite delicious. At least to my own eye.

Along with all the skills I have developed, the wine business has given us a lot of happiness. I was just reflecting on it when standing at the Torelló counter at Cavatast. We were surrounded by people we have met in the recent years. Today we call them friends. Our glasses were full (of Torelló Brut Nature Gran Reserva) and we were picking on pieces of meat that was being passed around. Music was playing and people were laughing. I felt very blessed. Or perhaps deserving. We have worked a lot. We have made a huge effort to connect with people and bond. I will remember these moments better than I will remember any paycheck.

So what started with Cava will continue with Cava; and other wines and food as well. Who knows, maybe I will be publishing a Wineweek 200 in two years time. And as always, I will continue to write whatever pops into my head at that time. Not that I can say I have been very successfull with a huge number of readers. However, that is how I enjoy writing the most.

xx Soile

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The happy Cavatasters at Torelló

A Wedding in the Archipelago

I love weddings. They are such happy events. But the most hectic wedding season is over for me. Most of my friends are already married. About a month ago one of my best friends tied the knot, and I was waiting for his wedding like a kid waits for Saturday candy. I bought a new dress for the occasion and made sure early on to have flights booked. I myself got married in a very different way. Me and M flew to New York, got married in secret at Central Park, and had our celebration in private at a three star restaurant (Daniel). It was perfect for me, but then I really enjoy myself at other peoples family parties.  Continue reading “A Wedding in the Archipelago”

Getting Ready for Cavatast 2015

This year, I have decided to start the marketing early. Cavatast, my favorite wine event of the year, is closing in on the first week of October (1.-4.10.2015), and Team Sweden (as we call ourselves) is heading to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia to enjoy the festivities. It might seem that October is very far away, but hey, booking flights and hotels must be done early. To be honest, I think it feels so far away just because we want to live in the moment and enjoy the summer (no one wants to think about the fall), but it is just two and a half months time left (!!).

So what happens in Cavatast? It is an exhibition and festival for all of the cava producers in the village of Sant Sadurni, capital of cava and home to 95% of cava production in the world. The festival is a joyous event with locals and wine tourists alike enjoying the late fall sun and cool and dry cava. People bring their families and hangout at the tables set out on the streets. Everyone does not take part as exhibitors, but I think the whole village comes together for these four days of celebration for the local bubbly. There are around 30-40 large and small Cava houses set up in small tents introducing and sampling their products.

The way it works is that you buy tickets both for food and wine and walk around trying the products you want. The entry level cavas go for one ticket (value 1.5€) and the prestige ones from two to four, depending on the house. If you get peckish you can grab a plate of charcuterie, cheese or some yummy street food. There are also free lectures on cava and the Cavatast shop, where you can pick up the displayed wines for very reasonable prices (I think we dragged over ten bottles back last year). All in all it is a really fun event.

The only thing I would change is that the tickets are always for full glasses of cava. As we are there mainly to “work”, I would appreciate being able to buy half or even quarter of glasses (otherwise I will either throw the rest away or get too drunk). We have solved this by going with a larger group and then sharing glasses. If you are jut tasting, 3-5 people sharing one glass is perfect. This works out, but I would still like to be able to sample the really good stuff for less tickets.

We will be heading to the event on Saturday the 3rd of October with a small group of our friends and customers. Anyone interested are very welcome to join us (just send a message to info@thewinecurious.com). We will be visiting our current producers as well as mingling with some potential new ones, and trying out a lot of cava of course. Last year, our friends at Peret-Fuster wines also arranged a barbecue to feed the hungry tasters after the event. I hope that they have something similar in mind for 2015.

So drop down your beach towels and start browsing for flights and hotels, Cavatst 2015 is coming!

Wine-up Your Event

Like weddings? And other big events? Me too! However, I seldom find the wines served very interesting. It is not easy arranging quality drinks for a hundred people without it being heavy on the wallet. A few weeks back, we attended a wedding in Finland that was a pleasant exception. I kind of knew it would be as the couple are as winecurious as me (and the groom revealed what would be served as aperitif even before the date was set). Actually, their big day did not only have a serving of good wine, the whole event was organized to reflect the couples interest in the topic. I really loved these details and thought it would be nice to share them with you (with the couples consent of course). So here are a few tips on how to “wine-up” you event.

1. Accessories: The theme was reflected already at the church as small bottles of bubbles were handed out to greet the newlyweds exciting the building. The small champagne bottle soap bubbles were elegant and cute and I was able to snatch one home. The space also had some nice wine-details, like the place-card holders and wine bottles candlesticks.

2. Games: The couple was intent on serving good and interesting wine on their big day, but that kind of bottles come with a price. However, they have a very nice wine cellar that they decided to utilize for the occasion. As there were no wines in the cellar reaching the number of bottles required to serve everyone, they picked different bottles and held a wine-quiz. The winning group (of around 6 people) could go to the table and pick a bottle first, the second could go second and so on. The quiz was more about the couples wine-adventures than actual wine-knowledge, so one didn’t need to be an oenologist to win (luckily we had one in our group though as it came handy in some of the questions regarding the couples cellar). A wonderful and fun game with a prize I really wanted to win. We picked a great 2003 shiraz from Kay Brothers. It was a real treat with the lamb main course.

3. Beverages. For beverages, the couple invested in a great aperitif (and of course the wine game). They had bought magnum bottles of Palmer & Co Vintage (2002) Champagne. A magnum is often a better buy than a regular 0,75l bottle and for a big event, it makes sense to open some. Other wines had been selected by arranging wine-tasting among friends before the big day and by ordering larger quantities online. Finland is an expensive country when it comes to alcohol, so utilizing the free movement of goods within the EU, many nice wines are found cheaper in eg Germany and France. One must be aware of the customs rules though, so read up before you make your order. A good tip is also to take a cruise on the boats between Finland and Sweden. Many nicer wines can be found on the boat tax free. Bring friends though, as the maximum amount of alcohol that one can bring to land is 4l (5 bottles each).

A cozy atmosphere, wonderful wines and great friends: a memorable day indeed. We are already married, but if we ever arrange a big event, this is what I want our day to look like. And even before that, I am snatching the idea of the place-card holders.

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.