Wineweek 54: November Moments

November is a dark month. Here in Sweden the sun rises around 9am and starts setting already at 3pm. During the darkest time of the year, there is only around five to four hours of daylight during the day. It’s dark when you head to the office and dark again when you are finished with work. Not to mention the cold wind and rain that is characteristic for NOvember in the Nordics. Without good wine, this would be a very depressing time of the year.

This week was not much different than many others. Perhaps we had a tad more bad luck with out business than we usually do. Firstly, our Port-wines never arrived to their final destination. The parcel company had sent them to Poland by mistake. Poland (!!), how is it even possible to mistake that with Sweden? After some heated email conversations, the wines were eventually returned to Portugal. The packages were severely damaged as well as a few bottles of white port nicked. This was very disappointing of course, but it happens in our line of business (transporting fragile goods). Luckily the parcel company was very responsive regarding our complaints and promised to compensate us for the damaged wines (they exceeded our expectations). However, even though we will not incur monetary loss, the Ports must wait to be sold another day. We also had an issue with our deliveries from Denmark to Sweden (what kind of truck-curse has been bestowed upon me?). However, that was solved within a few hours and caused no further harm.

Trying out our new Nebiolos from Gordona
Dinner at Backfickan Djuret
Champagne with friends on Saturday
Ending Saturday evening with a beer at Brewdog

Otherwise we did some nice wining and dining this week. We headed out to Djurets Backficka on Friday. Djuret is a restaurant in the old town, that specializes in one animal at a time. Basically everything that they have on the menu comes from the same species. There is this kind of nose to tail idea behind it, but the cuisine is quite classical. No weird shit. A backficka is the no-reservations side of a restaurant, usually the bar or other separate more casual space in the restaurant.

On Saturday we tasted some wines: Larmandier-Bernier Lattitude Champagne, Bonnaire 2005 Blanc de Blancs and one of our last bottles of the Francoise Bedel Cuvee Robert Winer 1996. The Bonnaire 2005 having spent a few years in our cellar had significantly improved (already). I think we bought a few cases of this due to Richard Julin giving it a very inspiring forecast (96/100). We did not drink all of these ourselves, we had some help. After the tasting we went for some nice refreshing beers at the Brewdog bar close to Friedhemsplan. I must say a nice lager after all of that semi-acidic champagne tasted really nice. Somehow even healing. Brewdog also has some light and non-alcoholic beers, so one could enjoy the drinks without adding more kilometers on the Sunday hangover. It wasn’t that bad, but I am dead tired.

The coming week will be our last whole week in Sweden in 2015. On the 9th of December we hop on a plane to Bangkok to start our winter vacation. Oh my God I am looking forward to it. Five weeks in Asia will of course mean some wine-deprived weeks again. Last year it was not until we made it to Singapore that we actually were able to have some nice (decent) wine. This year I expect nothing to have changed. So beer and cocktails it is this Christmas.

It will be a tough week at work. However, I do hope that I have energy and inspiration to write some interesting stuff about wine. Perhaps it is time for some more restaurant reviews this week..

Cheers! Soile

For the Love of Port

Oh joy! We have just received notification that our Vieira de Sousa ports are on their way to Sweden. A journey that started almost a year ago is coming to a close.

We have had plans for including port wine to our selection for some time now. December 2014 we received a tip from a friend in Denmark about a young port producer, Luisa Borges, in Douro valley, who makes exceptional wines. Now at that time, I did not know very much about Port. Continue reading “For the Love of Port”

Wineweek 50: Partying in Helsinki

Its six am on Saturday morning when I started drafting this post. I had some time while sitting on the bus on my way to the airport. Every three years a university club I belong to throws a big party (in Helsinki). I was initially not intending to go, but such an event is a great opportunity to see all my old school friends at the same time. Sitting there, watching sleepy Stockholm waking up, I started thinking about how life panned out for all of us. It has soon been ten years since I graduated and we have all ended up around the world: Hong Kong, Berlin, Barcelona, UK and the US. I always thought I was destined to leave Finland, and so I did. I never dreamed about ending up in Sweden though. Anyway, it was quite exciting seeing all my globe-trotting friends again. Continue reading “Wineweek 50: Partying in Helsinki”

My week in Portugal, vol 1

As readers of this blog may already have noted I have spent almost the entire last week in the wonderful country of Portugal. While I was already before convinced that I would find a lot of good wine the trip to some extent blew me away. I did not only find wonderful wine but also met a lot of interesting people. There is both a new generation of wine makers (yes, I know it is a bit tired – every region/country talks about the new generation of wine makers) but also a great many experienced wine makers who still make great wines. The sheer variety of both grape varieties but also of philosophies and types of wines made me just want to already go back.

The primary reason for the visit was to meet with Luisa from Vieira de Sousa. I did however also want to meet with others when I was any way visiting Portugal. I had a very interesting list of wine producers and I managed to meet with most of them. The fac that I also got to see a lot of the country, visit beautiful sites and also enjoy good food and wine made it a great trip.

The trip started with my arriving in Porto meeting with Luis Robredo from Gravato wines and he had also been kind enough of to arrange for an additional producer to meet up with me. So in Porto I also meet with João Santos from Valle de Nideo in the Duoro Valley. We met at the beatiful ‘cheese’ castle, Castelo do Queijo (literally Castle of the cheese. Apparently from it looking like a piece of cheese from above) but unfortunately the weather did not show it from the best side as it was a bit grayish.

My trip continued to Bairrada where I was hoping to meet with Luis Pato and Filipa Pato. They were however both in London for a Portuguese wine event but I still managed to visit Luis Pato’s estate and meet with his youngest daughter Maria João. I also had the chance for an improvised visit at sparkling wine producer São Domingos. A brief stop at the regional wine musuem in Anadia was also on the agenda.

The journey then continued into Dao where meetings with Quinta do Escuidal, Quinta do Pellada and Antonio Madeira where truly exciting. There was even time for some additional touristing with a visit to the magnificent old village of Linhares da Beira. The views from the old fortress are splendid.

Before heading up to the Douro valley I also stopped by Almeida Garret wines in Beira Interior. The week was then wrapped up with Vieira de Sousa and Quinta do Pôpa in the Douro. we wrapped up the week in Porto with visit to the wine shop at El Corte Ingles as well as a great dinner and wine at Taberna do Largo (recommendation from Maria João). A fabulous week and in the coming week or so I will describe the wines and the visits in more detail in separate posts.

Wineweek 16: Portugal Edition

Amazing! That is the word to characterize this wineweek. I had some high hopes for Portugal as a wine country, but having experienced it, I was blown away. It’s also a big step for our business, as we met with several producers that have a philosophy to fit the Winecurious.

The week started of with M taking off ahead of me towards Portugal (and with me tasting some Portuguese wine). He flew to Porto, where he started working his way south through Bairrada to Dao via Beira Interior. By Thursday evening he had met with eight producers and collected an impressive amount of samples, thirty three bottles of them to be exact. I arrived to Porto Thursday night and the next morning we embarked for Douro.

In Douro we spent the Friday with Luisa Borges, the owner of Vieira de Sousa wines. She showed us around her new winery in Sabrosa, took us for a tour around her lovely vineyards and sampled some of her old family ports. Today Vieira de Sousa produce some pretty impressive entry level ports, but omg some of the old family reserves were wonderful. We tried some tawny port from the 70’s and Luisa told us that their oldest wines are closer to a hundred years old. We also did some thinking around how to best market her products and I think we have a great plan. More about that to come.

Luisa also took us to visit a friend of hers, Stéphane Ferreira at Quinta do Popa wines. M had actually eyed that winery before he left, but we had assumed we did not have time for it. So it was a wonderful surprise that Luisa took us there for a visit. Quinta do Popa makes some great “table wines” (regular reds and whites). They have some wonderful reds with 100% Tinta Roriz and blends from their old vines. Many of the old Portuguese vineyards can grow up to 40 or 50 different grape varieties. Stéphanes ‘only’ had a mix of 21, but nevertheless the wines were great. As a speciality Quinta do Popa also makes a “sweet”, low alcohol fermented wine. It is not a Port, but it has some of the same characteristics but with a freshnes coming from the low (11%) alcohol level. I was very surprised how much I liked it and could imagine it being very popular in Sweden as a summer drink. I think we might need to contact Stéphane again for some samples.

After the wine-heavy week, we spent the night in a cabin at Luisas vineyards in Quinta do Roncao. In the evening, we sipped on some wonderful 10 year old White Port, one of Luisas most popular wines, and in the morning we woke up to an amazing view of the Douro river. The only downside was the heart stopping drive there. I don’t think I have ever been so afraid in my life in a car, and this time it was not due to M’s driving (he did a good job) but the narrow and steep roads without any fences. Really, that is the only downside of Douro as a wine-destination, you need a good car (don’t even think about cheaping out by going for a compact).

Saturday was spent in Porto wine-shopping (as if we didn’t have enough bottles to pack already) and dining out. We had received a great tip from one of the vineyards on a small restaurant called Taberna do Largo serving Portuguese tapas from around the country and small producer wines by the glass. We stuffed ourselves with some local meats, cheeses and sauteed mushrooms. They had so much interesting wines for sale also, but thank God we were able to leave them on the shelf.

I could spend all afternoon writing about the greatness of Portugal, but I will save some for the next few weeks. Have a great week, and when you next think of wine, think of Portugal. It has wonderful wines and to make things better it is exceptional value for money!

A Postcard from Douro

Greerings from the beautiful Douro valley in Portugal. Today we are relaxing, as yesterday was spent tasting wines (about 20 of them). So I will keep this short.

We finally fisited our friends at Vieira de Sousa in the village of Sabrosa in Douro. The young and talented Luisa Borges took a whole day showing us around and introducing her wines. We also visited Luisas friends at Quinta do Popa, and followed as they bottled wine. Finally we were privileged enough to spend the night at a cabin on Luisas vineyard at Quint a do Roncao and to wake up to the site you see in the picture, the tranquil Rio Douro.

It has been an unbelievably great trip also business wise. Portugal is a wonderful wine-country and we cant wait to have some of our new finds available also to you. More about our trip in tomorrows wine-week.


Discovering Portugal

The past month or so, our blog has been going a steady path. We have been writing a lot about shops, restaurant and reviewing some wines. We have shared experiences from along our travels and extended our focus to coffee and cocktails. We have shared all that we have enjoyed along the way and will continue to do so.

However, we are now back in Sweden and focus will inevitably shift back to Europe and more into our business. This is why today I would like to share with you something about our next adventure, which will be discovering Portugal as a wine region and a potential for extending our business. On Monday, M will be heading to Porto to meet up with some exciting new producers and I will join him for next weekend to meet our friends at Vieira de Sousa and drive around the beautiful Douro valley. But before we set out to travel, we thought we would do some studying to not sound like completely amateurs when talking to our new acquaintance.

Five things I read today about Portuguese wine:

  1. Wine laws today are based on the French Appelation d’Origine. There are three basic categories of Portuguese wine: Vinho de Mesa, Niho Regional, and Denominação de Origem Controlada. The lowest level is Vinho de Mesa, Table wine where grapes can come from anywhere in Portugal and the winery does not need to include a vintage. Above Vinho de Mesa is Vinho Regional, Regional wine. In a regional wine, 85 percent of grapes must come from the region on the label. Regional wines, however, are not subject to the strict requirements of a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) wine. Each DOC must follow specific guidelines and the grapes in these wines must come entirely from the region on the label.
  2. Portugal has eleven major wine regions. The Douro is by far the most significant to fine wine production. Other regions of international recognition include Dão, Vinho Verde and Alentejo.
  3. Portugal has the very large number of (up to 500) indigenous grape varieties. Some of the most commonly used both by traditional and modern winemakers are Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz. Older vineyards are planted with multiple grape varieties and as a result, sometimes these field blends are so varied that identifying all of the grapes isn’t possible. When new vineyards are created, single planting is now the norm.
  4. The country has clear climatic divisions. In the northern part of the Portugal, the climate is maritime with warm summers and cool, wet winters. In some areas rainfall can reach 100 inches a year. Towards the south its a different story, as rainfall is lower and summer temperatures are much higher.
  5. Equally dramatic as France and Spain, Portugal suffered from the phylloxeira epidemic (wine plaque) of the early 19th century and lost a significant number of its old vines. After the plaque, many abandoned the wine-business and the ones who didn’t planted new, larger yield varieties resulting to overall lower quality. Today, we are seeing a rise of small boutique wineries, quintas, focusing on better wine making techniques and using grapes from a single region to create cleaner and softer wines that are better received by the international wine market.

I think I need to do some more studying before next week, but this is a good start for discovering wine in Portugal. I can’t wait to share pictures and stories about the actual trip. If you are up for Portuguese wine-talk, you can check out the post we did on Port a few months back (link here). Have a great weekend!

Discovering Port

When planning the founding of our company, we had an idea of concentrating mainly on bubbly. What a surprise! We had identified a gap in the market here in the Nordics for high quality sparkling wine other than Champagne, and a base of consumers, who were increasingly curious about these wines. Maybe it was Christmas coming with dark, candle-light evenings calling for something different than a fresh bubbly, but soon ideas started flying around to include some other categories of wines, like “interesting” reds and also Port wine. Then a friend of us from Denmark introduced us to Luisa de Borges, a young and passionate winemaker from Viera de Sousa wines, and we suddenly found ourselves, arranging for boxes and boxes of Port wine from Portugal.

Port wine was a new area for both of us. Yes, we have both tried Ports before, but I at least didn’t know much about them. What is Port? How is it produced? And most important, what kind of food could it be paired with? We thought that it would be wise to take a deep-dive into the subject. So where else to start these days but google, and so we started surfing to find out more about it. Here is what we found out:

Port is a fortified wine, a wine to which a neutral grape spirit, similar to brandy is added, and it originates in Portugal. Port has been produced in the Douro Valley region for centuries. It’s typically enjoyed as a dessert wine, but there are countries which serve it as an aperitif or choose to use it for cooking. It pairs beautifully with a variety of dessert dishes and cheese. Port ranges between 19-21% in alcohol.

There are two main types of Port; wood-aged and bottle-aged, with many sub-categories of each. To keep it simple, the Port types have been broken down into white port, ruby port, tawny port and Garrafeira port. While most use the same type of grapes, the way in which they are selected, vinified, stored, and aged are very different. The five key grapes used for the majority of Port types are: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão (Completely new grapes to me). Of course there are many other grapes that can be added to the blend and each grape adds a unique touch to the wine. Port,like any other wine, changes and develops with age. So you can store them (in the right conditions) and have some beautiful vintages to enjoy after some years of patience.

Some pros and cons of Port I have thought of along the way. Port is quite a strong wine, so finishing a bottle is not something at least I would do very easily. In a household of two, its requires a larger group of friends to open one of those beautiful Vintage Ports, that are at their best only for a few days after opening. However, some Ports, like Tawny Port, can keep its quality up to several months after opening (if stored correctly); so that’s kind of nice, sipping through a bottle during Christmas holidays as a dessert. Another feature that requires some work is the decanting of Ports. Some Ports, not all, require decanting before you can serve them. Bottle aged Ports have the dead yeast (“sediment”) left inside, and that is something you really don’t want to drink. There is a lot of writing about the rituals of decanting port, but it really doesn’t need to be a complicated process. It just requires a small effort. Here is a link to some good instructions I found. Last but not least, Ports, especially young Vintage Ports, require some airing before they reach their prime, and that can be up to 12 hours. So if you want to get the most out of your Port, it’s an event you should plan for. Port is not an entirely spontaneous drink.

This was just a scratch on the surface of Ports. If you are interested in reading some more, I found a pretty good site I would recommend to visit, here is a link for For the Love of Port. Let’s see where this road leads to. But for now, we are planning a trip to Portugal to meet Luisa and see her wonderful vineyards. Perhaps, if we are lucky, her ports will be available through The Winecurious for purchase in 2015.

Wineweek 4

And its Sunday again! December is flying by and our company is still waiting for registrations. So this is the time to accept that our precious Llagrima d’Or will not be reaching customers for the festive season. It’s a shame, but it was to be expected. I can totally understand the entrepreneurs who talk about the frustration of bureaucracy. And its not the actual amount of paper-work, its the waiting. There have been several reasons for the delays we have faced: long queues, sick-leaves and the latest was a software meltdown at the Swedish tax agency. Are we unlucky, perhaps, but its unlikely; there seems to be a pattern here. We have day jobs, so this company is not going to be the bread-winner in our family (yet); but what about those people who give up their jobs (or don’t have jobs) to start a company. Our case may not be the typical one as we are starting up a business in one country and then registering it as a distance sales company in another country, but one can really wonder if it should take as much as four to six months to get all the paper work in order. Well, this post is not a cry out to the politicians (I can’t even vote here yet), it’s just a little thought I had especially when hearing how politicians tend to say they want to make it easier for people to start their own business.

To happier things. We finally extended our office wine-space with two new cabinets. We have previously relied on a Climadiff that fits 142 bottles. Well in reality it doesn’t fit as many, as bottles of sparkling wine tend to take more space (and I am a sucker for nice wine-boxes). But since the summer, we have been stocking the increasing amount of wine on the floor in cardboard boxes. Actually I have been so confused about what we have lying around that M was able to hide all the wine-calendar wines right in front of my eyes, in those cardboard boxes. Well, now our wines are in a proper order and storage, and there should be some space left for more. At least for a while.

Other events this week included the arrival and tasting of our Port wines from Viera de Sousa, a young, interesting winemaker from Sabrosa (Portugal); Champagne after-work at Royal Copenhagen in Mood Gallery and some Perrier Jouet as our Friday bubbly. More about those in the upcoming week. Wishing you all a happy and relaxing evening!