Wineweek 48: Champagne and the Flu

I have finally realized why I am always so inclined to start my weekly posts with the weather. It is because I have now lived two years in Stockholm and I am becoming more Swedish by the day. How do I come to this conclusion? This week I was drafting a post for my travel site (www.tripsteri.fi) about how to talk with a swede.  For that purpose, I also asked about five to ten of my friends and colleagues about topics they discuss both with friends and strangers. The first thing on everyone’s lips was the weather. I even think someone made a joke that the Swedes have become the British of the north.

The main content of my writing was about the discussion topics in Sweden being very general, to make sure you do not offend anyone. If one wants to discuss something serious, like politics, one must make a careful note in the start of the conversation about being slightly bothered regarding serious discussions being such a taboo. This way you make it clear you know what you are getting into. Well, wine is not a serious topic. At least it is not for me. The Swedes I talk to about wine always make a note though, that they know nothing about it. This is also a warm-up to make sure I do not take the discussion too seriously (and do not get offended). Every country have their rituals.

Friday evening with Laherte Blanc de Blancs and popcorn
Friday evening with Laherte Blanc de Blancs and popcorn
Some color for the darkening fall nights
Some color for the darkening fall nights
I have been preparing for Tokyo by tending to my colleagues Japanese garden
I have been preparing for Tokyo by tending to my colleagues Japanese garden
Champagne tasting with friends and customers at casa Winecurious
Champagne tasting with friends and customers at casa Winecurious
All the tasting bubblies in a row
All the tasting bubblies in a row

This week I have unfortunately been sick. I have caught the flu. My throat is very sore, and I feel drowsy. Luckily I have not lost that much of my palate, as we had our customer champagne tasting on Saturday. We invited all of our customers who ordered at our spring tasting to sample a range of private label bubblies from the UK. Now, I will write a separate post on the tasting. But just as a quick sum-up: we tasted seven wines, four of them were private label champagnes, two of them were from the original producers, and one was not a champagne at all, it was a cava (nobody guessed that though). We did the tasting blind to be able to have as objective results as possible.

The coming week will be very exciting. We will be flying to Tokyo for a five day food trip. Why Tokyo? The currency exchange rate is right now very favorable. We will be doing quite many nice restaurants and all of them for a fairly affordable price. For the drinks section, we will be trying out some local rice wine, Sake. So if you have any Sake tips, please let me know. We will of course have a look around for wine as well (as always), but I really doubt that it is that interesting. Who knows, I have been surprised before. We have quite a hectic schedule the coming week, so I will probably not be writing that much. Let’s see what I can conjure during the long flight from Copenhagen. And of course I will be posting photos. October is not the most beautiful month of the year, but Tokyo is so colorful that it really doesn’t matter.

That was all the wine action for this week. Next time I will be posting, it will be from the land of the rising sun. Have a great week you all!

Wineweek 25

The lazy weekend after a hectic week, this is what I am enjoying today. Just sitting around reading newspapers and eating pizza. To be honest I caught the flu on Friday and have been forced to rest, otherwise I might have arranged some more action. M is in London this weekend for a football trip, so I have been circling around the wine fridge contemplating what to open just for me. It’s not like we have that many bottles there that I would dare open alone. Not because I could not consume it, but rather all bottles in the fridge are there because both of us want to have a taste. So tired and slightly fluish (my taste buds are not at their sharpest) I actually opted for tea instead of wine. Next week will only be a three day work week, so I am sure that there will be wine soon enough.

Petrus Bakery Söder STockholm
Some coffee and pastries at Petrus, Söder
Maria Torget Stockholm
Taking a sunny walk in Söder
Maria Torget Stockholm Sweden
Flower shopping

I have some exciting news to share with you this week as we will be opening a new sales window for Sweden next week. We will also be doing something new, arranging an open house wine tasting for our new selection on the 23rd of May. We will have all of our new wines as well as our dear Llagrima d’Or and Peret Fuster wines out for a try. The tasting room will be open from 2pm to 8pm so people can stop by to sample the summer collection. We will also have some exciting offers for those who are looking to stock up for the summer vacation. Myself and M have visited all of the producers and tasted all of their wines and think they are awesome, but I cannot wait to hear what others think of them. If you are reading this and thinking it would be cool to stop by, send us an email to info@thewinecurious.com.

I must say I am really looking forward to the new sales window. The last one was a bit of a tester, and we didn’t market it that much to keep the volumes small (you don’t want to use too many customers as guinea pigs). We had a new warehouse and a new courier company handling the deliveries. So you never know if the service matches your expectations. It definitely did! We are working together with Danske Fraektman and JetPack who are both experienced in delivering wine and spirits, and I must say the service worked impeccably well. The boxes were handled with care, they left Denmark exactly the day they were supposed to and customers received good instructions for when their package would be delivered. It is not often I complement transport companies, so one should read this that I am utterly impressed. You don’t get that many chances in this business, so good partners are key!

And what is up next week? We will be heading for a cruise! It has been years since I have traveled with the ferry sailing between Finland and Sweden. They are often referred to as ‘Party boats’ as they draw a slightly drunken crowd (yes, I used to cruise around as a student as well). However, this time we are not heading there for the festivities, but rather to shop. And anyway, we are just taking the day cruise to Marienhamn (the island between Finland and Sweden). Viking Line has Bubbly Weeks all May, and that means bubbly menus in the ships restaurants and some great offers in the Tax Free shop. We have been eyeing the Charles Heidsieck Millessime 2005 and Blanc de Millenaires 1995 that we tasted about a month back at Magnussons Fine Wines (read about it here). The 2005 can be bought for less than 50€ a bottle and the 1995 will set you back 110€. Comparing to what they cost at the Swedish monopoly ( 70€/150€) these prices are GOOD! Also there are some other pearls that one might land at the boat that are not mentioned on the website, so it is definitely worth sacrificing a day to look at ‘happy’ Finns and Swedes rummaging between the buffet, tax free and disco. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a quiet cruise.

Other exciting stuff. M is in London. And besides watching a lot of football, he is on an important mission. On our trip to London over New Year, we came up with the idea for a private label champagne tasting. Many big grocery chains have their own champagne often produced by a big name in the region. Fortnum and Mason for example have Billegart-Salmon and Louis Rhoederer and Selfridges Henri Giraud. Champagne is seldom cheap but these babies are half price compared to the producers own labelled stuff. I am not sure of course if the product is exactly the same as with what they bottle for themselves. I do hope so, as it should be the quality of grapes and knowledge of the winemaker that makes a product great. So if the private label products are not close to the producers standards, then I suspect the drop in quality is intentional. The producers name must be mentioned on the bottles, so I do hope that they see this as a part of their brand as well. We will soon find out as M has been a busy bee and collected already 19 bottles to bring back home.

That is it for this wineweek! Hoping to come back to you soon with some more bubbly-action!

Shopping wine at Selfridges, London

Just when you thought I cannot possible have any more reviews of wine shops from our last trip to London..

The wine shop at Selfridges is a really a nice place to browse around in. It is located at the bottom floor of the iconic department store on Oxford Street, and they actually do not only carry a respectable assortment of wine but also an impressive selection of beer and other spirits. The wine selection is also a very good mix between the big name brands mixed up with some smaller producers to appeal to those who want to try something new. The price level is above the average wine boutique or online store but not so much to prevent me from shopping there. It is however good to have a view what the fair price is as some of the wines are a lot more expensive while others are reasonable priced.

The selection of English sparkling wine is impressive. I have not tried that much of then, mainly due to my suspicion on poor-ish price vs quality ratio, but it has tickled my interest (perhaps I should do a tasting round to get some more insight on the situation). The selection on Champagne is also very nice with some smaller producers represented in addition to the big names. Selfridges has their own private label Champagne from Henri Giraud that I am also aching to try.

The staff are knowledgeable and very service-minded, but if you would like to have a proper chat, I would suggest not visiting on the busiest hours of the weekend. There are also a few tasting machines, not as extensive as the Sampler (review here) or Vagabond Wines (review here) but something to entertain you for a little while. All in all you can have a very nice shopping experience at Selfridges and it is a good combination some other purchasing activities from the luxurious department store. For example, having a few nice tasters of wine and then heading to the shoe department works very well for me (not that well for my wallet).

Wine Shopping at the Iconic Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason is truly one if the iconic stores in London. They are perhaps most known for their teas and biscuits, but amongst the usual department store selection, they have a nice food hall and wine department on the lower ground floor. The atmosphere and look of their flagship store on London’s Piccadilly is really nice, so worth a visit even if you are not in the mood to buy anything (you may however be after you see their Champagne shelf). There is also a wine bar in connection to the wine department, so if you get really thirsty, relief is only a few steps away.

The food part is made up of numerous counters for cheese, charcuteries, meat, fish etc. It all looks very nice and the staff are knowledgable. However the price quality ratio is perhaps not wallet friendly so one ends up paying extra for the shopping experience. I would much rather shop at the local butcher or for example at Maltby Street Market and get a more genuine experience and better prices (and potentially better quality as well). Still if you want to get in the mood for food this is a good place to visit.

The wine store is not huge but they do carry a fairly impressive range if wine (a bit over 1000 different ones) and prices are surprisingly reasonable. The selection is heavy on wines from France, so as to be expected, Champagne takes probably a fourth of the floor space (not complaining).

Still it somehow fails to excite me as the selection is quite “main stream”. A bit like Hedonism wines (review here), they focus on big brands and also their private label wines. For those of you who are not familiar with the term private label it is the stores own branded products produced by another producer but sold under the store name (in this case Fortnum & Mason). The UK market is extremely developed when it comes to private label food and beverages, so it is no surprise that there is also a lot of private label wine.

I am not always the biggest fan of private label Champagnes, but one can make quite interesting finds in that category. The producer of the wine is always displayed on the label, so I go around peaking at who is responsible for the quality. The producer of the F&M Rose is Billegart-Salmon (love their non-vintage rose), the Blanc de Noirs is made by Déthune and the Blanc de Blancs by Laurent Hostomme. They also have a new private label Franciacorta! The look of the bottles is quite stylish and they do a lot of cute packaging. I love their coolers with baby blanc de blancs, perfect for a summer picnic (for people who do not want to share). The prices are very reasonable ranging from £29,50 for the blanc de blancs to £35 for the Rose and £49,50 for the Blanc de Noirs.

On our last trip (over new year), we had already stocked up on so many wines, that we decided to leave the Fortnum & Mason stuff behind, but definitely on one of our next trips we will be looking at bringing back some of the private label Champagnes for a tasting. I also saw Selfridges doing an interesting private label bubbly produced by Henri Giraud (brut £29,99 and rose £37,99) and someone also had a champagne by Delamotte. Even an iconic wine merchant like Berry Bros and Rudd do their own private label wine these days. I am not always convinced that the private label stuff comes from the same batches as the producers own branded products (I really have no idea), but at least there is real knowledge behind making the wines. And who knows, maybe you can make a real bargain.