Save the date! Open House Tasting on the 12th of September

One of my favorite days of the fall is approaching, the day of our big open house tasting in Stockholm. Our tasting events are a good opportunity to try out our wines before making a purchase decision (who wants to buy a pig in a bag..unless you know it’s Iberico pork). During the event we also have a chance to talk more about the people behind the wines, their production methods and philosophies. We have felt that our open tastings are the key to building a loyal and interested customer base, and we also have a lot of fun in the process. And what’s best, the open house events are always free (yay!). The tasting will take place on the 12th of September between 15:00 and 18:00 (pop by any time you like). If you are interested in joining please send an email to info@thewinecurious.com, and we will send you the address.

You might recall that we arranged one in May as a kick off for our new Portuguese selection (more about it here). This time focus is naturally on our fall selection of red wines which means that we will be sampling some of the great wines from Quinta do Escudial, Quinta de Saes, as well as one of our new potential producers Almeida Garrett. Bubbly moments will be guaranteed by our trusted cavas from Llagrima d’Or, Rimarts and Cellers Carol Valles. We will hold samples of the rest of the selection under the counter if someone is interested in the other products.

At the tasting we will also be opening our early fall order window. This possibility to top up for long and dark October weekends end on the 20th of September and the wines will be in Stockholm within a week. How exciting is that!!

Our selection is available for browsing on www.thewinecurious.com

Cavas at the May tasting
Cavas at the May tasting

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.

Wineweek 20: Easter greetings from Helsinki

It is Sunday again! But as with many other weeks, this Sunday is not the end of the holiday. A Sunday that does not feel like a Sunday – that’s great! We have been spending a long weekend in Helsinki, the city where I lived the first 30 years of my life. We had a wonderful agenda with meetings with old friends and of course wine, but that had to unfortunately be reorganized as we caught the bug just one day after landing. Before one might have risked it and just soldiered through with the flu, but now with many of my friends having small kids, we did not want anyone to have to share our misfortune. We did feel much better after a few days, so it was wining and dining for just the two of us, myself and M (and of course coffee)

The Helsinki cathedral
The Helsinki cathedral
Easter flowers
Easter flowers
Johan & Nyström concept store in Helsinki
Johan & Nyström concept store in Helsinki

I was not as well prepared as I usually am with reservations (as we were not supposed to have time to go out), but it seemed that people were out of town, so we got lucky and were able to visit some new cool places. We had dinner at Soil Wine Bar, a new wine bar and tapas restaurant on Fredrikinkatu. I met up with an old friend at Bronda for a glass of bubbly, and me and M also tried out the wine selection (and food) at Sinne Helsinki and VinVin on Saturday night. A pretty good round for such a short time, and I think I have found a few new favorites that we will for sure visit again on coming trips. Two of the places, Sinne and VinVin place clearly in my top-three wine bars in Helsinki, Soil Wine Room coming only a few steps behind (perhaps only due to the cramped space, the wine selection was really nice). Bronda does not place amongst the best places for wine, but it is a cool restaurant and I appreciate that they had something by the glass for the winecurious, not only main stream boring Champagne (Billecart-Salmon) and Prosecco (I didn’t even look). However, the glass of Clement Perseval Champagne had a high price tag (21€), so that is one of the reasons I would recommend to get your bubbly somewhere else. All good places that I would recommend trying out (I will review them all separately in future posts).

Glasses of bubbly at Vinvin
Glasses of bubbly at Vinvin
The garden room at Sinne Helsinki
The garden room at Sinne Helsinki
Soil WIne Room
Soil WIne Room

Tonight we are also sampling something special, a Quinta do Escudial Red (2009) that we brought back from our trip to Portugal a month ago. M wrote a long post about his visit with the producer (here), so I will not get into that. However, I can say that the wine is excellent! A light mix of Touriga National, Alfrocheiro, Jaeb and Tinta Roriz. No oak has been used in the ageing of the wine, however or perhaps thanks to, it still has character and a nice long finish. This wine would go great with some barbecue, but it can also be enjoyed on its own. We are very impressed by the producer and hope to be working with them in the future.

So that was it for the wineweek. The coming week we will be at home, finishing off the orders for our April window and sampling some more good wine. We might even pop into Matkonsulatet for a bite one evening. Now that I am looking back at the past week with some unexpected (and unwanted) days of taking it slow, we were still able to make the best of it and it was not such a bad wineweek after all.

Portugal Part 2: The excellence of no oak wines at Quinta do Escudial

In my travels in the beautiful country of Portugal I ventured to Dão, located the edge of the highest mountain range in Portugal Serra de Estrela. I went there to meet with the owners of Quinta do Escudial. Arriving in the town close by Seia I did however start encountering some issues. My lovely GPS from Garmin (we were not really the best of friends on this trip) kept telling me to take a one-way street the wrong way so I was stuck. No other options suggested from it, Miguel at Quinta fo Escudial was however extremely helpful and asked me to describe what I saw and then right away knew where I was and came and got me.

Miguel and his parents, who run the winery, had kindly invited me for lunch. What a treat that was, traditional Portugese fare served in their home in the middle of the vineyards.  The lamb casserole was especially good as well as the pudding for dessert (somewhat reminiscent of a creme brulee but better). Miguel speaks excellent English but his parents not so much but on the other hand my Portugese is non existent and we still managed to communicate with Miguel sometimes explaining things. With the food we also sampled their full range of wines.

The name of the winery is meant to evoke memories of the floral games of city fidalgos, the traditional battles on Midsummer’s Eve and other festivals in honour of great figures from Portuguese history. On a specific occasion a great storm blew down the Great Cedar at Qunta do Escudial. This tree with its great spreading branches  had been much appreciated by the crowds on feast days. When the gigantic tree fell down, Alfredo Augusto de Frias de Eça Ribeiro, the owner of Quinta do Escudial, was walking right past it. And as he suffered no injury, he immediately decided to build a chapel in recognition of what he considered a miracle. This chapel is today pictured on the wines and is also present on the winery premises. Quinta do Escudial started out with 3.5 hectares of old vines but have in 2003 expanded with another 3 hectares that are planted with traditional Dão varieties (Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz).

The reason I decided to visit this winery was both great feedback from friends but also that this is a winery that has a clear idea behind what they do. They believe that no oak wines is both fitting the consumer taste and the taste of the owner so the wines never touch oak during the production (so it is in stainless steel vats and then in glass bottles).  For me it was soon also clear that they at least in my view have succeeded really well with this.

We toured the vineyards and the winery, beautiful surroundings on an excellent day. Interestingly there was a lot of rosemary growing around the vineyards and some claim that part of that can be tasted in the wine. The wines we sampled were:

Quinta  do Escudial Branco: a lovely fresh wine made with a blend of grapes. The nose has nice mineral and citrus notes. Nice balance and acidity. Pleasant mouthfeel with notes of citrus.  Rating 3.5

Quinta do Escudial Red Harvest 2009: Deep ruby in color, nose full of red berries. In the mouth it has a nice mix of soft tannins and berrylike flavors. Rating 3.5

Quinta do Escudial Red Reserve 2009: Deep ruby red Color. The nose is full of ripe red fruit and violets, hint of spices. Wonderful body yet elegant. Packed with dark and red berry flavors and long finish.  Rating 4.5.

Quinta do Escudial Touriga Nacional 2012: So dark that is more purple than red. Nose of violets, forest fruits but also chocolate  and I had the feeling there was rosemary in there (but I had seen the rosemary growing  around the vineyards so maybe my mind played a trick on me). Full flavor, dark fruits and berries. Clear tannins and long finish. Many will love this wine, for me it is not a clear favorite but still good. Rating 4.

Really love the wines they produce here and I look forward  to exploring being able to sell them to our customers.  

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.