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”

Wineweek 32: Winding Down for Summer

Summer has finally arrived to Stockholm. The sun is shining, temperature is above 20 C and the wind is no longer sharp and cold. Hopefully it is smooth sailing from now to the end of August (one can always hope).

This week has been all about winding down. I am the type of person to get excited and work hard, and then continue working hard even if there is not that much to do. I really need to concentrate on slowing down the pace. So we have been dining out, having some good wines (see pictures) and just slacked off with a good cup of coffee. I have skipped writing posts in the evenings (if I don’t have time for it during the day, then I don’ have the time) and substituted all productive tasks with TV.  I feel so much more energized than I did a week ago.

Taking a sunny walk in Djurgården
Taking a sunny walk in Djurgården
Some cheese from Högtorgshallen
Some cheese from Högtorgshallen
Some yummy snack at Gaston
Some yummy snack at Gaston
A glass of Chenin-blanc at Gaston Winebar
A glass of Chenin-blanc at Gaston Winebar
The amazing Les 7 ancient variety champagne from Laherte & Fils
The amazing Les 7 ancient variety champagne from Laherte & Fils
Primus white from Quite de Pellada
Primus white from Quite de Pellada

Last week I promised to reveal some of our fall plans for the company. We are very happy with the growth we did in the spring, so it is time for another push for sales and another investment to take in new and exciting producers. What does that mean then? Well more paperwork of course. We will be starting work on an import license to be able to sell our wines also to restaurants. We need to find a proper warehouse in Sweden and start contacting potential buyers to arrange tastings. We have some great wines that would perfectly pair with the Scandinavian kitchen, like the Rimarts smoky Rosae and the Antonio Madeira Red. But first things first, the permits must be in place (let’s see if this process goes more smoothly than the license to sell to consumers).

Secondly, we will finally be starting off with our talented Port wine producer, Vieira de Sousa. I love the summer, but when fall comes, I get all excited about cozying up in the cold evenings with a glass of port and some chocolate. Vieira de Sousa is the sole reason we went into Port, and I can’t wait to hear what people say about the wines that I love. During July, we will be preparing the boxes for shipping to our warehouse in Denmark so that in August we are ready to sample them to all of our fellow winecurious. We are already browsing the calendar for good dates to do some tastings. How about you? Are you perhaps port-curious and what is your favorite food pairing?

Next week we will be enjoying the Stockholm summer and then we will head of to meet family and friends in Finland. There are a few great wine-hangouts in Helsinki that I will be writing about the coming week as well as some reviews on this excellent weeks wines. Wishing you all a warm and sunny start for July!

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.

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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!

Wineweek 14: Back to Business

This week the scenery ha changed. Colorful and tropical Singapore has changed to good old grey Sweden. I tried to take some pics from outside, but they where all too depressing. Not that I don’t like Stockholm, I love it, but this time of the year is always a bit colorless (like Helsinki, where I am from). Soon February will change to March and the anticipation of spring (with all it’s disappointing cold fronts) will lighten up the town. I expect we will be facing some cold setbacks up until the end of June, it is almost a national sport to put away your winter clothes too early, but at least there will be more light. But one thing I can say makes me extremely happy to be back, is our wonderful wine collection. After five and a half weeks of mostly disappointing (bad or too expensive) wine, I am ecstatic about all the lovely bottles at hands reach. Unfortunately M caught a cold on the flight back, so we did not really have any sparkling this weekend.

Looking back at the week, we started off well with a nice and anticipated dinner at Burnt Ends, a much talked about restaurant in Chinatown (Singapore). The service was very disappointing, and that was really a shame as the food was wonderful and that good food does not at all deserve to be paired with such sub-standard service.  A review will follow. We also continued our cocktail-tour at the Black Swan and 28 Hong Kong Street. Even though it was a Monday both places were full of life.

On our way back to Sweden we checked out the duty free selection at Frankfurt airport. The Champagne selection was a bit boring, but we picked up a few German sparkling wines to try out. Germany as a wine-country is developing in an interesting direction with a new generation of winemakers taking over the reins. We visited a wonderful shop, the Winery (review here), in London around New Year focusing mainly on German wines, and found ourselves drooling after Pinot Noirs and Sparklings alike.

After resting off the mild jet lag, we sat down on the couch, opened a bottle of red (Kloof Street Vintage 2012 from South Africa), and started looking into the future. It is time to get our business up and running. It’s not like we have been procrastinating, but our Cavas have now been sitting in the warehouse for enough time. It is time to get the sales going. So next week will be all about finalizing the paperwork. Also, it is only a week until M leaves for Portugal to meet some new producers (I will follow later for the weekend), so there is a lot to plan. After several months of communicating by email, we will finally be meeting our friends at Vieira de Sousa. They have a lovely range of Port wines we would love to add to our selection. Also, I am getting a bit hyped up after reading about some Portuguese sparkling wine producers. The grapes are new to me (Baga, Bical and Bairrada), but the production good old method Champenoise.