Global warming and alcohol monopoly are the pros and cons of a fairly new and rapidly growing market of Swedish wine. Growers say there’s enough sun hours, plentiful soil and the passion to turn wine making into sustainable agriculture. Though Swedish vineyards are popping up at a fast rate, most consumers and foreigners are surprised when they hear that wine can grow in Sweden.
“I can understand Skåne maybe, but Gotland…I hadn’t the faintest idea,” says Elisabeth Carlin, who was shopping for dinner wine at a liquor store in Stockholm. “I’d try it if I saw it.”
“People get really chocked. Is it really possible to grow it here?” says Lauri Pappinen, who runs Gute Vineyard in Gotland. “But when they try it they say, ‘Wow, it tastes like real wine.’”
Lauri Pappinen is a Swedish wine grower and the owner and operator of Gute Vingård, a 10-acre vineyard that produces about 5 to 6000 liters of wine per year and he is not alone.
Ronny Persson, who started growing wine in 2004 and is in charge of Åhus Vineyard in Skåne, says he’s still young, not in age, but in wine grower experience.
“We have produced commercial for the past four years, and we have won prices for Mäster John Solaris and our rose wine,” he says adding that he still has a lot to learn.
Persson and Pappinen are two of Sweden’s nine commercial wine producers, whose vineyards are located in the South and on islands Gotland and Öland off Swedish East Coast. According to the Swedish Department of Agriculture, in 2006 there were four commercial farms produced 5617 liters of red and white wine. Since then, the production has increased times ten, Persson says.
“Now, we probably produced 30 to 50,000 liters,” he says. “And it is still increasing.”
Kaj Björk, a wine connoisseur, who has shared a lifelong hobby in seminars and as a wine judge in various areas, including Austria, thinks there is a future for Swedish wine growing. But, he says, it may take some time.
Last year he tried 48 different Swedish wine and was positively surprised. In the past five or six years he has watched vineyards pop up, something he attributes to climate changes and grapes, like Rondo and Solaris, which are more suitable for Swedish temperatures.
And that comes from some who has lost track of exactly how many wines he has tasted over the course of 35 years.
“I think I have visited
But if Björk believes in the future of Swedish wine, all wine experts aren’t as positive.
Persson tricked members of a Swedish wine tasting club into trying his wine, after that particular member had told him he wouldn’t want to try his wine and that it was impossible to grow good grapes in Sweden.
“He loved it,” Persson says and laughs.
Growing, harvesting and producing wine is a passion for these Swedish wine farmers. Pappinen won’t let non-believers soil is dream.
“I had a dream…I saw myself walking in a vineyard in Gotland,” he says and adds he brought the land in 1995. He gets slightly annoyed when people think well-known grapes like pinot noir and chardonnay are the only grapes that make good wine.
“There are a lot of local variety that really suites the environment,” he says. “Our grapes really like it here.”
Wine growers say that experts have predicted the climate in Gotland will be similar to that of the Champagne district in France in about 50 years.
Björk shares his perspective on and global warming and its effects on wine growing.
The weather has grown too hot, for example in some of the traditional wine districts in Europe and that wine growers in there, are planting grapevines in higher altitudes and more northern locations of their properties.
“Things are changing and at the same time the preconditions for the Swedish wine growing is getting better at least in a climactic point of view,” he says.
Though Swedish vineyards are benefiting from global warming, other obstacles face the growers aside from gaining experience and aged grapevines.
According to Swedish law, wine sales outside of Systembolaget, the state-run alcohol monopoly, is illegal. In other words the Swedish wine growers cannot sell their own products at their farms after, for example, a wine tasting. Instead wine growers have to rely on additional income like restaurants, lodging and other products in order to make ends meet.
Some Germans visited one of the Swedish vineyards and after a tasting he wanted to buy some of the wine, Persson says. He did not understand why he would have to order that wine from a place called Systembolaget and wait for three days for pickup, when it was right at his hands. It almost ended up in a fight, Persson adds.
They can, however, sell their products at local Systembolaget stores. But most of the time the wines are not stocked on the shelves and only available at pre-order.
Lennart Agen, press and information manager of Systembolaget, explains that local stores carry local wines. He also says that everyone with a license is welcome to sell their wines through the alcohol monopoly retail stores, available across Sweden.
The problem is not in the willingness of Systembolaget to list Swedish wines for pre-order, Persson says. Wine shoppers will still miss that opportunity of the product and the large income would derive from farm sales.
“I hope this will be possible, they say this is a threat to Systembolaget, but that’s nonsense,” Björk says. He means that on-site, the vineyards will only offer their own wines and therefore not compete with the state-run alcohol monopolies.
“They can stop, they can try, the can taste, they can buy a bottle or two,” Björk says adding that he thinks it would also be great for tourism.
The Swedish commercial wine producers are listed at www.svenskavinodlare.se
By Majsan Boström