There seems to be a perception by the public in general that wine is only made in in warm climates – basically, the Mediterranean, South America, South Africa and Australia. I’d be the first to raise my hand and say that, despite massive progress in recent years, wine is still a relatively complicated subject for the common punter to grasp, but I’m still taken aback by how many people still don’t realise that wine is made in places like Germany, let alone the fact that they produce some of the world’s finest.
Or if they do, a wry look overcomes their eyes followed with the words “ah, yeah … Blue Nun,” followed by a wistful (or pained) gaze into the middle distance as sickly sweet-fuelled exploits of a few decades past are recalled. In other words, countries like Germany, Greece, Lebanon and Slovenia, for example, are usually associated by the masses not for their fine (or rapidly improving) wine scene, but instead for beer, corruption, war or being mistaken for Slovakia, respectively.
Even then, despite knowing that wine can theoretically be produced anywhere between the 30th and 50th parallels north and south of the equator – which encompasses a ginormous area of the world and quite a few countries you definitely wouldn’t think of – I’m sometimes surprised to hear of wines being made in areas I never would have thought of. Just last week, for example, I heard on the radio that wine is produced in all 50 of the United States of America, including Hawaii and Alaska – again, not theoretically impossible but something I would never have thought feasible at least.
So I was surprised to discover, on a recent trip to Copenhagen, a Danish wine called Degnemosegaard. I shouldn’t really have been that surprised – I recall reading this article in Decanter a few years ago about a new German wine region being established on Sylt, an island that straddles the border of Germany and Denmark (click here to see where it is). So it wouldn’t take a great leap of imagination to assume that they could make wine in Denmark proper.
But to come across a bottle in Copenhagen, ready and willing and commercially available, brought this odd reality to life. It was picked up in the incredible new addition to Copenhagen called Torvehallerne, a market involving over 60 permanent stalls under two separate roofed sections covering everything from the usual butchers, bakers, and cheesemongers to a paleo café, a Cava bar, an organic spice seller, a Francophile deli and one shop that sells nothing but lakrids, that God-awful liquorice they love so much over there. It’s what CHQ in Dublin could and should be, but isn’t and probably never will.
So, back to the wine; ready to get tongue-tied? Degnemosegaard Vinlaug is based nea the town of Skibby, located on the large Danish island called Sjælland on which Copenhagen is located, itself only 60km down the road . Founded in 2002 with the first harvest in 2005, they produce two reds and a white. The reds are made using grapes I’ve never heard of – Rondo, Regent and Leon Millot – and come either as a “Red Cuvée” or, in a decision that is achingly stereotypical of the region, a “Light Red Cuvée.”
While the Mediterraneans name their cuvées – or ‘blends’ – after lovers, poems, goddesses, legends, historical landmarks and any other host of romantic things; where the New World wineries choose locally unique flora and fauna, geological oddities, discoverers or abstract notions; you can depend on the Scandinavians to go Route One and call it straight. Red Cuvée or Light Red Cuvée it is, then.
But it was the white we had in Copenhagen, their “Hvidvin,” which means, er, ‘white wine’. It was made from Solaris, another grape I never heard of. In fact when I picked up the bottle first I mused about their naming of the wine as ‘Solaris’, pondering whether it had something to do with the Northern Lights visible not too far north of the country, or perhaps the little daylight the country receives in the depths of winter and the resultant astral array, or maybe some esoteric anecdote relating to the winery. That was until someone standing next to me Googled it and discovered that Solaris is a grape, created – created! – “in 1975 at the grape breeding institute in Freiburg, Germany by Norbert Becker” (Wikipedia). How fun.
So despite all romanticisms dispelled – a very Danish situation I’d have to say – we were nevertheless intrigued enough to buy a bottle between us. Three of us chipped in because it cost 150 kroner, or just over €20, for a 500ml bottle, meaning the equivalent of around €30 for a regular bottle. Not cheap for a curiosity.
I suppose we got off to an inauspicious start when the girl wrapping up the bottle said, smiling and with some pride, that it was “a very Danish wine, very Danish … it’s very sour.” Glancing sidelong at my friends with an eyebrow raised, I assumed that there was something lost in translation; perhaps she meant acidic, or tart?
Nope. Sour it was, and how very so. The initial bang of vinegar softened out – once my tastebuds were suitably numbed – to a sort of unripe green apple flavour and its associated violent acidity. There wasn’t much more beyond that I’m afraid. I desperately desired some seafood to perhaps soften out the acidity or at least put it to work, but sitting as we were in an IKEA-clad apartment in the centre of Copenhagen, fresh shellfish weren’t exactly at hand. The bottle wasn’t finished.
So an interesting, if cautionary, tale, but it was fun to have Danish wine in Denmark. Believe it or not we actually make our own wine here too: Lusca, based in Lusk, just outside of Dublin, and not too long ago Longueville House in Mallow, Co. Cork made their own wine too, before scrubbing up the lot in favour of more palatable – and commercially sensible – apple trees from which they now make their lauded cider.
In fact, in the spirit of things I might grab a bottle of Lusk wine soon and report back. A ‘Weird Wines from Weird Places’ series, anyone?