In most parts of the northern hemisphere, the grape-picking season has been over for months. But at a small vineyard not far from Stockholm, in temperatures of -8°C and 15cm of snow, it is just beginning.
“It’s perfect,” said Göran Amnegård. Blaxsta winery claims to be one of the most northerly vineyards in the world, where harvest began last week.
When he planted his first grapes 22 years ago, it was one of the only commercial wineries in Sweden. Now it is one of a growing number in the Scandinavian country that experts predict is on its way to becoming a destination for wine.
Amnigard The Vidal Blanc grape gets up to 23 hours of daylight in the height of summer before it’s turned into an award-winning ice wine, which it sells to Michelin-starred restaurants. “We have one of the most unique terroirDirt, in the world.
While Sweden’s vineyards are relatively small at 150 hectares, they have expanded by 50% in the past two years. Within five years it is expected to double in size. In the long term, it is expected to grow to 10,000 hectares and become a new €1 billion industry.
Domestic sales of Swedish wine have nearly doubled in the past five years. Systembolaget, the government-owned chain of licenses with a monopoly on the sale of alcoholic beverages with a strength of more than 3.5%, said sales rose from 19,388 liters in 2017 to 34,495 liters this year through November 30. While production is still on a very small scale, the retailer said quantity, quality and customer interest are increasing.
Experts said that global warming and the cultivation of new grape varieties are among the factors driving Swedish wine production. The main varietals grown in Sweden are Solaris, a white grape first released in 1975 by the Freiburg Wine Institute in southwestern Germany, and Rondo for red wine.
Lotta Nordmark, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said the wine styles were mostly white, sparkling and rosé, but there was also potential for making orange wines.
Nordmark said a vital factor for successful grape cultivation is the use of disease-resistant grape varieties, sustainable farming systems and the ability to experiment without appellation restrictions.
“Wine connoisseurs are interested in Swedish wines because the grapes have a long development period, high acidity that creates an interesting sensory palette, and now Swedish wines are gaining ground in international wine tasting competitions.”
Nordic Vineyards, which sells Scandinavian wines online, said most of its products are bought by people from within the region, but it is receiving increasing orders from across Europe and Asia, especially Japan.
Felix Orberg, winemaker at Kullabergs Vingård in Skåne, and secretary of the Swedish Industry Association for Oenology and Viticulture (SBOV), said Swedish wines are “getting a good reception” but that their makers are “just beginning to scratch the surface”.
“I think this is a really good time,” he said, adding that it was going in a similar direction as British sparkling wine. The potential would be 10,000 hectares, 4 thousand hectares smaller than in Switzerland. It will be a new billion euro industry in Sweden with wine tourism.”
Although the Solaris grape was “born in Freiberg… it has found its home here because it ripens in a shorter time,” said Svenrik Svensson, head of Svenskt Vin (Swedish Wine).
He added, “People are used to drinking Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc, but when they hear Solaris they say ‘What is that?'” But they should give it a try. It’s very good, similar to Sauvignon Blanc.”
Swedish wine journalist Mikael Mollstad said that in 20 years, viticulture largely in the south of the country, in Skine, has gone from “curiosity” to a scene with serious potential, with winegrowers and winemakers coming from abroad. “Today, Sweden, as England did 15-20 years ago, has the potential to compete with the wine quality of the most prestigious wine countries in Europe.”
But the current growth is just the beginning. “There must be a belief from politicians and authorities to define wine production as a future agricultural project for Sweden. With this there will be greater investment with venture capital needed to elevate the business.”
He said that while Sweden had some way of catching up with England, they had huge potential. “With a changing climate and immaculate land, and compared to cheap land, why not? There is interest from wine producers in Europe in securing land in Sweden for future production.”