Monday, August 5, 2019

Swedish wineries — who'd have thought it?

The recent heatwaves throughout the northern hemisphere have set record temperatures in a number of locations. Not the least of these have been traditional grape-growing regions (eg. Europe's heatwave cooks French vines). This has focused attention in the wine world on the current suitability of these regions for making premium wines, at least with their current grape varieties (eg. Bordeaux winemakers allow new grapes to fight climate change). The Millennial “warm climate” used to be the Baby Boomer “cool climate”.


The European Union (EU) has a map, reproduced here, indicating several traditional climatic regions for growing grapes (EU Wine Market Data Portal). The current premium regions are almost all in regions B and C, with only Germany and Austria producing much wine from region A. However, the regions whose wine-making has been expanding this century are all from region A, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, and southern Britain (noting that the regions whose wine-making is being resurrected are from regions B and C, including Croatia, Hungary, Romania, and Slovenia).

The potential of the other northern regions is currently unknown, and we have very little data about their current levels of production. This is because the EU collates production data only from countries that have “a minimum planted area of 500 hectares (ha) of vineyards”, so that only 17 member countries are included in the recent statistics (Vineyards in the EU — statistics).

The most northern of the new vineyard areas are in Sweden (as shown on the map above), although there is at least one vineyard in Finland and two in Norway. There seems to be little information about the Swedish wine-making scene, so I though that I might collect some of it here.


As far as I can tell, there are currently about 250 grape-growers1 in Sweden, although most of these are hobby growers. Only about 50 growers work commercially; and only about 40 produce wine that is commercially available. The farms vary from a few hundred square meters up to 15 hectares (35 acres). The total national area covers only c. 100 hectares (250 acres).

This is an increase from 2005, when it was estimated that 4,335 liters of wine (1,160 liters of white and 3,175 liters of red) was produced from an area of ​​about 8 hectares. The latest official figures I can find (from the agriculture ministry, Jordbruksverket) are for 2009, when Sweden apparently produced 17,859 litres of wine for commercial use (6,695 litres of red, 7,737 litres of white, 3,427 litres of rosé) from a vineyard area of 20 hectares.

Cultivation in Sweden is largely along the coastal regions, such as the southern Skåne and Blekinge coast, the western coast of Halland, and the eastern islands of Gotland and Öland 2 — see this Google Map (reproduced below). The sea provides a protective environment for a longer growing season, but only a subset of the areas have a climate that makes wine growing effective — the main issue seems to be early spring frosts, as it also is elsewhere. There are also a few vineyards around Vättern, a large lake half-way between the east and west coasts.

The southern third of Sweden, with vineyards marked

The grape types commonly grown in Sweden are listed in Wikipedia. You will probably not have heard of most of them. Many are particularly hardy hybrids developed in Germany (eg. Solaris is the most common white-wine grape) or Czechoslovakia (eg. Rondo, a common red-wine grape). However, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet franc, Merlot and Pinot noir do also feature. The wines include whites, reds, rosés and sparkling.

Commercial viticulture was officially sanctioned by the EU from the year 2000 (the same year as Denmark), and most of the commercial wine producers were founded from 2000 to 2015. However, the earliest winery in Sweden actually dates from 1981, which long predates any discussion of global climate change. This is Domaine Bellevue, which was established in the suburbs of Malmö (Sweden's third largest city) as a “little piece of Alsace”. To this day it still only has 200 vinestocks, and a wine production of 80 liters. Nordanvik was then founded in 1996 and Domän Sånana in 1998, both along the southern Skåne coast.

Originally, the three biggest wine companies were Gute Vingård, on Gotland (founded 2000), Blaxta Vingård, in Flen (founded 2000), and Håks Gård, on Öland (founded 2000). More recently, places such as Arilds Vingård (founded 2006), Vingården i Klagshamn (founded 2001) and Flädie Vingård (founded 2007) have greatly expanded. Blaxta Vingård is the most northerly vineyard and also the furthest from a large body of water, being just south-west of Stockholm — its claim to fame is its Icewine, made from Vidal blanc.

For reference, I have included below a list of those wine-producers who, as far as I know, have had wine commercially available. Some of the wines have won international awards (eg. Upplev Vinvägen i Skåne lists 11 for the Skåne wineries in 2018).

Föreningen Svenskt Vin (Swedish Wine Association) (formerly called Svenska Vinodlare) was formed in 2001, as an association working for cooperation between wineries and grape-growers, as well as for promoting Swedish wines (nationally and internationally). They run training courses, publish instructional books, run conferences, and are also trying to institute a formal evaluation of wine quality (including diplomas for individual wines). They are responsible for the map linked above (which is not completely comprehensive).

Another organization is VitiNord, intended to “promote the advancement of viticulture and oenology in northern environments that are characterized by cool or short summers and/or cold winters.” Their main activity is a triennial conference (2006, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018, so far).


There is only one government report about grape-growing in Sweden, which is dated 2006 (Marknadsöversikt — Vin). This has very little information, obviously, as there were only four commercial producers at the time. There is also one book, Tjugo Skånska Vingårdar, from 2013, which (as the title says) describes 20 wineries from Skåne.1 It is discussed at Wine-Searcher.

You can read a bit more about the Swedish wine scene in a number of online articles:

Finally, the main limitation of Swedish wines at the moment is that they are not good value for money. The economics of the industry is discussed by Mårtensson et al. (2013. Swedish vineyards: a utopia? International Journal of Wine Research 5: 39–45), who note the high production costs associated with the small volumes.

As but one typical example, Jack Jakobsson recently described the Inger-Lena Solaris Barrique 2018, from Vingård Hall, as “the best Swedish Solaris wine I have tried so far”. He gave it 14 / 20 points, which, based on his scores for international wines (see the graph in Calculating value for money wines), would cost an average of c.150 sek (15 usd) — it actually retails for 240 sek (25 usd).3

So, I am very happy to serve Swedish wines to visitors, but I cannot afford to do it too often.



1 Swedish is confusing, because vin can be translated as either grape or wine, depending on the context. So, a vingård could be either a vineyard or a winery (or both). Also, try not to be put off by the fact that Swedish has three more letters than English: å, ä, ö.

2 These are all the names of counties.

3 Sadly, Jakobsson also noted that “one of the best Swedish wines I have tried so far” is Skepparps Mousserande Tirage 2013, made by Skepparps Vingård, but from grapes sourced in Italy. Sigh. Indeed, there is also a company called Högberga Vinfabrik that makes wine from Tuscan grapes, which it then re-exports to Italy!



The List


The following Swedish wineries have had wines commercially available. They are listed alphabetically by province.

Blekinge

Stora Horns Vin
Vingården Stora Boråkra

Gotland

Gute Vingård
Långmyre Vineri
Vinhuset Halls Huk

Halland

Brattås Vinträdgård
Petters Gård
Vingård Hall
Ästad Vingård

Skåne

Arilds Vingård
Cehlin Vingård
Domaine Sånana
Flädie Vinproduktion (aka Flädie Mat & Vingård)
Flyinge Vingård
Fredholms Vingård
Frillestads Vingård
Gullycke Vingård
Hällåkra Vingård
Hallavångs Vin
Kullabergs Vingård
Köpingsbergs Vingård
Lottenlund Estate
Mellby nr 5 Vingård
Österlenvin (aka Ekesåkra Vingård)
Sandskogens Vingård
Skepparps Vingård
Snårestad Vingård
Södåkra Vingård
Vejby Vingård
Vinbacken
Vingården i Klagshamn
Vingården Villa Mathilda
Österlens Vingårdspark Tygeå
Åhus Vingård (aka Vingården i Åhus)

Småland

Vistakulle Vingård

Södermanland

Blaxsta Vingård

Öland

Håks Gård
Wannborga Vingård

Östgötaland

Särtshöga Vingård

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