Wine tasting at Hällåkra, a Swedish Vineyard

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When I was little Hällåkra was a farm nearby our house, but the last twelve years or so the farm has been transformed into a vineyard. In the south of Sweden. It may sounds strange as some people imagine Sweden as an eternally cold country. But it’s not. Not in the south anyway. My mother has a fig tree, so the climate here is fairly mild. Very similar to Kent in England or even northern France, yet Swedish wine was unheard of until a few years ago.

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Anyway, having a vineyard so close by I’ve been dying to go, but fitting it in on my trips to Sweden has been a little difficult, but this summer I persuaded my friends to come with me, so we went to the wine tasting in the afternoon and then walked back to my parents’ house for dinner in the evening.

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My childhood friend Karl is now a sommelier working at the vineyard and was in charge of our wine tasting. He did a great job keeping it relaxed but informative and interesting at the same time. We asked lots of questions which Karl patiently answered, and despite the heavy (London-like) rain he also took us on a tour among the grapevines.So impressive! And a lovely walk in the sunshine.

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We tried six wines, three whites and three reds, and it was very interesting to compare them.

Two of the whites were from their own production but different vintages, and it was very interesting comparing the two as they were very different. We tried the Solaris (that’s the grape) from 2015 and 2014, which were both really nice but my favourite was the 2014. Of the reds Hällåkra’s Rondo 2013 was lovely as was the Austrian Gut Oggau Josephine 2012.

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In Sweden you (unfortunately) can’t buy wine straight from the vineyards, but they can be bought through the government-owned shop Systembolaget, using what the call private import as it’s not readily available in their shops. More information, here, in Swedish.

Hällåkra Vingård, Hällåkravägen 47, 231 72 Anderslöv, Sweden 

A wine tasting with food

Last Wednesday I went with my friend Emily to a wine tasting organised by one of her mother’s colleagues at The Avenue Cookery School. This was their first wine tasting, organised by Angie from the cookery school and Andrew from the Burgundy Portfolio, and Emily had helped spread the word.

What was so interesting with this particular wine tasting was the fact that the wines were paired with canapés perfect for each particular wine. It was so exciting to first taste the wines on their own and then with the food.

Unfortunately I only started taking photos half way through the tasting, as I was to embarrassed to leave my seat and interrupt to run out and get my phone from my bag in the room next door, but I got over it as you can see.

Once we arrived for the wine tasting we each got some sparkling wine to sip on while waiting for the others. It was a Crémant de Bourgogne (Dom. Agnès Pacuet) which I thoroughly enjoyed and even had several top-ups of. The two large tables were filled with goodies we expected was for later, but it was there for us to eat while we were mingling. So we helped ourselves to olives, crostini with Stilton, caramelized red onions and figs, charcuterie boards, and filled focaccia. All delicious!

When everyone had arrived we sat down and let Andew entertain us with stories and facts about the wines as he presented them. The first wine we tried, 2011 Petit Chablis, Dom. Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre was a light and fresh white what worked really well with both canapés it was served with. My absolute favourite was the brioche crouton with soft ash goat’s cheese and truffled pear, but the red pepper tarte tatin with tapenade and basil was gorgeous too.

Next up was another white; 2009 Bourgogne Blanc, Dom. Florent Garaudet served with mackerel tartar on an olive crouton with crispy skins.

We then tried two Pinot Noir side by side; 2012 Santeney “Clos de Hates”, Dom. Bachey-Legros and 2009 Bourgogne Grance Ordinaire, Dom. Guy Castagnier. The former was lighter and the latter, which I preferred, tasted more of berries. We tried them with honey soy glazed salmon scewers and thai chicken scewers with a coconut and green chilli dip.

We then got to try a wine from the Rhone Valley; 2008 Star Terre Grenache, Oroncio served with crispy duck pancakes in hoisin sauce with cucumber and spring onion. Both divine!

The last two canapés were sweet, put we didn’t try a single pudding wine. Instead we had a fruity rosé (2010 Bourgogne “Rose”, GAEC Felettig) with the caramelized banana tarte tatin, which was, although I am not that fond of bananas, delicious.

The last sweet, amazing chocolate fudge caramels with vanilla salt, was served with a really nice port ( 27 Grapes, Quinta do Portal). I like the idea of port and chocolate and will definitely try this at home.

I had such a lovely evening and would love to do this again. Both the food and the wines were excellent and I really enjoyed trying the wines with the matching food, so I know how to think when pairing food and wine at home.

Footnote: I was not invited as a blogger to this event, nor asked to blog about it.

Champagne tasting at Harrod’s

Last week Christopher and I joined another 300 people at Harrod’s champagne tasting. We have been to two more wine tastings there; one with Tuscan wines and one with wines from Bordeaux, and both took place in Harrod’s wine cellar. This was a bigger event however, and was therefore hosted in one of the restaurants.

I definitely had high expectations for this event, as there would be 80 champagnes to try and a few of the rarer and expensive kund.

Just like at the other wine tastings we each got a glass, a brochure about the wines, a list for notes and a pencil. Since I don’t know that much about wines I find it difficult to take notes, but I still note which ones I really liked.

Plenty of well known champagnes were represented as well as a quite a few unknown to me. The big names included Krug, Lanson, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier Jouet, Mumm, Moët & Chandon, and we defintely wanted to try a few of those, although a few we had no interest in as we have tried them before and were not very impressed.

We started the evening at the Taittinger table and tasted us through all four champagnes they had to offer. Already at this point I could feel the bubbles, because the men and women pouring the champagne were very generous! There were baguettes and water at every table though, which helped, and trays of canapées came frequently from the kitchen.

I will not bore you with which order we tried the champagnes and describe them all, to be honest, I don’t even remember them all, but I will tell you which ones we really enjoyed as well as a few that disappointed.

The champagne house that made most of an impression on us was definitely Philipponnat, a small champagne house but one of the older ones. All of their four champagnes were amazing, although the non dosé (=without added sugar) was too dry as an aperitif but would work well with food. Their Royal Réserve NV actually tasted a bit like a vintage champagne and had the butteryness of older champagnes. Uttley beautiful and great value for money.

Another favourite was Ruinart‘s Blanc de Blanc, the champagne Ruinart is most famous for, and also the only one I really liked out of their champagne.

We also tried Gosset, which was completely new to me, but I learned it was one of the absolute oldest champagne houses and they have a great reputation. And after tasting their champagnes I definitely see why.

Goutorbe-Bouillot, Jospeh Perrier och Dampierre were other brans we really enjoyed and that I would happily by. The latter is served at the French embassys around the world and the former we got recommended by one of the staff at Harrod’s who definitely knew his wines.

One of the highlights of the evening was of course to try the more expensive champagnes. It felt a bit surreal to be able to enjoy Dom Perignon, Cristal, Krug och Pol Roger Cuvéé Sir Winston Churchill in one single evening. Out of these the Dom Perignon and the Cristal were a bit to young to be at their best, but still very enjoyable. Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill however was quite disappointing, especially since I really enjoy the Pol Roger NV. As expected though, Krug var delicious.

We had planned to skip most of the mainstream brands as we have tried them before and also because we knew we would be disappointed. But with twenty minutes left towards the end we still tried a few. Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon were really disappointing after having tried all the others, and we expected that. Even the Moët & Chandon 2002 was not up to scratch. The best out of the mainstream brands would have to be Perrier Jouet, even though I am not really a fan. It lacks flavour and feels quite watery.

Out of the big names we would not buy any of the above but instead focus on  Laurent Perrier, Louis Roederer and Pol Roger (only the Brut NV), and after this tasting I could just not settle for anything less after seeing what is out there, even to similar prices.

Another champagne that I would like to mention, now that it is Christman soon, is the Leroy-Duval Paris Brut, which to me qualifies as the perfect gift. The bottle is wonderful with its Paris decor and the champagne itself is lovely, and not what you expect from a pretty bottle. It is however what you expect from the brand, which is good.

Tuscan wine tasting at Harrod’s

I don’t think Harrod’s needs an introduction, and I am a big fan of their food halls, and of course the Laduree cafée. But this time we were there for a Tuscan wine tasting in their wine store in the basement.

I guess 100-150 attended this sold out event and we mingled around with our glasses trying 50 Tuscan wines. Most were red, but there were also a few whites and some vin santo.

But first, as a treat, we got to try four types of Bollinger champagne. It was two non-vintage; Special Cuvée NV and Bollinger rosé as well as La Grande Année 2002 and La Grande Année Rosé 2002. A few weeks back I got to try a Dom Perignon 2000 which was lovely, and actually a bit nicer than this Bollinger vintage. Don’t get me wrong, the Bollinger was nice too, and a lot cheaper if you want a vintage champagne, so I still recommend it.

Most wines at this tasting were, as I mentioned earlier, reds. Chianti and Brunello are the most common wines, and the most gommon grape is Sangiovese. Most reds had the main grape as Sangiovese but also had other grapes blended in.

We also got to try a wonderful rosé, that tasted Provence and a white vermentino that was absolutely fabulous. But the best memory from this evening was when we tried a beautiful vin santo. I have had several vin santo before, and other dessert wines, but this was something extraordinary. It was amazing and just blew us away. It was of course sweet, but had a deeper undertone that was just phenomenal. It is called Vin Santo di Carmignano Riserva 2005.

There were also canapées (much needed when trying that many wines!) and they were really good. They had arancini (being true to the theme), crisp salmon fishcakes, mini mini quiches with melt-in-the-mouth pastry and rare roast beef in a shortcrust crustade with horseradish, and a sweet lemon cheesecake to finish.

This was just a fabulous evening, and I learned so much about wine in general and Tuscan wines in particular from talking to all the vendors, but we also met lovely people mingling just like us, and I have a sneaky feeling we will see some of them at the next event.