An Unexpected Journey: Danish Viticulture
The Danish Proverb “Truth and folly dwell in the wine cask” is an illustration of how the Danes are passionate about wines. Winemaking in Denmark may not have started as early as other European countries, like Italy and France had, but they certainly picked up on viticulture during the early 1990s.
A Late Awakening to Viticulture
A vineyard needs to be in a place that experiences warm, dry summers, and mild winters to produce high-quality grapes. Given its northerly location in Europe, it was unexpected that Denmark would be a wine-growing country. In fact, its first commercial vineyard, Dansk VinCenter, was only founded in 1999 by a local wine enthusiast, Torben Andreasen.
Denmark is not that hot, and this paved the way for the unique development of new grape varieties, which are more suitable to their climate.
Since late 2000, the Danish wine industry has been growing with a 50% increase in production annually. It attributes its significant increase in the European Union’s recognition that Denmark is a wine-producing country. With the growing awareness and interest in wine consumption, the Danish wine industry, truly, can only get better and more established as years go.
Local wine production also increased ever since its consumption increased by 1.5% in 2010. According to BKWine, on the global per capita wine consumption, Denmark ranks 7th with a recorded consumption of 32.6 liters per capita per year. At this point, the challenge in the Danish wine industry is to offer locally-produced wines at competitive prices.
Renowned Danish wines
With a love for meat coupled with its predominantly aging population, it isn’t surprising that the Danish are always looking for premium quality wines. Skærsøgaard ®, Denmark’s most awarded winemaker, is known to produce only top quality wines. A proof of this is its Silver Medal won for five consecutive years at the prestigious Effervescent du Monde, a competition for the world’s best Champagne.
Skærsøgaard is also the most awarded wine brand in the country, bagging 48 local medals and 19 international medals. The brand commits to producing hand-crafted wines with locally grown grape varieties such as Cabernet Cortis.
Cabernet Cortis was bred by Norbert Becky in Germany while searching for a disease-resistant variant that will suit the northern European climate. This grape is dark-skinned, and its taste resembles that of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Cortis is enjoyed best aged – vintage.
Kelleris Vineyard is another multi-awarded wine company in Denmark. Utopia is its known brand, a wine brand ranging from Vintage 2005 – 2011. All variants from the Vintage lines 2005 – 2007 are all sold out leaving less than half of their original variants Vintage 2008 – 2009 lines. Unlike Skærsøgaard, Kelleris boasts of its red wines made from the Rondo grape variety.
Rondo produces large grape clusters with a thick-skinned bluish hue. The juicy taste is similar to blueberries. According to the Kelleris tradition, they do the “green harvest” for the Rondo in the middle of the harvest season. Just like the Cabernet Cortis, Rondo is a type of wine that is enjoyed best when aged.
History of Danish Wine Storage and Transport
Wine storage in Denmark, and in several parts of Europe, has an older origin. It is believed to have started in Georgia in 6000 BC using a huge clay jar, coated in beeswax and buried underground for temperature control. Kvevri was used by Georgians in every step of the wine-making process, from primary fermentation to aging. Several Georgian and Italian wine producers revived the use of Kvevri.
The ancient standardized way of transporting and aging wine was through the use of Amphorae, jars made of clay similar to the Kvevri. It resembles the design of a modern wine bottle. It has a long neck that keeps the wine from oxidation.
Keeping the wine inside the amphorae in an airtight condition was a challenge. Egyptians explored with wet clay, leaves, scrolls, but it all failed until they experimented on a cork. This experiment paved the way for what we currently use for sealing wine bottles – cork stoppers.
Wine aging using oak barrels is traced back to the Romans and their curiosity and willingness to try out new things. What used to be a barrel to transport beer by the Gauls was adapted by the Romans to transport and store wine.
The Romans were aware of the effects of various woods used for a barrel to the taste and oxidation of the wine. This is why they settled for oak. Its constricted grains made the barrel tighter, thus limiting oxidation. The Danish adopted this later on.
“The older, the better” then became the rule when it came to wine. Enthusiasts and collectors all over the world made sure to get 1% of the wine produced. The key to the ideal wine aging and cellaring is temperature control, humidity, lack of light, and elimination of vibration. Collectors in the earlier centuries were able to afford to do their own cellaring and aging in their wine cellars.
Wine Vaults for the Modern World
Today, more and more companies are championing the art of wine vaulting. In Asia, a sophisticated cellar called Singapore Wine Vault has a state-of-the-art storage facility designed with zero UV penetration. Wines remain fresh and aromatic, even when stored for long periods.
Denmark is a growing wine industry. Despite the challenges brought by climate change and high excise taxes, the Danish viticulture strives to produce high-quality wines that are unique and flavorful, mostly using homegrown varietals for production. In the years to come, the Danish will certainly reap the fruits of their labor in the global wine trade.