As the climate warms and with up to 23 hours of sunshine on summer days to ripen innovative varieties, wine production is increasing in Sweden.
In most of the northern hemisphere, the grape harvest ended months ago. But in a small vineyard not far from Stockholm, in temperatures of -8°C and 15 cm of snow, the harvest has only just begun.
“It’s perfect,” said Göran Amnegård when the harvest began in mid-December. He says that Blaxsta, his winery, would be one of the northernmost vineyards in the world.
Wine production is increasing in Sweden due to improving conditions
When it planted its first grapes 22 years ago, Blaxsta was one of the only commercial wineries in Sweden. It is now one of a growing number of vineyards in the Nordic country that experts say is on the way to becoming a wine destination.
Amnegård’s ‘vidal blanc’ grapes get up to 23 hours of light a day in midsummer before they are made into his award-winning ice wine, which he sells to Michelin-starred restaurants. “We have one of the most unique terroirsoil, from the world,” he said.
Although relatively small at 150 hectares, Sweden’s vineyards have expanded by 50% in the last two years, so wine production is increasing in Sweden. Within five years, the area occupied by vineyards is expected to increase at least twice. In the long term, it is predicted that these could grow to 10,000 hectares and become a new multi-billion euro industry.
What is driving this growth?
Domestic sales of Swedish wine have almost doubled in the past five years. Systembolaget, the government-owned off-licence chain with a monopoly on the sale of alcohol with more than 3.5% strength, said sales rose from 19,388 liters in 2017 to 34,495 liters in the year to November 30, 2022. Although production is still on a very small scale, the retailer said the quantity, quality and customer interest are increasing, it writes The Guardian.
Experts said global warming and the cultivation of new grape varieties were among the factors driving Swedish wine production. The main varieties grown in Sweden are solaris, a white grape variety first released in 1975 by the Freiburg Wine Institute in southwest 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 potential to make orange wines as well.
Vital to viticultural success will be the use of disease-resistant grape varieties, the use of sustainable cultivation systems and the ability to experiment without the restrictions of appellations, Nordmark said.
“Wine connoisseurs are interested in Swedish wines because the grapes have a long development period, high acidity that builds an interesting sensory palette, and now Swedish wines are already gaining ground in international wine tasting competitions,” says the researcher.
Wine production is growing in Sweden, gaining international recognition
Nordic Vineyards, which sells Scandinavian wines online, said most of its products are bought by people in the region, but it is getting more and more requests from across Europe and Asia, particularly Japan.
Felix Åhrberg, winemaker at Kullabergs Vingård in Skåne and secretary of the Swedish Oenology and Viticulture Industry Association (SBOV), said Swedish wine was “very well received” but producers “are just getting started”.
“I think this is the right time,” he said, adding that it is going in a similar direction to British sparkling wine. “The potential will be 10,000 hectares, so 4,000 hectares less than in Switzerland. It would be a new billion-euro industry in Sweden, along with wine tourism,” he says.
Sveneric Svensson, president of Svenskt Vin (Swedish Wine), said that although the solaris grape was “born in Freiberg … it has found its home here because it ripens in a shorter time.”
Drinks similar to the very famous ones
“People are used to drinking chablis or sauvignon blanc, but when they hear solaris they say ‘what’s that?’ But they should try. It’s very good, similar to sauvignon blanc,” he added.
Swedish wine journalist Mikael Mölstad said that in 20 years, viticulture mostly in the south of the country in Skåne has gone from “a 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 quality of wine in respected wine countries in Europe,” says Mölstad.
Wine production is growing in Sweden and it’s just getting started. “There needs to be a belief on the part of politicians and authorities to determine wine production as a future agricultural business for Sweden,” he added.
Although Sweden still has some work to do before it catches up with England, it has huge potential, he said. “With climate change and the earth pure and comparatively cheap, why not? There is interest from European wine producers to secure land in Sweden for future production,” he concluded.