Wine Wednesday: Finnish Wine

Virvatulet Finnish wine

Virvatulet Finnish wine dressed

Traditionally Finns are not wine drinkers; they prefer beer with a family meal or they drink Vodka (supposedly about 1 liter per person per week!). Perhaps the un-enthusiasm for wine has to do with political reasons. In Finland the company Alko Oy has a monopoly over beer, wine, and spirits. Beer and spirits can be sold in supermarkets, but wine can only be sold to the public at an Alko shop. Another reason Finns likely prefer beer and spirits to wine is that Finland’s climate is not suitable for growing grapes. So wine must be imported from other wine producing countries like Italy, Chile, or France. That is until a select few berry farmers started producing Finnish wine from the varieties of Arctic berries.

Virvatulet Finnish wine Finnish wine comes in red, white, and sparkling and is produced from Arctic berries like lingonberries, blueberries, and cloudberries. The Finnish law Everyman’s Right makes it easy for Finnish wine producers to gather the amounts of berries needed since the law gives everyone the right to collect natural products like berries and mushrooms, no matter who the land belongs to.

In the small village of Ranua in Finnish Lapland a Finnish wine producer has set up a small shop where he sells his berry wines, called Virvatulet. I actually discovered him on my first trip to Finnish Lapland in 2011 and was more than excited to pay him another visit. Most of the berry wines are sweet, especially the cloudberry wine, which is a perfect dessert wine (think a raspberry or blackberry that is bright orange in color and only grows in swampy areas of the Arctic).

My personal favorites are the red lingonberry wine, blueberry wine, and rhubarb wine. The lingonberry wine is a dry red with around 12% alcohol. Lingonberries are plentiful in the forests and are a staple in Scandinavian food. So, it’s no surprise that the lingonberry wine pairs nicely with game meat like a reindeer filet, elk steak, or bear meat.

Rhubarb wine is a white wine – so white that we almost couldn’t tell the difference between the rhubarb wine and our goblets of water. Slightly sweet, it has a higher sugar content than the lingonberry wine with 35 grams of sugar per liter. Rhubarb wine pairs nicely with a cream based soup like reindeer and morel mushroom soup or with fish such as salmon or white fish.

Virvatulet Finnish wine Unfortunately, Finnish wine is somewhat hard to find. Some Lappish restaurants like Restuarant Nili in Rovaniemi and Sokeri-Jussin Kievari in Oulu serve Finnish wine. Virvatulet Finnish wine can also be purchased directly from the wine maker in Ranua, easily reached in about 1 hour from Rovaniemi or Kemi.

Know Before You Go

  • Virvatulet has a shop just outside the Ranua Wildlife Park and is open daily from 11am – 4pm and 10am – 6pm from June 15th – August 15th
  • Virvatulet Finnish wine is around €12 – €14 per bottle

  • View Larger Map

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Wine Wednesday: Finnish Wine

Comments

  1. says

    It makes me sound like a wino to say this, but it kind of puts me off a country a bit when wine is hard to come by. I got really sick of beer in Colombia and Brazil. Obviously I could just not drink, but let’s face it, that’s never going to happen!

    • says

      LOL, Ari! Beer, wine, and spirits are easy enough to get at restaurants. But it is kind of crazy how sales are limited. It looks like a lot of Finns take the ferry over to Tallinn and purchase beer and wine much more cheaply there. They were bringing it back by the case load!

  2. says

    The strange thing about Finland was, the bars would always fill the mug up to the half-way point, no more… it was the most expensive, foam-filled beer I ever had anywhere

    • says

      There are quite a lot of laws surrounding the sale of alcohol. We were just on the ferry from Tallinn, Estonia yesterday back to Helsinki and couldn’t believe how people had brought their own carts and were wheeling beer and alcohol back by the case. It’s just that much cheaper to buy in Estonia!

  3. says

    I am a beer drinker but there seems to be a boom in wines at the moment, especially in the European countries. Tried it before and just can not appreciate it at all.

  4. says

    Not at all a wine person. An occasional mug of mulled Gluhwein at the Christmas market is enough for me. The berry wines do sound interesting, as well as the laws allowing you to pick natural produce regardless of land ownership.

  5. A wine-loving Finn says

    A slight correction: spirits aren’t sold in supermarkets in Finland. Markets have beer, cider and other sorts of 4,7’ish % drinks. This is mainly because of healthcare politics, alcohol-related illnesses are the number one cause of death in Finland so regulating the sale of alcohol is a means to combat these problems.

    As for wine being hard to come by, I have to disagree. You won’t find a restaurant that doesn’t serve wine. Sure, wine isn’t sold in every kiosk day and night like in, say, Portugal, and you can’t pick up a 2 litre bottle at your local food mart, but pretty much every little town has an Alko store with hundreds of different wines, and in larger cities like Helsinki the larger Alko stores are located at central locations. Being specialzed in the sale of alcohol, these stores tend to be pleasant to shop at and have a superior selection of beverages to, for instance, your typical American liquor store, let alone a supermarket.

    The main rule is that you can’t pick up a bottle of wine on Sundays, and not after 8 PM on weekdays. Keep that in mind and you’ll find all the wine you’ll need. Restaurants, naturally, serve wine every day.

    What I do miss in Finland is the opportunity to pick your wine bottle with you from a restaurant if you feel like finishing it at home. This isn’t a possibility anywhere, due to strict laws.

    Otherwise a really nice article!

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