When Jacob and Helle Stokkebye decided to create their own minimal impact organic wine label, they knew that a lasting footprint was non-negotiable. Fully convinced that it was worth it, they first planted nine different kinds of vines in 2009, ambivalent to the cold Nordic climate of Funen, the island in the heart of Denmark where their 16-acre cellar is based.
They ditched harmful chemicals, embraced a natural winemaking philosophy, and set out on a quest to create the perfect wine and become the largest and most sustainable vineyard in the country. Even if, at times, it made little sense to their neighbors.
“I actually started to doubt what we were doing,” says Jacob, floating around the By Stokkebye tasting room in an original sommelier’s apron. “It’s an expensive memory, to be sure, but we learned from our previous harvests and, now, here we are.”
In the 2000s, the food world went gaga over Denmark’s ingenious new Nordic cuisine, in fact a movement that emphasized sustainability, hyperlocality, micro-seasonality, environmental responsibility and respect. It all spilled over into the cool food that grabbed the spotlight and the Copenhagen restaurants (namely Noma, Geranium, Amass, Kadeau, and now-closed Relae) that topped the lists of the best in the world.
And yet, one thing was missing: Danish wine made with the same spirit. The reason? Denmark was only accepted as a commercial wine-growing area within the EU in 2000, and with the exception of a handful of hobbyists, there was nothing to bottle.
Wind forward until today and how times have changed. There are now over 100 venerable producers across the country, with most of it concentrated along the warmer coasts of Zeeland, Funen and Jutland, and the amount of wine produced year on year is increasing steadily. exponential. Everything could have gone wrong, but it didn’t, and this straight line graph perhaps gives a glimpse into the future of wine in Denmark – and possibly the rest of the world.
In Stokkebye, a record 25,000 bottles are expected in the next 18 months, all filled mostly with solaris, an acid green cultivar that excels in the Danish climate. “Our ambition is to do for white and sparkling wines what Noma has done for gastronomy,” adds Jacob. “Most people haven’t bought into the idea of Danish wine yet, but that’s our goal. “
This highlights the country’s wine development, but a much more extreme factor is also involved. As the world heats up, wine growers in Denmark’s cool climates are seeing their crops ripen faster as temperatures rise, but with a twitch or two along the way due to late spring frosts. Climate change analyzes also show that plant growing seasons will be extended by an average of one to two months across the country, and there is no doubt that Denmark continues to get warmer. Over the past century, the temperature has risen by almost 1.5 ° C – and there has been a steady increase almost every year since 1988.
“Without a doubt, there is more high quality wine produced here, but at what cost? Jacob asks. “It’s a similar story in England. We must therefore be dynamic and adaptable.
Cartsen Andersen and Bente Rasmussen in Skaarupøre Vingaard, a winery 40 km south near the coastal town of Svendborg, also play the cards given to them. Bio-dynamic, organic and experimental winemakers – the first in Denmark – have set up a tasting room, shop and café in two huge thatched barrels and, now with 2,500 tangled vines for their flint white wines and floral rosés , they ‘We have built a chemical-free wine infrastructure to take care of the earth, improve microbial life and preserve root health.
“In biodynamic winemaking you have to think about the combination of plant and soil, so we keep experimenting,” says Carsten, as he walks through the vines planted with solaris and rondo, the second most common cultivar. widespread in Denmark. “We have a lot of weeds here, but that’s a bonus – it creates sugar to feed the vines.”
Their ultimate goal, Bente says, is greater than profit or high yield: it is to respect and help nurture the plants and cornucopia of insects and birds in the surrounding orchards. “It’s a liberation for the soul,” she adds.
Other wineries in the surrounding meadows, including Kimesbjerggaard Vingaard overlooking the island of Lyø and Svendborg Vingård (now dabbling in the farm’s herbal schnapps), also adhere to the same borderless and sustainable philosophy. But being that good can be a battle. As temperatures rise, winegrowers are starting to see more seasonal rainfall, with downpours affecting recent harvests.
“It could mean a shift to different kinds of grapes,” Carsten explains. “Pinot Noir, or maybe Reisling, as these cultivars tend to grow best in more humid conditions.”
In their world, there might be some tough decisions to make. But who knows? Perhaps the allure of sustainable Danish wine, made by winemakers simply doing the right thing for the planet because they are pushed to do so, will trump all the rest.
Trying to fly less?
You can reach Denmark from the UK without flying in several ways: take the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland, take the metro and train to Amsterdam and then take the train to Odense; or take the Eurostar from London to Brussels, stay overnight and take the train to Odense the next day
Okay to fly?
Ryanair, British Airways, Norwegian, SAS and EasyJet all operate direct flights from the UK to Odense.
Double rooms at Bornholm Castle from £ 160, B&B (broholm.dk).
Funen’s vineyards and tasting rooms are open seasonally. To book a tasting or tour, contact By Stokkebye, Skaarupøre Vingaard, Kimesbjerggaard Vingaard or Svendborg Vingård for dates and prices.
Mike MacEacheran was hosted by Visit Denmark.