As the economic and governmental centre of Norway, Oslo is a trade, banking, industry and shipping hub. Population figures are currently increasing at record rates, making Oslo the fastest growing major city in Europe. Its inhabitants are generally said to be slightly reserved and cautious, but join a few Norwegians out for drinks and you’ll get another picture altogether.
Because of the high alcohol prices in restaurants — and the often harsh weather— having a drink at home before going out is the norm in Norway. The art of vorspiel or pre-party has been perfected since the alcohol prohibition days in the 1920s. Since then, the anti-drink lobbyists have pressured the government into making alcohol purchases as expensive and inconvenient as possible, therefore forcing people to enjoy cheaper wines imported from neighboring countries.
The year 2015 is key for wine lovers in Norway, as the centre-right government, elected in 2013, has vowed to amend some of the current alcohol restrictions, such as allowing micro distillers to sell their products directly from the distillery and to keep Vinmonopolet, the alcohol monopoly outlets, open during days which were previously closed.
These new political initiatives along with the boom of new restaurants and wine bars in Oslo are bringing a shift towards a more liberal and eclectic wine culture in Norway, according to Norwegian restaurateur Henrik Dahl Jahnsen, who competed in the Nordic sommelier championship last year.
Spots like Taco Republica (Torggata 30 phone: +47 400 57 665) specialized in natural wines and tacos (!) no less are popping up like mushrooms. Luckily, punters don’t need to spend a fortune, a common misconception about Oslo, says Dahl Jahnsen.
The main ingredients in Norwegian cuisine are fish and shellfish caught in the clean and cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. As wine culture in Norway advances, an increasing number of consumers opts to pair this food with white Spanish wines influenced by the Atlantic, such as Albariño, explains Dahl Jahnsen. Three years ago, it would have been more common to find a sparkling wine or even traditional Rioja reds.
Holiday makers and travelers visiting the Norwegian capital can choose from these five spots offering the most interesting selection of Spanish wines in Oslo:
Before sampling the delights of the Oslo nightlife, a little vorspiel is called for. Vinmonopolet in Vika (accessible with the tramway) enjoys an almost cult-like status among Scandinavian wine lovers. The selection of rare bottles at all price points is simply unmatched. If you prefer home delivery, Vinmonopolet boasts an even wider selection of wines. Among the 747 Spanish reds and 214 whites we find interesting bottles such as Finca Montepedroso 2014 (134kr, €15/75cl) a new winery in Rueda that’s producing an age-worthy white wine from the local Verdejo grape. If you want to go deeper into more unknown wine-territories invest in a bottle of Terroir al Limit Terra de Cuques 2012 (309kr, €34/75cl) a white Pedro Xímenez from Priorat with a noticeable flinty character.
+47 045 60
At Bon Lio you can enjoy Mediterranean dishes in an unpretentious and rustic atmosphere. Locals come for the cured serrano ham purchased from an artisan producer in southwestern Spain. At Bon Lio jamón is served on an air baguette — a sort of airy pastry — clearly inspired by Tickets Bar in Barcelona. The wine list is customized to fit the menu and changes on a daily basis. At the moment there’s an opportunity to taste Ossian 2014 (520kr, €57/75cl), a dense Verdejo white coming from old bush vines in Segovia, to the west of the more famous Rueda region but released as VT Castilla y León.
+47 467 77 212
This is a popular and down-to-earth neighborhood bistro with a rustic touch. In summertime it's an ideal spot to indulge in the locally sourced organic cuisine. Don’t miss their excellent chipotle sausages, served with sauerkraut and mashed root vegetables. This spicy dish shows best together with a soft red wine such as the quaffable Tragolargo 2013 (420kr, €46/75cl) from the great Rafa Bernabé in Alicante.
+47 223 33 430
Champagneria is just what it sounds like — a French/Spanish fusion bar serving tapas and sparkling wines. With views of Frognerveien shopping street, patrons can browse the wine list and its long verticals of Krug and Dom Pérignon. But you don't need your own oil field to afford the selections at Champagneria; there are plenty more modest bubbles. The Andalusian sparkling wine Brut Nature 2013 (520kr, €57/75cl) from natural wine pioneers Barranco Oscuro is a different animal altogether. Made with the rare Vigiriega grape, it brings out intriguing flavors that few have encountered.
+47 219 488 02
Locals and tourists alike come to the cozy Territoriet bar for the wide and constantly changing list of selections by the glass, widely recommended by Norwegian sommeliers. They recently stocked La Bota de Amontillado Nº 37 from Equipo Navazos (135kr, €15/15cl), possibly one of the best sherry ever bottled at La Guita in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The experience is further magnified by the sounds coming from an old vinyl player in the corner.
+47 980 95 420