European wine producers often recognize the importance of being present in the Danish market, partly due to the country’s consumption levels but also because it is perceived that Denmark sets regional trends.
With barely half the population of Catalonia, the Danish kingdom imported over 200m litres of wine in 2015. The country’s restaurants have evolved from Spanish concentrated, rich bombs to lighter, natural wines produced with minimal intervention and few or no sulphites. Chefs and sommeliers favor natural products, but despite the fact that Spain has the largest amount of organic vineyards in the world, few wines seem to be compatible with the philosophy of the sommeliers in Copenhagen.
A key fact to have in mind is that, unlike the other Nordic countries, Denmark is a free market with no alcohol monopoly, with hundreds of small wine importers looking for a niche of this fragmented market. With 1,720 wine importers registered by the Danish tax authorities in October 2013, the smallest of these are sometimes referred to as “garage importers”. Despite this staggering number, the country’s three largest supermarkets control an estimated 83% of total sales, according to a report from Meininger's Wine Business International.
Perhaps it was this highly fragmented market that drove Heini Zachariassen to device what may be the most popular wine app, Vivino, in 2010. Just last month Zachariassen announced a $25 million investment by Christophe Navarre, the CEO of Moët Hennessy. The impact of such cash injection in the Danish or the international wine market is hard to forecast yet, but what is clear is that Zachariassen is determined to make Vivino a major player in wine sales to private consumers.
After some years with a focus on New World wines, the Danish consumer is returning to Europe, according to Meininger’s. “There is an increasing demand for wine from northern Italy, southern France and Spain,” the report concludes.
“The Danish market has been influenced by leading Spanish players like Muga, Torres and Faustino”, says Simon Olesen, a restaurateur and sommelier based in Copenhagen. Danes tend to think that Spanish wine is mainly produced by large companies, thus the trend of natural wines seems to be at odds with the Spanish wine category as a whole.
What really sets Denmark apart from its Nordic neighbours is the visibility and market acceptance of natural wine. The natural wine movement was championed by restaurants in Copenhagen such as Noma (Strandgade, 93) whose dogmatic approach to rediscovering local produce resulted in a light, vegetable-driven cuisine with natural being the movement’s byword. Noma was (and is) not alone in serving natural wines with fine cuisine. Restaurants such as Relæ (Jægersborggade 41), Amass (Refshalevej 153) and Geranium (Per Henrik Lings Allé 4), are doing the same.
“When I look to the future, I see evolution, innovation and a movement towards a more minimalistic approach,” reckons Søren Ledet, wine director at Geranium.
Our recommendations have a good mid-sized selection of Spanish wines. When browsing through wine lists in Copenhagen it’s rare to find selections that don't belong to the same style, such as Escoda-Sanahuja, Mendall, Els Jelipins, Partida Creus and Loxarel. All of them are excellent small and mid-sized producers of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Big wineries like Torres and Faustino are generally found in supermarkets.
Manfreds is an intimate wine bar with strong ideas about food and wine. Dishes are served to be shared at the table. Manfreds is a great place to discover Spanish natural wines —bottles from the most famous producers such as Escoda-Sanahuja and Mendall are intermingled with rare drops such as the rich and meaty rosé from Vinos Patio in Castilla-La Mancha (2014 Vinos Patio Rosé, 375 kronor, around €50).
“Our wines are made by farmers who spend most of their energy in the field with as little interference in the process after pressing the grapes as possible”, says Christian F. Puglisi, restaurateur at Manfreds.
Jægersborggade 40, Copenhagen. Phone: +45 36 96 65 93
Wine merchant Rosforth & Rosforth is behind this little gem of a wine bar, located right under the Knippelsbro bridge that connects Copenhagen to Christianshavn. Classic wine bar snacks such as charcuteries and cheese are paired with the natural style of wine that Rosforth & Rosforth is famous for. Besides Dominik Huber’s Terroir al Limit, Partida Creus and Loxarel, I found the very odd Airén from Esencia Rural in Castilla-La Mancha (2009 De Sol a Sol Blanco, 250 kronor).
53A Copenhagen Phone +45 72 14 82 28
Located on the 8th floor in Fælledparken, three-Michelin star Geranium enjoys one of the best views over Copenhagen and is run by Rasmus Kofoed, winner of Bocuse d’Or 2011. The team of sommeliers serve an exclusive selection of wines by the glass aided by a Coravin, a recent invention that lets to pour from a bottle of wine without removing the cork. A 10cl glass of Peter Sisseck's 2012 Flor de Pingus (special bottle with no added sulfites) is sold at 500 kronor.
One might think that the type of wines served at a three Michelin star restaurant would differ from a simple wine bar by the harbor; not in Copenhagen, at least if we focus on their selections of Spanish wines. Wines such as Terroir Al Limit, Els Jelipins, Escoda-Sanahuja and Mendall, served at Geranium, are all found in many of the city’s wine bars.
Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, Copenhagen. Phone: +45 69 96 00 20
This is Copenhagen’s oldest wine shop. This is where physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr came to buy Bordeaux wine in the early 20th century, stored and bottled in the cellars below. At Kjær & Sommerfeldt you can still buy classic Spanish wines such as Bodegas Bilbaínas (Rioja) or Raimat (Costers del Segre), wines that have become increasingly rare in the city’s hip wine bars, such as Manfreds and Den Vandrette.
Gammel Mønt 4, Copenhagen
Denmark is a great place to explore Spanish natural wine, and the prices are very reasonable. In fact, there are probably more wine bars in Copenhagen that serve this kind of wines than in Madrid.