To please my international friends that showed great interest in my article on Vexebo Vin, I decided to give it a go and make a separate article in English about my newest wine discovery.
Denmark might not be the most famous wine producing country with a modest quota of around 100 hectares. Today this quota is reaching its limit with approximately 80 grape growers and a handful of (more or less) commercial wine producers. Although Denmark has a fairly long tradition with organic and biodynamic agriculture, most of the grapes grown here are based on conventional farming methods. When the Milan family bought 10 hectares of farming land 10 years ago, they decided to convert to organic farming, and their son Daniel Milan got the opportunity to play with one hectare for grape growing. Around this picturesque vineyard cute, happy Gotland sheep stumble around until they continue their life cycle as sheepskin, wool – or tender meat on a plate.
He is an artist by trade, and Daniel says that first and foremost he enjoys using his hands, and this was the start of his wine adventure. Also, his father, a biologist and the family as such, always preferred to buy organic whenever they could. So doing wine making different would just not make sense. In the beginning the objective was to make an organic wine of high quality, but eventually, Daniel decided to be even more radical leading him onto the natural path. After a successful pilot experiment he decided to abandon added yeast and sulphur in 2013 as he feels this gives a more vibrant and deep expression in the wine. Today there is no going back, but while the nothing added, nothing taken away philosophy, Daniel is not Taliban about it; if it is necessary in due to the Danish cool climate he will intervene and for instance chaptalize instead of throwing all the grapes away.
The grapes and the vineyard
Vexebo Vin is located a bit north of Copenhagen, and it is in the vineyards that Daniel can withdraw and find peace. Mainly he has four types of grapes. The whites Solaris and Johannitor and the reds Regent and Monarch, all hybrids adapted to the Nordic cool climate.
The years of experience has left Daniel sure that it is the white grapes that thrives the best at Vexebo. Therefore the red plants are exchange for the white ones whenever they need to be replaced. The first plants were planted in 2007, while the first wine was produced in 2010. While 2010 and 2011 gave extremely low yields due to night frost, 12 was cool and wet. 2013, 2014 and 2016 on the other hand has had close to perfect conditions, but 2015 was the worst wine year across Denmark since they got their status as a wine producing country in 2000. There was no way out of the difficult decision it is for a natural wine maker to chaptalize the wines unless it would all be left to spoil. The philosophy remains, however, to add nothing and to take nothing away.
Making natural wines means that you have to be extra cautious about hygiene, and the wine making is done at the experienced Arneiss, closer to Copenhagen. I asked Daniel how an experienced, conventional wine maker as Arneiss considered his more radical approach, and Daniel said that they are interested and sometimes puzzled, but always positive. So, nothing what you would expect from a progressive wine maker in a traditional wine making country, I suppose. I’m also sure that the good experience they’ve had with Vexebo Vin has contributed to the understanding. Quality will conquer all.
The philosophy of Vexebo Vin is above all based on quality. The wine should be pleasant, good, have depth and be completely without faults. After the tour of the vineyard where we got to try the refractometer that shows potential alcohol level based on sugar content in the grapes, we went to the tasting room in the old barn with expectations of the yet unknown. Danish wine is not by any means something that I’ve had a lot of. Basically my experience is a glass of rosé I got at the cozy wine bar Vinhanen last summer.
Two lazy cats were the only animals currently occupying the old barn that also serves as the tasting room where we would taste wines from the grape Solaris from 2012, 2014 and 2015. While 2012 was floral and had the most elegant nose of elderflower and ripe apples, the taste was somewhat more fragile than the 2014. Daniel attributes this to the use of cultural yeast in 2012, while the concentrated and somewhat more complex 2014 seemed more alive. Where the acidity had softened since the release of 2012, the 2014 was already well balanced and fresh, even with the young age. This could of course be due to the vintage, the yeast or other factors. What is for sure is that they were both good wines, surprisingly good, I have to say.
2015 was different. Two weeks of skin contact, 8 months on the lees gives a complexity I like very much. The fruitiness still lingers, while you also have that sense of nuts and vibrancy which make me realize why I love orange wines so much with its tannins and depth. Its a wine that demands something from me intellectually.
Tasting Solaris for the first time like this; naked and natural is a unique experience that left me thirsty for more.
Vexebo Vin is not available outside Denmark, but you can pick up a bottle of the modest production of 1000-1500 bottles yearly next time you pass by Copenhagen (which you should). Stop by Le Pinard at Torvhallerne and if you’re lucky you might even come across Daniel there. Otherwise you will find the wine in some of the best restaurants in Copenhagen like Relæ, Amass og Geranium. I think that says something about the quality.
Daniel is of the opinion that not everything is better when it gets bigger. I’m afraid it could be more difficult in the years to come to find Vexebo’s wines due to an increase of demand, but I’m willing to go pretty far to try!