Global warming, resistant grape varieties, ingenuity and a touch of madness allow Norway to push the limits of viticulture and place the country on the world wine map. Located between the 58th and 62nd North parallels, its vineyard is the most northern in the world!
Lilliputian by the size of its vineyard with barely 50,000 vines spread over approximately 10 hectares, Norway intrigues. Who produces wine there? And under what conditions?
We met Erik Lindas, president of the Norwegian Winegrowers Association and founder of the Skudenest Gaard estate, to learn a little more.
Located in the town of Søgne (Vest-Agder), the winery is actually located in the extreme south of Norway, on the 58th parallel north. This is where the sunshine is maximum.
"Each region of the world, with its climate, has its specificities. With cold and sunny summers, Norway has potential regarding sparkling and white wines."
During the week, Erik is site manager. In his spare time, and with the support of his wife May, he endorses the winegrower's cap. Together, they take care of the farm (sheep, bees).
Their estate was born in 2012 when Erik planted 400 vines of Solaris(1) in white and another 400 of Rondo(1) in red; to which he will later add a few vines of Cabernet Cortis(1) in red.
A production of a few dozen bottles a year only for those appreciating the rarity. "It is easier to make and sell wine in Norway than in France. People are lining up to buy one of our bottles, sometimes without even tasting the wine."
With an annual temperature of 8°C (i.e. averages of 1°C in February and 16°C in July), the major challenge for the vines remains frost, late in spring and early in autumn.
Thus, the majority of the Norwegian vineyard is planted with grape varieties resistant to cold, humidity and diseases.
The Rossafidja estate is a lovely example and testifies to the growing enthusiasm of the Norwegians for viticulture. No commercial production here, just a hobby for its founder Kaare Hjorth.
A charming 69-year-old retiree with a passion for nature. After having tried fruit wines, Kaare created his vineyard in 2004, in the garden of the family property; facing the North Sea.
360 vines planted with Rondo, Solaris and a touch of Madeleine Angevine (white); barely producing 125 bottles per year.
A real treasure. Fresh and unpretentious wines that make Kaare happy and proud. Between his orchard, hives and vineyard, Kaare doesn’t stop for a minute. "I have never felt so good; I love retirement."
On the 59th north parallel, in the town of Hurum, is one of the most promising wine projects. Lund Vingaard was created in 2014.
Planted on a hillside with around 600 vines (Solaris, Rondo, Bolero and Léon Melot), it majestically faces the Oslo fjord, on a slope facing south-east.
The vineyard soils are covered with plastic sheeting, this preserves a few precious degrees of temperature for the vines; thanks to the reflection of the sun. Well contemplated!
Behind this project, three men as crazy as they are adorable (from left to right on the photo): Lars Petter Lokken who dreamed for a long time to do wine in Norway, Danilo Costamagna, an Italian full of energy who joined the project 3 years ago and Rune Eriksen, a knowledgeable wine lover. It’s in his garden that their vineyard grows.
Thank you to Skudenest Gaard, Lund Vingaard and Rossafidja estates for their warm welcome. Thank you also to Julie Chéné Nyheim MW, Scandinavian Wine Director at Altia, for her time and precious advice.
(1) These three grape varieties - which are part of the so-called "interspecific" or "resistant" varieties and which are cross between European and American resistant grape varieties - allow the cultivation of grapes in more extreme areas, such as Norway, where climatic conditions put the plant to the test.