Hello, bonjour, and welcome to your new Bonner Private Wines video. So I thought today I'd give us an opportunity to travel a bit, a few minutes of escapism at least further and beyond what we usually do, talking about the wines that we bring you from all around the globe. With the club today, we are talking about what are possibly the five most unexpected winemaking locations from all around the world.
Those places you probably never knew and certainly would never have expected them to be making wine. And they will take us from tropical islands to some of the highest mountains in the world through cold and foggy vineyards in the UK. A tax haven in a cold part of Europe, yes, and beyond. Let's go.
French Wine... From Polynesia!
And I guess the French have to make wine on every territory that they rule, and perhaps if you knew that the island of Tahiti is part of what's called French Polynesia, you were, of course, expecting wine to be made there because it says French in the name. But did you really? We've talked about this in a previous video, but quality winegrowing normally can only happen in relatively narrow strips around the Earth, north and south, between the 30th and the 50th parallel, around the middle point between the equator and the poles.
It normally doesn't happen in the tropical conditions because it's too hot or humid and vines just go crazy and they don't produce good quality wine-grade grapes and it normally doesn't happen too much north or south because it's just too cold. It takes moderate temperatures to make good wine, generally speaking. And we'll also see later in this video that wine can actually be made way farther up north than we would have imagined.
But humans are resilient and persistent and they do love wine, so they do grow it everywhere. And I guess that's especially true for the French. So wine indeed is made in Tahiti, more specifically on a nearby atoll that is called the Rangiroa, in vineyards that are surround by coconut trees and white sand beaches. How does that sound?
I actually had once the opportunity to try a chardonnay from Tahiti, and it was not bad. It's actually pretty good, in fact. Of course, it doesn't need to be at a grand cru level like a fine Burgundy or Puligny-Montrachet or a top Bordeaux wine, as it of course sells locally to tourists who are already very satisfied enough with the heavenly living conditions.
So those wines don't need to be the best wines in the world. They sell locally to curious tourists who want to try the local plonk. And that's good enough. But still, how cool is this that they managed to make good wine in Tahiti?
The Bankers' Vineyards of Luxembourg
If I'm perfectly honest, I've often been told that Americans are really bad at geography, but you kind of see what Luxembourg is, do you?
What if you don't? Let's say that it's not an island in the Mediterranean. It's a tiny country that is stuck between North East of France, Belgium and Germany does that locate it better for you? And if you've heard about it, it's certainly more for its favorable tax rates and welcoming banks rather than for its importance on the international geopolitical scene or for its wine.
Right. Luxembourg is a very small country and it's pretty far up north in quite a cold area of Europe. That's not on paper, ideal for growing grape vines. Still, there's one small side of the country that has a border with Germany along the Mosel River. And yes, that's the same Mosel river that is so famous for flowing through acclaimed German wine countries as well.
You know, those delicious things that they make in Germany along the Mosel? Well, the same river, that small area to the south east of Luxembourg, somewhat like in Germany because it's along this river, has a milder and more favorable climate, allowing locals to grow vines and to make wines. So there's a 23 mile long wine road that you can cruise through.
You can take to visit the wineries following the river and bordered by about 3200 acres of vineyards making mostly riesling white wine similar to the German style. But they also make excellent sparkling wines there as well, I'm told.
Yet it's so small, those wines hardly ever get exported. They're all drunk locally, probably to welcome foreign investors looking at opening a bank account here. That's why you had never heard about it. Luxembourg wine. It's a thing. And now you know.
Rainy Wine Countries of Wales
All right. I must confess that personally, I'm not that familiar with Wales. I've never been there. I've been to England, Ireland, never Wales. So I was looking online for what is Wales famous for. Do you know? I heard personally about Wales from rugby because I follow rugby and I have in fact some horrible memories of a game I was attending with very unpleasant Welsh supporters.
But that's another story. Hotels.com says about the country, quote, “Wales is an absolutely beautiful country, famous for the rolling valleys and rugged mountains of its massive national parks. The people there are welcoming and friendly and known for the lyrical, lilting, their accent.” End quote. Sure, Wales is famous for this. Its accent and language that is very different, somewhat exotic.
The landscapes maybe not exotic, but beautiful landscapes. And for being a country part of the UK, it's more famous than this, than for its wine. You might have heard of English wine that's becoming very popular in Britain in particular. They drink most of it. They don't export it that much, but it's actually very good and it's increasing in quality and in demand.
But in England they make it in a rather sheltered and unexpectedly sunny part of the country to the south east of the island where it's quite sheltered. In that little corner, Wales is more to the north west, directly facing Ireland and the storms from the Atlantic. How on earth do they make wine in Wales? It turns out that the climate of Wales is okay for making certain kinds of wines with good drainage in the soil.
The winds from the sea, which somewhat protects from some diseases and a hilly landscape. Wales grows Pinot noir and Chardonnay as well as 18 other types of grapes. Surprisingly enough, the Romans introduced winemaking well some 2000 years ago, believe it or not. And now 15 wineries welcome visitors around the country, making mainly whites, of course, and some rosé sparkling wines and a little bit of red on the side.
The wine culture really has no borders, and it extends even to rainy Wales.
The Wine Culture of Tibet
Now, in case you didn't know, Tibet has a huge wine culture, a very ancient wine culture, in fact, and apparently everyone there is into it from the very young to the very old, the male, the females. Everyone loves wine in Tibet. It's a way to keep the bodies and hearts warm, I'm told.
And it's very important traditionally during celebrations as well. Did you know that although I must say and I'm not joking here, but of course I was talking about barley wine. Yes, the famed and traditional Tibetan barley wine is very important in the local culture, but not a wine made from grapes.
Since you're part of the Bonner wine club, you already know altitude is good — is great, in fact, for wine growing from grape growing, it produces rich, fantastic flavorsome grapes. And that's particularly true in Argentina. But it can also be true in Tibet. To be fair, the winemaking projects over there from grapes are rather anecdotal, with some relatively small vineyard areas that happen to have been planted at some point and they work quite well.
As an example, in September of 2018, it was announced that the Guinness World Records had officially announced that the highest vineyard in the world was now located officially in Tibet. It was in Argentina before, and I think the official record has returned to Argentina now, or is about to, because there’s fantastic, very high altitude vineyards in Argentina. But anyhow, they do manage to make wine in Tibet, not a lot, but they can.
I was also reading on decanter.com that quote “techniques used to cope with conditions over there include dry farming in spring, relatively late picking and irrigation systems imported from Israel.” Doesn't rain that much over there. There's even another notable project supported by the French company, luxury company called LVMH. Louis Vuitton, owner of Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, that makes high end Cabernet Sauvignon wine in Tibet. So this particular project is more on the Chinese side of historical Tibet in the north west and part of the Yunnan province. It's only about 20 miles from the Tibetan border. So it's not in Tibet, the country, but in historical Tibet. So wine is indeed made on the roof of the world.
Things are getting moving wine wise in the Himalayas.
Do They Make Wine in Sweden?
So we've done tropical wine, tax exempted wine, rainy wine, roof of the world wine. Let's talk about ice wine now, but not Canadian ice wine. That one you would have heard about already. And we're not actually talking about ice wine, proper sweet ice wine that you know, but we are talking about wine made in icy IKEA country. Yes, you've guessed it.
We're talking about wine from Sweden and no, it's not a wine you have to assemble yourself with screws and screwdrivers. It's bottle. It's ready to drink like everywhere else. But they do have strange names for them, like Klagshamn vineyard or Åhus. I'm assuming that's how you say it.
So needless to say, Swedish wine is not made to the north of Sweden. That's where Santa lives. Or maybe he lives in Norway. No one really knows, I think. But anyways, as we know up north, half of the year is one day and the other half is one night. So even with the global warming that's still not suitable for vine growing. Swedish wine is in fact made at the southernmost point of the Scandinavian Peninsula in a province that's called Scania or Skåne in Swedish, which has an annual average temperature of 47 degrees Fahrenheit, an average temperature in July of 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
But they managed to pull this off. And the global warming does help for this there. Expectedly the wine industry in Sweden is still very small, but actually growing thanks to the global warming and all the things. I'm sure there's over 30 different vineyards in the area. Their trick to make wine is to use a specially developed and selected grape varieties that are called hybrids and that can grow under very cold conditions.
Same trick they use in some parts of Canada and around the Finger Lakes of New York as well. Those grape varieties in Sweden are German bred grapes because the Germans are really good at developing new types of grapes. In Sweden, they use Solaris and Rondo if you want some names, those are white in red and so they can make some rosé as well.
And I'm told Swedish wine is decent. Fun fact or interesting fact at least, there's a monopoly in Sweden for the sales of alcohol, somewhat like they do in Canada, in Ontario or Quebec. You might have heard about this. You have to go through the government regulated retail system to sell alcohol, including wine there. So Swedish wineries, if you ever want to visit one, well, they can't really have a cellar door and sell you wine.
They have to go through the monopoly retailers like everyone else. So you have to buy those Swedish wines through the local retail in Stockholm or Haswell. Now, as you can imagine, Swedish wine still represents really just a fraction of a percent of the alcohol produced in Sweden. Vodka is still the big thing over there. Absolut-ly. Still, Swedish wine is a thing.
And I'll leave it here for today, I hope you enjoyed this little escape around the globe in the most unexpected winegrowing areas from around the world, even off the beaten tracks that we know outside of France, Italy, the US, South America, Argentina. The world of wine is indeed full of surprises and wonders. Thanks for watching. I will see you soon in the wonderful, indeed, world of wine.