Friday, 8 April 2016

Natural Wine Joints in Helsinki: Part 2

Click here to read Part 1

Back with a few more important natural wine joints in Helsinki. Hopefully these posts will help readers who are looking for a place to drink nice wines, specifically so called "natural" style wines. Part 1 of this post has received quite good reactions so far and hopefully this one will, too. Well, writing in English, I hope this blog guides also tourists traveling to Helsinki who are wine aficionados at the same time.

Pekka, sommelier of Restaurant Grön, right before the service we had our chat. In Grön, you can check the 'wines by glass' written on the wall
Restaurant Grön: Opened relatively recent, and became first of all the favorite of the people from the restaurant industry, Grön is a restaurant focusing on local and organic products. Extremely delicious cooking is accompanied by a wine list highly dominated by organic, biodynamic and natural wines, which also has some classics. Pekka, the sommelier of Grön, had started working with classics in Restaurant GW Sundmans but two years ago he had bumped into naturals and now mainly selling natural wines, "with of course a certain quality level", he adds. Almost everything sold by glass, you can try many interesting wines during your dinner, but if you are still looking for some vintage champagne or any other fine wine, ask Pekka, he will have enough to make us all happy. I think the most fun thing about natural wines is that you can easily play with the color codes of food&wine pairing, as Pekka agrees and gives an example; "I did pair Fatalone Primitivo 2011 (a robust red) with our celery dish and the impossible looking pairing was just great."

Yeah. we all go Grön!

Carelia Brasserie & Viinikellari: Located across the National Opera House in Töölö, Carelia is established in 1996. Since then Tuomo and Kai, who first joined Tuomo in 1998, have been running together the wine list for some time, a list with about 200 labels which 45-50 labels out of them are more organic, biodynamic and natural production. Now Tuomo is more at the importing side of the business and Kai is taking care of the management. Carelia serves a French influenced menu with very reasonable prices, accompanied by its very nice and classic ambiance. Kai, the restaurant manager and sommelier of Carelia, tells me when I ask: "What is natural wine for you? -For me, I don't really care about how much sulfites are used during the winemaking, for me it is more the growing method, how the plants are treated, and of course, I would prefer it made with natural yeast." He also tells that the guests started to ask more and more about natural wines on these days and hopefully that is a growing interest.

Kai and Tuomo in Carelia

Organic wines of Eva Fricke is "hot" at the moment in Carelia, Eva was just here in Helsinki last Monday for Riesling&Co event also. Click here to see what the "very Goode man" says about her wines

Carelia is also a perfect place to have a glass of wine before or after opera shows. You can stop by for a glass anytime and ask Kai what wines to taste at that day, or maybe their new sommelier Laura will be guiding you what to chose the best of your need. In Carelia, wine prices start from 45€ to up.

Restaurant Spis: Chosen to be the "Restaurant Of The Year 2015/Vuoden Ravintola 2015" , Spis is a 18-seat restaurant serving "almost" only natural wines from very small producers. Jani, the sommelier and the restaurant manager of Spis, first had started to get more into natural wines about 6 years ago. He explains their cuisine as "Nordic and French technicwise", which is not in extremely strict lines. They also have past experiences of molecular cuisine, Jani says.

In Spis before service. Jani has coffee, I am the one next to the bottles :) 
Even though it is possible to order wines by bottle, there is no wine list here. Wine pairings are offered during the dinner which are 36€ and 40€ for the short (4 courses) and long menu (6 courses). The wine portions follow the food portions in size. Jani is regularly storing wines for few reasons, like aging or waiting for the right dish/moment for that specific wine and the wine line up might change from one week to another, but certain wines for certain dishes always remain. I asked Jani "do you think natural wine is just a trend or more?", he replied: " For now it seems more like a trend, it came, but absolutely it is something to stay." Then Jani asked me: "What is the spectacular difference between commercial and natural styles for you?" I do like all types of wines with a certain quality and deliciousness, but my answer for this question was: " Besides the flavor, the risk the winemakers take is the biggest difference according to me." Because I think, you might probably end up with a loss of a one-year-work, or end up with "a terrific wine" as Kristian Blanco, "the natural man", or "the man of the natural", or "the man in the natural wine bottle", describes :)

While my visit in Spis, we tasted few bottles together with Jani before the service, surprisingly, one of the bottles which is normally a very good wine, Michael Gindl Buteo 2015 was very weird to Jani, I also wanted to taste to see the problem, the extreme lack of acidity and the colorless-flavorless liquid in the bottle was nothing like wine, but water :) Obviously his colleague Mark did have some time last night to fill up the bottle with water and pack the closure very nicely. Hah! That was a good one, Mark, the bottle seemed like never opened before! :)

Here some labels of the many wines available right at the moment in Spis

La Maison: Since last autumn, the very dear friend, such a gentleman! :) , Toni Aikasalo is taking part in making the wine list in Restaurant La Maison and this relatively new French cuisine restaurant actually has lots of natural wines in their list. There is a nice selection of Champagnes with many of them being organic, biodynamic and natural style production. Also a few PetNat options available. The white and red wine selection includes some of the best natural wines available in Finland at the moment, and classics like Joly, Mosse and Villemade. You can also stop by in La Maison for a glass... or two.

Pictured: A very happy sommelier in its natural habitat

After all, natural wines are not "better" than any other good wine, but definitely something different to try. It is a different category that is not "new". Many well-known producers have been practising organic, biodynamic and natural methods for many years already. As Jani of Spis mentioned, I would really like natural wines to be something that "came to stay", some organic, biodynamic and natural wines might not give any special idea about these categories but some of them can be amazing and surprising, terrific and extremely delicious as well. Give a try if you haven't yet.

This might be continued.

May your glass be filled with good natural wines. Greetings.

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