Tasting Wine: Modavi Boblen 2011, Danish sparking wine

What if I told you there was such a thing as Danish wine? What if I told you that Danish wine was not only a real concept, but also used to refer to wines grown, produced and bottled in Denmark? What if I told you Danish wine is not just a hobby project for the few and dedicated, but a slowly booming industry? Would you believe me?

What, then, if I told you that all of the above are in fact true, and that I recently purchased myself a bottle of locally produced, Danish, sparkling wine with the intent to review? Would you believe me? Chances are by now you would, dear reader. I am, after all, nothing if not curious and at times downright courageous about the things I consume.

But… Danish wine? That’s new, right? And somewhat of a joke, right?

Yes, Virginia, there is Danish wine…

Well, no, not exactly, and not entirely. Obviously, with Denmark being a reasonably cold, reasonably wind-swept and oft-times cloudy and dark Scandinavian country, conditions haven’t always been suitable for wine growing – and they still are far from perfect. But with global temperatures on the rise (who said global warming was good for nothing?), we’re now at a point where wine grapes can actually grow in Denmark. And with a lot of work going into improving, cross-breeding and toughening up grape varietals for colder, rougher climates, we’re now at a point where certain varietals can actually thrive in Denmark.

Modavi Boblen 2011Huh, Danish wine… Who’d have thunk?! Seems legit enough, though.

If there’s one thing we Danes are generally happy about it’s doing something for the sake of “well, because we can, dammit!” – and as such, quite a few brave and dedicated souls have now taken to planting vines with the intent of producing (drinkable) wine! Many of these dedicated souls are hobbyists, mind you, people who plant a few vines in their back gardens or on a small stretch of land. I know a few such souls, it turns out, I admire such souls, and if my buddy Frandsen has things his way, I will be one such soul myself quite soon.

But I digress… There are actually a few other more serious contenders out there. Recent (2012) approximations reveal a steadily climbing number of about 80 commercial producers of Danish wine, quite a step up from the two (!) producers registered in 2001, the year after the EU officially recognized Denmark as a wine producing area. Danish wine apparently isn’t just fun and games anymore. Some producers, most notably so Skærsøgaard Winery and Frederiksdal Cherry Wine are actually trying to raise a profit and build a reputation here. And I find that absolutely exhilarating! Danish wine? Who’d have thunk?!

But is Danish wine any good?

Well, good question that, and until very recently I had no idea how to answer it. Chances are it’s more than likely, well, different, to put it diplomatically. With only about 15 years of experience to lean on and growing conditions being far from perfect, Danish wine makers really have some pretty tough odds against them. But then again, Danes often seem to thrive on being the underdog.

Further toughening the odds for Danish growers is the fact that while global warming is doing its best (and that’s probably not a good thing), the Danish climate is nowhere near hospitable enough for many of the rock stars and divas of the wine world. Where central and southern Europe have their Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling, we get the weird cousins with strange sounding names such as Rondo, Regent, Cabernet Cortis, Orion and Solaris. The former three being popular red grapes, the other two popular green ones. Those, and others, are what we have to rely on up here, if we don’t change our minds and move entirely to fruit wine production as some upcoming Danish wine makers have done.

But fruit wine is definitely another post. We’re here today to find out if traditionally produced, Danish made wine can actually be any good. Well, can it? Only one way to find out and that’s by procuring and tasting a bottle.

Getting hold of Danish wine

Even with production on the rise, Danish wine is very much still a niche production, and the prices of production up here are generally not, uh, favorable as compared to other places in Europe or around the world. Add to that the fact that general interest in Danish wine is going up along with people’s willingness to spend a little extra on unique products, and you suddenly find yourself in a bit of a monetary predicament.

There’s Danish wine to be had out there, but it’s in limited quantities, it’s available through few selected outlets and the prices are through the roof. Prices upwards of DKK 200 per bottle is not uncommon, and DKK 200 basically enough for an entry level Bordeaux, Bourgogne or Champagne wine on a good day. But then, there’s a lot of entry level Bordeaux out there. Danish wine? Not so much. Obviously you’re paying for the curiosity factor and not merely quality here, and for being able to serve and enjoy something that’s local and unique. If you can even find it, that is!

I myself had been searching for an interesting and affordable bottle of local wine to try for a while, and I finally found one when I attended a recent event showcasing local produce (more on that and other stuff I picked up here) where I ran into Modavi Wine, an ultra local producer of Danish wine.

Thomas HermanYou can find a lot of things at local food fairs, including but not limited to TV chefs and Danish wines

Modavi is short for “Moderne Dansk Vin” or “Modern Danish Wine” for the non-danish speaking audience. This somehow implies that there would be such a thing as classic Danish wine, but let’s just leave it at that. Behind the name is an up and coming producer of Danish wine operating out of two locations: one near my home town of Kolding, Denmark and another in my home away from home, the fair town that I work in, Fredericia. Their range of wines include everything from ordinary table wines over a mock Ice Wine (made by picking and freezing grapes rather than waiting for the grapes to freeze naturally on the vines) to what really caught my eye: a sparkling dry, red wine made from Rondo grapes, a popular red varietal here in Denmark.

The little half bottle of 2011 sparkling Rondo, cockily named Boblen (The Bubble), caught my eye not only because it was the most interesting and slightly weird bottle in the lineup, but also because it was, by and large, the most affordable option. Not knowing if the product was any good or if Danish wine was even really my thing, shelling out a mere DKK 100 for a half bottle really seemed the wisest investment at the time. After a mere split second of consideration, I ended up bagging, paying for and coming home with the nice, little, half bottle of Boblen 2011 Vintage bubbles pictured above.

It was then only a matter of finding an excuse for popping the bottle and giving it a taste which proved easy enough as my excuse ended up being something along the lines of “well, because…” And so, on a nice, sunny, early spring afternoon, I teamed up with my good friends Malene and Emelie to give my first Danish wine a try. I chose these two lovely ladies as my co-tasters mainly because they were my “dates” at the event where I picked up the wine and secondly because girls love bubbles and red things, I figured, and consequently they’d be able to help provide some helpful input and tasting notes.

Tasting Danish wine for the first time

On the day in question, I approached the bottle with equal parts skepticism and excitement. Would this be any good? Could this be any good? I honestly had my doubts, but at the same time I was dying to find out.

The first thing that strikes you about Modavi Boblen is the color. It’s a deep, dark almost ripe cherry red, something you almost never see in sparkling wines – outside of the Brachetto d’Acqui region in Italy anyway. It was so dark, in fact, that the mere sight of the wine was enough to make at least one of these lovers of traditional sparkling wines (that would be yours truly) go “huh?”

But looks can be deceiving and we were here to give things a try, not to stare at them dumbfounded, so carefully into a couple of my Luigi Bormioli Champagne flutes, the contents of the bottle went.

Modavi Boblen 2011First ever taste of Danish wine, and a sparkling one at that!

Having had a look at the bottle the wine arrived in, I had no assumptions or hopes that the carbonation would be natural, and in fact the pour confirmed this. Boblen poured with an aggressive and quickly fading hiss of large, violent, artificial bubbles, but with that being said, it also poured a very, very pretty sight of deep red with a pretty yet quickly fading white head of bubbles.

The smell was deeply fruity, fresh and actually quite enticing in a not too terribly complex manner. The taste was, well… Better than expected!

What immediately hit your tongue was a blast of blackberry followed by a not unpleasant acidic bitter twang of red currant, some slight tannic notes and a hint of stony minerals. All things considered, it was a bit one-sided, I’ll give you that, but what notes it hit, it did hit very well. And those particular notes, by the way, hit me right in my childhood memories: This reminds me of my beloved grandmother’s home-made red currant lemonade mixed with sparkling mineral water. A refreshing treat she used to serve at the height of my childhood summers, and that in my book is a pretty good thing. One-sided or not.

Modavi Boblen 2011If I could say just one thing. It’s gorgeous, really, really gorgeous…

My lovely co-tasters, by the way, seconded the comparison and agreed that the experience was thrilling, exciting and new, as well as surprisingly positive without being overly complex. It was unanimously agreed that Danes, surprisingly enough, could actually produce drinkable and oddly exciting wine experiences. But where does that leave us in terms of grading and recommend ability?

Thoughts on Modavi Boblen 2011

Nostalgia and personal memories aside, from a strict quality and value for money point of view, Boblen 2011 was probably not worth the price tag. That is if you compare it directly to other sparkling wine experiences available in the same price bracket.

But that being said, this comparison may not be entirely fair. Danish wine production is still in its infancy with the oldest players having probably a maximum of 20 years of experience growing grapes under difficult conditions. Add to that an expensive production process and quite startup investments needed to get going, and you’ll quickly see why Danish growers have a hard time competing with seasoned, established wine producers from classic wine-producing countries.

Had this wine been made by a standard producer from a standard wine region, I’d have never bothered purchasing it again. But with this being a local effort and bearing all of the above in mind, I probably would bother seeking it out again to serve as a curiosity and a tribute to local producers laughing in the face of tradition. If you get the chance, Modavi Boblen is worth seeking out just for the fun of it, the oddness factor, and – last but not least – to show your support for the growing and up-coming business that is wine making in the weirdest and roughest of conditions.

While I’m forced to score this wine pretty low, this experience brought me more joy and more fun than many other recent wine experiences and it certainly rose above the general mess of very standard win experiences. Keep up the good work, guys!

Score: 75 / 100

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