The Bjäre peninsula - Bjäre Wine Country
Text and photos by Richard and Maral,
OnePlanetJourney | Sustainable Tourism & Luxury Travel
The region, known for the summer resorts of Båstad and Torekov, is also famous for potatoes, tennis, and now wine. But, what makes Bjäre a good terroir for winemaking?
The beauty and serenity of Bjäre peninsula
The peninsula sits atop a ridge with its breathtaking green rolling hills that border the vast sea. A fortunate micro climate and well-drained soil help in generating high-quality produce. There are no frosts and much less hail risk, otherwise a winemaker’s nightmare. Bjäre’s unique circumstances have positioned it as Sweden’s potato district. Potatoes here are like royalty, producing Sweden’s earliest harvest with vertigo-inducing auction prices. Yet, this landscape is now experiencing a new chapter, the emergence of vineyards. Vintners are recognising the potential of these lands for cultivating wines with a dedication to innovation, sustainability, and excellence, enriching the legacy of the land.
Welcome along on our Bjäre winery tour:
Vejby Winery - Innovation through heritage
The beret-wearing Jeppe Appelin, owner and founder of Vejby Winery, the first commercial vineyard in the region, is one of those characters you never forget meeting in a lifetime. A local patriot, his talents are many. Artist, architect, entrepreneur, and now a winemaker. And I’ll add, master storyteller. You don’t leave his winery without a smile, a delightful aftertaste of orange wine and Georgian choir music echoing in your head. Let’s connect the dots.
Red wine - If the Danes can do it, so can we
Jeppe worked as an architect in Copenhagen when he discovered wineries popping up in Denmark 18 years ago. Intrigued by the phenomenon, he did field research to find out they had planted green and blue grapes, including the piwi. With land he had bought earlier, he wanted to explore wine-making himself. And, not shying away from a challenge, his heart told him to go for red wine, despite all logic pointing to white for a climate like Sweden. The heart won out. He’d show the Danes it could be done further north as well, chose 5 blue grapes; Regent, Cabernet Colonjes, Cabernet Vineta, Cabernet Cortis, and Pinotin, and got to work with 2000 plants in 2007. He doubled with architectural projects to fund the winery.
Jeppe Appelin dreams of orange
“All you need is passion, energy, and endurance for a crazy project like a vineyard in Sweden”, Jeppe says, advocating for the whole region through the Bjäre Wine Country network. Regardless of the climate and the challenging factors affecting the growth of the grapes, Jeppe considers Bjäre a good region for wine, since it sees less windy and rainy conditions compared to Denmark, and has more sun. The soil used to be at the bottom of the sea, a mixture of sand and clay. He believed it would work, akin to “a dragon taking off against the wind.”
Orange wine destiny
Jeppe reiterates that wine culture is created on vineyards. Hence, he’s opened up the winery for tastings, and turned harvest season into a fun local activity where 50-100 people come to help. He doesn’t want to become a one-trick pony, riding on the Solaris wave. Jeppe strives to satisfy the different palates of his visitors. He has a tremendous lust for experimentation and innovation, developing new wines every year, using a library of 25 strains of yeast, bio-dynamic methods for growing (certified by Demeter), and a multitude of storing techniques.
The Vejby wines - a broad offering
You can taste the sparkling Chambjierre Rosé, the Vejby Rosé, the Vejby Regent, the Artisan wines and many more of the award-winning bottles on offer. Expect well-balanced and refreshing wines. One of the recent awards comes from the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London, from 2021 and concerns the Gyllene Vejby, an orange wine. The fourth type, after white, rosé and red, now trends all over the world. It’s made from white wine grapes where the skin and seeds remain in contact with the juice. This creates the orange or amber hue. Gyllene Vejby is a mix of two Solaris varieties with long maceration (skin contact).
Perhaps karma ordained Jeppe to make orange wine. Turns out his partner, Fariba, comes from Iran, and her family used to produce a Persian orange wine in the old days. On the palate, it’s best described as off-dry and full-bodied. Bold, with hints of honey and orange citrus. The taste had us daydreaming about autumn walks amongst the trees.
Look to the East
The orange experience made Jeppe switch his source of inspiration from the West to the East. After all, orange wine originated in the ancient wine cultures of Georgia, Armenia, and the wider Caucasus. And with that came a huge challenge. Jeppe decided to go all in and produce it in the traditional way of the East, meaning big clay amphoras, the ones you often see in museums. That’s how wine-making and fermentation got started, and it’s still how they make it in Georgia today, where grape juice becomes wine by burying it underground for the winter in qvevris, the Georgian amphora, which is an egg-shaped earthenware vessel used for producing, ageing, and storing. It’s the world’s oldest wine production process, over 8000 years old, and a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage.
“God created water, man created wine,” says Jeppe, quoting Victor Hugo. “Wine demands a creative human,” he adds for good measure as we leave the bar, crossing the beautiful inner courtyard with a Victorian-style fountain, sitting space, and colourful lights hanging along the roof. We step through a creaking wooden door, and can’t believe our eyes and ears.
Jeppe has built a Marani (Georgian style wine cellar) by hand. In his quest to harvest the seeds of the new, he’s using the methods of the old, specifically nineteen 3-metre high qvevris from Georgia, weighing a ton each, all lined with beeswax. He spent ten months burying them in the ground on a raised floor. He lost 20 kilos in the process, and you must have to hear the story from his mouth. The vibe from Jeppe, the entertainer, is not to be missed.
A Georgian style wine cellar, Marani
News of his East-West wine meld made it to Georgia, where he earned the Gastronomy Ambassador designation. The Georgian Orthodox Church in Stockholm helped him inaugurate the Marani. The priest-led ceremony involved a dash of Holy Water, spreading incense, and chanting sacral music. It’s now an annual event with representation from the Georgian Embassy. As we clinked glasses of orange wine together with Jeppe, Georgian church tones reverberated throughout the cellar.