Chateau Vadå | Mats-Eric Nilsson

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Published in: 2018


Sweden is in the middle of the “Vodka Belt” and for hundreds of years we have been drinking spirits and beer, made from barley and potatoes that thrive in the Nordic climate. But today, Sweden is one of the world’s most wine-drinking countries (52% of consumption is bag-in-box). Chateau Vadå is a review of the wine industry written by the journalist Mats-Eric Nilsson, that brings up how today’s wines are made up with additives, how easy it is to fake the taste of oak barrels, how red wines are sweetened and how factory wines are launched under fictitious Italian names.

NOT SO NATURAL. It is difficult to produce original wine in industrial volumes, it usually must be sold in huge volumes to be profitable. A low-priced wine, to be sold in large volumes, is regardless of brand produced in the same industrial way, leading to standardized products. To make the wine more easily sold, it is manipulated in many ways.

BULK WINE ON THE RISE. The bulk wine is transported in flexitanks made of plastic which can hold up to 24,000 liters. The largest exporter is Spain, whose wine production is 55% bulk wine. Such wine is bought and sold in large quantities and then bottled or “boxed”. At the producer level, many wines are priced at SEK 8 per liter, while some suppliers charge SEK 4-5 per liter.

“Look at Systembolaget’s best-selling wines, many of which are nothing more than anonymous bulk wine packaged in bottles and boxes designed by well-paid design agencies in Sweden to order from wine importers. The same wines are sold all over the world in other designs. The only individual at the winery who knows which brand is sold at Systembolaget is the export manager who is responsible for Sweden”- Cruz Liljegren

RISING BLISS POINT. Since 1960, soft drink consumption per person has increased by 375% and candy consumption by 260%. Researchers in the food industry talk about bliss point – the level of sugar, fat or salt that makes us happy. The sugar levels in popular wines such as Amarone are a symptom of an increasing craving for sweets. Amarone may contain up to 12 grams of sugar per liter and at higher alcohol levels even more. In Italy, Amarone is an insignificant wine, but in the 1980s Amarone had an international breakthrough mainly in Scandinavia, Germany and the USA.

THE HIDDEN FACTORY. There are 25 methods and tricks that today’s winemakers have the right to use: (1) add sulfites, (2) gas with carbon dioxide (E290), nitrogen (E 941) or argon (E 938), (3) thermovinify, ( 4) use flash detente, (5) centrifuge, (6) add acid, (7) reduce acid, (8) add sugar, (9) vacuum distillate, (10) cryo extract, (11) apply reverse osmosis, (12) use spinning cone, (13) adding yeast, (14) influencing the fermentation temperature, (15) stopping the fermentation prematurely, (16) adding chips or shavings of oak, (17) clearing the wine, (18) filtering the wine, (19) coloring the wine , (20) treating the wine with blue fining, (21) adding the kiting glucan and chitosan, (22) stabilizing the wine, (23) adding additional E-numbers, (24) adding enzymes and (25) sweetening the wine.

ARTIFICIAL OAK BARREL. There is 900+ wines on Systembolaget’s [Swedish state-owned alcohol monopoly] shelves, 37% of the red range has an oak barrel character. The consumer is not told how many of these have been stored in oak barrels. The proportion is reasonably low, especially for cheaper wines. The barrels are expensive and many manufacturers resort to less expensive solutions created artificially.

FERMENTATION IS UNDERESTIMATED. About half of the c. 800 flavors in a wine arise during the fermentation process. Well into the 20th century, virtually all wine was spontaneous yeast. An overwhelming portion of today’s wine has been produced using industrial yeast (raw materials often come from vineyards but are produced using biotechnology). Although the yeast plays the main role, it often ends up in the shadow of the “sexier” grapes. According to EU rules, it is enough to have used 85% of the grape you have on the label to not have to state what the rest consists of.

ECO-WINES ARE NOT COMPLETELY NATURAL. Within the EU, organic producers are allowed to use 45 of the 63 additives and aids allowed in conventionally made wines. Until six years ago, eco-labeling was only about the grapes having to be organically grown. Prohibited in eco-contexts are certain technological processes, such as so-called electrodialysis. However, it is approved to use heat treatment, filtration, reverse osmosis and ion breaker resins.

CASTLE OR HUT? The word Chateau in the early 19th century was a term for a castle. Halfway into the 19th century, a classification of producers in Bordeaux was made and four particularly prestigious wine estates were characterized by Chateau. At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of “Chateau’s” had grown to 1,600 and today there are 7,000 wines with this word in the name in Bordeaux. According to EU rules, “chateau” in France may be used “for wines that come from a property that actually exists or is named with this very word”. However, the rules are so generous that a smaller hangar-like building in the country can be counted as a wine castle. The expression “mise en bouteille au chateau” means that the wine has been bottled at the castle in question. This can be done in a cooperative if the grapes are not mixed with others.

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