Mois: octobre 2011


In Finland, as you all know, there is no wine life outside of ALKO, ALKO being a state owned monopoly. However there are a few ways to get something else (and often much cheaper) from an other shop than ALKO. One of these ways is to visit the Tax-Free shops of the two main ferry companies that connects Finland and Sweden via Ahvenanmaa/Åland.

As I visited recently both of these lines, I can provide you with some advise about the food and wine aspect of the trip. In term of prices, VL is slightly cheaper than TS. In term of service and quality of the stay, TS is above: the boat is more modern, cleaner, bigger. As for food, this gets difficult.

I would say that eating on Silja is a bit better. Not outstandingly better, but a bit. It is also a couple of euro more expensive. For example, the buffet is a bit more varied but the quality is the same (eg the tomatoes-mozzarella are exactly the same). And advantage to Silja for the nicer dining room.

But now we come to our point: the wine. First, in the restaurants.

The wine selection available in the restaurants on TS boats is vast and well priced. However few wines stands out. Many are from mass producers, very little exclusivity. It is rather disappointing when you consider the general standard of the ship, which aims at displaying luxury. VL on the other hand and despite the old fashioned look of the restaurant offers a great if not fantastic selection. Pio Cesare’s Barolo, Dom Pérignon Champagne (at a stunning 94€ the bottle), Zind-Humbrecht… there is no comparison as for the quality of the choice. Clear advantage to VL

When it comes to the duty free, this is utterly a shame for TALLINK-SILJA. VIKING LINE has maybe twice the number of references (and twice less space to display them) and a much more interesting selection. I would advise almost nothing from SILJA. From VL, you can buy Zind-Humbrecht, Remundo Palacios, Taittinger, Dom Pérignon, Pio Cesar or the iconic OCIO by Cono Sur and a bunch of exceptional wines. Almost everything aside the usual basic stuff is worth tasting.

As for spirits, there is again no comparison. SILJA offers mainly second category Cognac and a few standard whiskies when VIKING can provide you with Hennessy XO, Hine XO (a wonderfull and cheap one) as well as Rémy-Martin XO and a big selection of top end whiskies.

So if you are a wine fan, you do not need to hesitate one minute: pick VIKING LINE. But keep in mind that a boat is one of the worst place to store wine, so be careful to choose only the newest vintages are latest releases. The effect of the boat traveling is that the wine ages faster. It is not necessarily a problem in the end but it is something to take into account. I can tell you an interesting story about that. Around 1710 a writer, Barrelier de Bitry, notes that Bordeaux wines (which tended to be harsh in their youth… you can imagine how awful they would taste for us!) gets better after a boat trip. Therefore some Château have shipped wine just for the purpose of aging them better. According to recent experiences, the idea is that 3-6 month on a boat is equivalent to 2-3 years in a cellar. The positive aspect is that wines that require some aging will benefit from the treatment. But cheap, easy drinking wines are likely to get bad faster. On the contrary spirits are not affected by the constant movement of the boat.


VIKING LINE: Musica en el Camino 2009 by Martin Codax (Spain, Rioja)

Today I offer to my Finnish readers a treat from the baltic see. As I have been visiting both Viking Line and Tallink-Silja Line, I was enticed to speak about their wine offer. But first, I will comment on one specific bottle available on the red ships.

Musica en el Camino 2009 by Martin Codax (Spain, Rioja)

Bodegas Martin Codax is kind of a « newcomer ». The company started in the 1980’s in Rias Baixas. Since then, it has spread in north-west Spain and offer now wines from Bierzo, Ribera del Duero or even Rioja. Their range, being modern in the concept (fruit driven, easy drinking, reasonable use of oak), is very consistent. Musica en el Camino 2009 is their simplest Rioja and by simple, I still mean really good!

This wine is a classic Tempranillo from Rioja Alta (one of the best part of the Rioja). Wines from this region tend to be lighter and more elegant. It is cleverly aged in a mix of american and french barrels: american oak brings more spiciness and more extra aromas, like coco or toffee (very useful for basic wines) but can easily cover the wine and turn it into a very heavy, awkward beverage. Color is a nice red. Nose is subtle, there is dark fruit, there is a hint of coco, vanilla. This is very smooth, nothing that spikes. Mouth is delicate and yet intensely perfumed, quite long. This is a very solid wine that you will find at a very attractive price on VL. It is not design to age but you can keep it safely for a couple of years.

Wineops’ rating: 77/100 ; 0 0

NB: I tasted both 2008 and 2009, the wine is very consistent over the year, as you can expect for this type of wine.

Crémant d’Alsace Brut by Domaine Pfister (France, Alsace)

Il est triste qu’ayant dit « crémant », l’image de ce vin ait déjà souffert. Le Crémant est un peu une catégorie fourre-tout. Etant donné la réglementation assez lâche qui régit ces vins, il est possible de trouver une très large gamme de vins, allant de la bulle indigente et indigeste au meilleurs effervescents. La méthode d’élaboration est celle de la deuxième fermentation en bouteille, qui est la même qu’en Champagne. La grande différence d’avec cette fameuse région va résider dans le temps minimum de stockage en bouteille avant dégorgement, qui est de 9 mois, contre 15 en Champagne.

Ce crémant en question, du Domaine Pfister, est un blanc de blanc puisque réalisé à parts égales à partir de Chardonnay et d’Auxerrois. Il a séjourné 24 mois sur latte, ce qui excède largement le minimum requis mais constitue une durée intéressante pour permettre d’exploiter le potentiel de la méthode de seconde fermentation en bouteille : en effet, au cours d’un séjour prolongé sur latte, les levures vont se dégrader par autolyse et libérer dans le vin une grande quantité de composés aromatiques.

Au nez, le blanc de blanc s’exprime avec les fruits blancs, les fleurs et la fraîcheur. La complexité est bonne et l’intensité est là aussi. En bouche, là encore, la fraîcheur de l’assemblage, du fruit et un dosage bien senti livrent un vin équilibré, plaisant et fort apéritif. A l’aveugle, il a réellement quelque chose du Champagne, sans doute dû à son long séjour sur latte. L’effervescence est bonne mais pourrait durer un peu plus. En somme, nous tenons ici un très bon crémant et surtout un excellent rapport qualité prix (9,5€). Par ailleurs, sa parenté avec son prestigieux cousin vous permettra de ne pas dérouter vos convives.

note Wineops : 70/100 ; 0 0

Une bonne référence à connaître, tout à fait adapté à l’usage apéritif et festif qu’on attend de ce type de vin. En repas, il pourra jouer une partition intéressante sur les entrées légères à base de fruits de mer ou de poisson cru.

Crémant d'Alsace Brut by Domaine Pfister