Scandinavian Naturalists

Delicious wines from beer country


It is a true image, I’ll concede, but that’s not all they drink up north. The Scandinavian cuisine has been hauled as the next big thing by the likes of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, and sommeliers of top Nordic restaurants now put all their viking prowess to the task of exploring wines which match. This may be where you find the driver in the next global wine trend.

Danish restaurant Noma has been voted “Best Restaurant in the World” by Restaurant for two years running. In an old waterfront warehouse in the city of Copenhagen, chef and founder René Redzepi has reinvented Nordic cuisine. His love for foraging in the Scandinavian flora and fauna, taking the tastes of raw sea urchins, fermented gooseberries and pine shoots to new levels of molecular gastronomy, has created quite a challenge for wine matching. 
So what do the lucky few who receive a table here imbibe with their salad? 

“The common theme for everything the kitchen creates is a clean, fresh, honest taste,” explains head sommelier at Noma, Swede Pontus Elofsson. “To match this we pick wines defined by acid and minerality.” 

The areas favoring this light, fresh flavor profile are those that, just like chilly Scandinavia, have a long, cool growing seasons. Champagne, Loire, Mosel and Burgundy provide key options for these ephemeral foods. 

Not only do the flavor profiles need to match - the purity of the kitchen does as well.

“I am convinced that terroir comes though best in a wine if the wines are grown as naturally as possible and not manipulated in the cellar,” explains Elofsson. 

Thus, the wine list is dominated by “natural” wines, biodynamic or organic wines from small producers who make their wines with minimal intervention. And sure, natural wines might taste different than the produced, cookie-cutter wines many a consumer palate is used to. 

“The natural wines may be perceived as quite ‘special’ initially, but in combination with the flavors of the food we convince even the most doubtful of guests,” smiles Elofsson. 
With Noma as a trailblazer, the natural wine trend has taken Denmark’s capital by storm. Numerous restaurants are picking up the new, clean, locally sourced Scandi kitchen and adding their own spin, creating wine lists to match. 

Not everyone has the budget to pop over to Denmark to take this new kitchen and its fresh wine lists for a spin, but getting a feel for it requires less than a live-and-kicking sea urchin (okay, they don’t move much, but you catch the drift). Instead, make yourself a light dinner with locally sourced veggies and seafood with plenty of fresh herbs. Perhaps you can add a dandelion-leaf salad (definitely skip this if you use Roundup). Pair with one of the following wine suggestions taken from the wine lists of leading Danish restaurants including Noma, Geranium, Kødbyens Fiskebar, Relæ... Skål!


Champagne is an excellent food wine when done right. Before Anselme Selosse came along, it was said that the region did not lend itself to organic grape growing. Boy were they wrong. Try: Champagne Francoise Bedel - Dis, Vin Secret. This champagne may be unlike anything you have tried before. Not only meal worthy, it’s almost a meal in its own! Try serving in a white-wine glass.

Loire is a hit with natural wine fans with many good producers on the bandwagon. Mineral and light, this is an area to look closer at. Try: Domaine aux Moines Savennières Roche aux Moines. The only dry white from mother-daughter team Monique and Tessa Laroche is made from 100% Chenin Blanc. Deliciously mineral, oily and complex, this is a wine that ages, so look for older vintages and serve with white fish, sauteed local mushrooms, herbs and nuts. 

The natural wine movement has long had a stronghold in the southern parts of Burgundy, Beaujolais, where Gamay is grown. Stepping away from the aromatic yeasts and full-on carbonic maceration that produces synthetic banana wines, there are some excellent wines to explore here. Try: Morgon Cru Beaujolais from Domaine Marcel Lapierre. A fruity, lush and fresh natural wine from the legendary Marcel, an original member of the natural wine proponents dubbed the “gang of four.”

Mentioned in this article


  • Norway is a neat Wine Country! Check out:
    The site is Fairview's, but the girl is Norwegian!

    May 04, 2012 at 6:38 PM

  • Never had one yet ... from Norway I think will try but had to go and find one first I guess.

    May 04, 2012 at 11:51 PM

  • Snooth User: WZS
    430440 6

    Dear Erica
    Greetings from Copenhagen. Your article is not up to date. Noma has just been elected 3rd time the best 50th restaurants at Pellegrino list. Pontus is not working at Noma anymore.The pictures are not from the present Noma menu.
    Skål anyway.
    Best WS

    May 05, 2012 at 1:43 AM

  • Snooth User: elogical
    105008 1

    Not sure what is in that first picture, but it looks really awful. I tried your enlarge which really wasn't much of one. It looks like some horrible death of something, but really not appetizing or pleasant. I know you said something about sea urchins is that what it is? Next time you might want to consider captions. Otherwise the imagination goes wild. YUCK!

    May 05, 2012 at 6:11 AM

  • The top picture looks like mutilated mushrooms, before my mind jumped to something else.
    What was the chef thinking?
    Ah- the bloody battlefield before one dies and is sent to Valhalla in the muscled arms of a lovely Valkyrie...
    Swedish food is simple and yummy.
    Why minimise it beyond recognition?
    There is a reason why tradition begins and continues- some things are just that good.

    May 06, 2012 at 4:36 AM

  • Snooth User: Erica Landin
    Hand of Snooth
    1073671 41,941

    Hi WS - you are quite right, though when this article went in to layout it was still current. Very happy for them! That Pontus left I did not know! It was not long since I did the interview with him. Any news of where he is now? The pictures, well, those are the ones submitted from Noma - I doubt they take new press pictures for every change of the menu though of course it would be nice. Hear they don't like people taking pictures of their own food. Understandable, it takes away from the experience.

    Also will agree with all of you who found the first picture a bit odd. The other two are beautiful though - I love the color and simplicity. In my mind there is room for almost all types of Scandinavian kitchen from the traditional to the modern. With one clear exception. Surströmming, the fermented/rotten herring. It's really against every fibre of my being to put something that smelly in my mouth.

    Greetings from Stockholm!

    May 08, 2012 at 6:03 PM

  • Snooth User: btotheman
    Hand of Snooth
    156958 4

    If I knew how to get some of my natural fruit wines to them, then they would really have some clean wines made with minimal intervention to pair with their food!
    Brian Overboe of OOVVDA Winery (Overboe's Own Viking Vintners' Distinctive Alcohols - Uff-da)

    May 09, 2012 at 10:24 AM

  • Snooth User: gulali
    2197335 29

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