Do not be fooled by Daniele Fherm and Antonius Berthagen. Beards, tattoos, and clothes that a college student might wear may not give the impression of “business men” or “importers,” but these two Swedes are both. They are sommeliers and world travelers in the name of wine, and have been involved in wine since the age of 14. More than that, they are focused entrepreneurs who created a business from scratch that feels almost alternative.
Viniologi is the Swedish wine importation company that is interested more in the natural cultivation and vinification behind the grapes than in tradition; in enjoying a brand name-less glass of wine rather than its ratings; and in the humble, authentic stories behind brave, young producers and small wineries rather than the prestige of top producers.
Wine Pass met up with them in the vineyards of Piemonte and was inspired by their eclectic mix of down-to-earth yet business-savvy approach to the wine world—with an interesting mix of DJ nights and wanderlust thrown in. We asked Daniele to shed some light on Viniologi and their wine world experiences.
Can you explain how Viniologi started, and what your vision for it is?
"We’re importers with a personal and independent style. Our vision is to respect and support wines, nature, and producers through our work. We started Viniologi because we wanted to help small producers make a living, and of course, because we love to drink wine. We live for trying new wines every day.
Antonius and I always talked about taking a road trip, so we finally did in April 2012 for five weeks. We traveled from south Sweden to Germany, Italy, and France. The trip made us drunk and creative, and the idea about owning a wine bar and wine import company was born. We moved back to Norway to start earning money, and when we had saved enough by April 2013, we moved to Stockholm. We ordered our first crates of wine in two months later, and the rest is history..."
What are the difficulties of importing wines in Sweden as independent importers?
"The biggest difficulty is the rules. Applying for the permit to become an importer is not a problem, but you have to wait 3-5 months just for one document to get processed. Then, we can only sell to restaurants with an alcohol license; if we want to import for private people, we have to apply for another document. And it doesn’t end there! The person who wants the wine has to go to what is called Systembolaget in Sweden (other than in bars, night-clubs and restaurants, the government-owned Systembolaget is the only place to buy strong alcoholic beverages - ed.). It’s a long process, but we manage to stay patient and sell to both restaurants and private people."
For us, wines fit Viniologi’s vision if they’re true, if the history and story behind them is real, and if the vinification techniques are respectful. But the wines also have to be fun!
What would you call the wines you’re interested in—natural?
"We would like to call them healthy, traditional wines. “Natural” is a complicated word in Sweden, but the wines we like are made without pesticides, herbicides, or human manipulations (with added sulfur or not—we don’t care!). A wine that is all this, plus good, elegant, and well-made, is natural."
In what country do you see the strongest interest in natural, organic, and biodynamic wines?
“Natural: France and Italy. Organic: Germany. Biodynamic: France, Austria, and Germany.”
How many wineries have you visited?
“We have visited a lot of wineries in a short amount of time. On just our road trip we visited about 60, and we haven’t stopped there.”
What kinds of wine do Swedish people like?
“As a sommelier in Sweden, I can tell you that people are into super natural wines, but also a classic Burgundy; wines from the Piemonte region; Riesling; and wines from the USA. But on the Systembolaget, the popular wines are from South Africa, Chile, Australia, Argentina…bag-in-a-box wines.”
Taste is more important than the label. Our goal is to attract a new generation to drink healthier wines, and wines from small producers.
How could we make the most important wines of Piemonte – that is, Barolo and Barbaresco – fit Viniologi’s vision?
“For us, wines fit Viniologi’s vision if they’re true, if the history and story behind them is real, and if the vinification techniques are respectful. But the wines also have to be fun! Barolo and Barbaresco are two big names with two specific styles, so try to think outside the box for these. For example, if a producer uses the same grape and vinification methods but somehow make it special—then we’re interested. We don’t mean a special taste, because we don’t care about wine analyses or ratings; but maybe a different way of promoting, instead. Also, production definitely has to be small. For example, the biggest winery we import for is just 10 hectares (the smallest is 2). We’re not interested in producers who make wine for the money. What’s important for us is enjoying the wine and the people behind it.”
As DJs, you organize evenings with music and wine in Sweden. What’s the objective, and what kind of crowds do you attract?
“We like to play dance music, funk, deep house, jazz house, and house music. We’re interested in promoting ourselves artistically. We play good music and serve wine, and when we talk with people about the wines, we don’t tell them what it is. Taste is more important than the label. Our goal is to attract a new generation to drink healthier wines, and wines from small producers.”
What wine producer that you’ve visited uses the most extreme winemaking techniques?
“Lamoresca in Sicily: his techniques are very simple. He uses cement vats and tanks, with no filtration, crushing by gravity and no added sulfites. All bottling and labeling is done by hand.”
Phone: 0046(0)76 2917928
Phone: 0046(0)72 1777818
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