Jeroboams and Epic Poems

Finland’s burgeoning fine wine scene finds a foothold in Helsinki.


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Each year, one city is named as the World Design Capital to honor that city’s commitment to design innovation, improving social, cultural and economic life. In 2012, the choice is Helsinki, a city that is infatuated with form meeting function. But there’s more to this cutting-edge destination than that: Progressive locavore cuisine and a sophisticated wine scene reflect the growing culinary culture in Finland. These hangouts are among Helsinki’s best:

Latva Bar

This newly opened Design District venture is Helsinki’s first stand-alone wine bar. The focus is mostly organic and biodynamic wines, especially those produced by Finnish vintners from around the world like Outi Jakovirta of Julicher Estate, New Zealand. An everchanging medley of inventive appetizers (or sapas) made from native ingredients is perfect for nibbling as you sip.

Ahjo Bar & Club

This hotspot is set in the stylish Klaus K Hotel, whose dramatic décor is based on the 19th-century poem The Kalevala, considered one of Finland’s most important literary works. The wine list concentrates on Austrian wines—the largest selection in Scandinavia—including bottlings from Heinrich, Loimer and other award-winning producers.

Muru

Wine lovers will find prestigious producers like Domaine de la Romanée-Conti on this list, and modest selections, too, like Versus’s 2010 Furmint from Slovenia. Sommeliers Samuil Angelov and Nicolas Thieulon offer 100 mostly French and German wines (from $50– $1,400 per bottle) that pair well with Muru’s New Nordic-inspired cuisine.

Ravintola Carelia & Wine Bar

Set in a 1920s building, this restaurant concentrates on wines from small regions in France (like Fronton and Jura) with an organic or biodynamic focus. Sommelier Kai Aution’s selection appeals to all budgets, with bottles ranging from $45 to almost $2,700.

Chef & Sommelier

Opened in 2010, this restaurant is concerned with all things organic and local. On offer are several multicourse tasting menus, including one for vegans. Although the wine list exhibits a preference for France, Sommelier Johan Borgar is increasing the selection of Italian and Portuguese vintages, with an emphasis on bottles in the $45 to $70 range.

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Reader Comments:
Jan 25, 2012 06:13 am
 Posted by  Seppo

Excellent choices, says a born-and-raised Finn. However, I would also add to the list at least one restaurant: Mange Sud. Privately owned, great food & drink and beautiful place too. They are also innovative, e.g. they have now established "Wine Mondays" where you get rare wines by glass, and also by bottles where they have wines over 60 € for even 30 € less. Like last Monday when they had by glass and less than 20 € (closed to 10 €) e.g. 2000 Taittinger Comtes BdD, 2001 Chateau Grillet and 1997 Chateau d'Yquem. (And no I'm not associated with the restaurant at all, just a happy customer.)

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