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:
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.
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.