Viking Line’s new vessel, the M/ S Viking Grace, will feature a high-quality wine list that will also include the vessel’s own wines: a red, a white, a dessert wine and a champagne.
The vessel’s wines are made by producers who work with ecological or biodynamic cultivation. The Chapoutier, Zind-Humbrecht and Larmandier-Bernier wine houses are old, familiar producers while Château Dudon is a new acquaintance.
“The Viking Grace combines handsome design with green values. In keeping with this, we wanted to find classical elegant wines from well-reputed producers,” says Pekka Rajala, who is chairman of Viking Line’s Wine Council. By coincidence, all four choices turned out to be from France.
The vessel’s champagne: Larmandier-Bernier
The Larmandier and Bernier families have been working the vines in the Champagne region since the French Revolution. In 1971 Philippe Larmandier and his wife Elisabeth Bernier founded the current Larmandier-Bernier champagne house, located in the village of Vertus in the southern part of the Côte de Blancs. In 1988 their son Pierre Larmandier took over management of the company. Since 2003 the vineyard has operated according to certified biodynamic principles. The area under cultivation is 15 hectares, located in five villages (Vertus, Cramant, Chouilly, Oger and Avize). Bernier-Larmandier champagne consists of 80 per cent Chardonnay grapes and the rest Pinot Noir. The flavour is sophisticated, gentle and elegant.
The vessel’s white wine: 2009 Herrenweg de Turckheim Riesling
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht was founded in 1959 when Léonard Humbrecht married Geneviève Zind. Their winery is located in Turckheim, Alsace. The Humbrecht family has been growing wines since 1620. Today the domaine is managed by Léonard’s son Olivier Humbrecht, who was the first Frenchman to qualify as a Master of Wine in the U.K. It has 40 hectares of vineyards, located in five villages in the Haut-Rhin. Their wines have the qualities that are characteristic of the Alsace region, which are amplified both by painstaking biodynamic cultivation methods and during fermentation. They avoid heavy machinery and advocate manual labour or using beasts of burden. The compost thus generated is used as fertiliser. The vineyard received organic culture (ECOCERT) certification in 1998 and biodynamic producer certification (BIODYVIN) in 2002.
The Herrenweg vineyard is located in Turckheim next to the Fecht river, where the soil is gravel-like, drains easily, is warm and yields an early harvest. The soil in this area may lack minerals because the clay is easily washed away by rainwater. Older grapevines compensate for this, since their deep roots reach down to the nutrients. The biodynamic method of cultivation increases the number of micro-organisms in the soil, releasing minerals. Fermentation of the wine occurs slowly, and some sweetness is preserved. Herrenweg de Turckheim Riesling has a classic floral nose that is specific to these vineyards. Because of the natural warmth of the gravel-like soil, the character of the wine does not risk weakening, and the air also contributes a splash of citrus. Its flavour is very seductive and surprisingly fresh. The elegant finish is a Herrenweg classic.
The vessel’s red wine: Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers BIO
The family-owned Maison M. Chapoutier is one of the best-known wine producers in the Rhône region. Dating back to 1808, it now has 160 hectares of vineyards in the northern Rhône. Chapoutier also owns sizeable properties in Hermitage and has invested in Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Banyuls and South Australia. The business is run by brothers Michel and Marc Chapoutier.
Crozes-Hermitage BIO is an ecological product, made from hand-picked Syrah grapes. The grapevines, which grow on south-facing slopes, are at least 25 years old. The wine is produced according to old, traditional methods and allowed to mature for 12 months before being bottled. Its colour is a deep purplish red, with blackcurrant and raspberry discernible in the nose. Its rich flavour is very fruity and is spiced with a dash of vanilla. This wine is ideal with various kinds of meat dishes.
The vessel’s dessert wine: 2009 Château Dudon 2009 – women’s wine
The best dessert wines are said to come from the Sauternes area of Bordeaux. Château Dudon is a typical vineyard in this area, dating back to the 17th century. During the French Revolution it expanded to 12 hectares. In 1868 the current proprietor family took over Château Dudon. In recent generations, ownership has been passed from parents to daughters. This is why Château Dudon is called a “women’s wine.” The current owner is Evelyne Allien.
The ecologically cultivated grapes are gathered in September–October, when only the ripest fruits are picked. In this way they have time to develop a favourable “noble rot” with the help of the Botrytis fungus, as well as to shrivel and achieve a high sugar content. During fermentation, the sugar content is reduced to about 110 g/litre. This sweetness, the noble rot, a 20-month fermentation process in oak barrels and old, traditional methods enable the wine to last for decades and gives them the characteristic flavour of Sauternes.
The wine is golden yellow in colour, with a nose of exotic fruits and honey. The wine has a long finish, with a touch of caramelized orange peel, saffron and spices. The 50 cl bottle is an optimal size for cellaring but also for serving a small group of guests.
Viking Line has an ongoing competition for Finnish art students, who have been asked to design a series of four labels for the vessel’s wines.