Vino! On the Trail of Spanish Wines in Sweden!
Wine lovers in Sweden can now get their hands on the first book dedicated exclusively to Spanish wines in that country in the form of Vino!, a celebration of an ongoing love affair with Spanish wines by venerated Swedish journalist Johan Franco Cereceda.
Text: Adrienne Smith/©ICEX
For decades, Johan Franco Cereceda has channeled his love of Spain and Spanish wines into a prestigious career as the foremost expert on Spanish wines in Sweden. This has included roles as the editor-in-chief of online wine magazine Vinguiden, as a professor of Spanish wines at Vinkällan – one of the most important sommelier schools in Sweden – as a contributor to the wine section of Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, and as the former editor-in-chief of wine magazine Världens Viner. Armed with the language skills that he inherited from his Spanish father, Cereceda has taken this love of Spanish wines into the field, spending approximately a quarter-century visiting Spanish wineries all over the country, talking to wine producers and savoring countless Spanish wines of all varieties along the way.
Now, Sweden’s Spanish wine expert par excellence is sharing his knowledge and experience of these quality products with his countrymen, thanks to his new Swedish-language book Vino!, a years-long project that has come to life in the form of an alluring book about this journalist’s journeys through Spanish wine regions, winery visits, experiences, adventures and discoveries over the years.
We interviewed Cereceda about his career, his love for Spanish wines, and how Vino! came about, and this is what he had to say:
Tell us a little bit about your love for Spanish wines and where it comes from?
I have always been interested in Spanish wines. I spent every summer when I was a child with my family in the northern part of Spain, in the small village of Trespaderne (Burgos), almost on the border between Castile-León and La Rioja, and it was very obvious that wine was a great part of the adults’ lives.
But when I really caught the bug was in the mid 1990’s when I was studying international marketing in Barcelona at the University Pompeu Fabra. In my spare time I started to visit wineries in Priorat and the northern part of Spain, and began to write about the Spanish wine industry. I studied journalism, so it was a great pleasure to see my articles published in magazines in Sweden.
What inspired you to write Vino! and what do you hope to achieve with this book?
Since I have been writing about Spanish wines for nearly three decades, I realized that I have some really unique material and I simply wanted to share my experiences. I have been to almost every wine district, including many of them on the Canary Islands. I speak Spanish, so I have gotten really close to a lot of wine producers, even from the older generation, so I just wanted to summarize my knowledge and let people in Sweden take part in this wonderful life.
The fact that there were no books about Spanish wine in Swedish inspired me even more. I truly hope that Swedish wine consumers will discover the plurality of the wines in Spain, explore new wine areas and dare to try other wines than the ones that are already well-known – not only in Sweden, but also when they travel to Spain.
What are some of the main wineries/regions that you focus on in your book?
This book, Vino!, is more about the whole country. I wanted to show that there are great wines from every corner of Spain. I wanted to include all of Spain and share my experiences from every part (of the country), as an introduction to the Spanish wine sector, while taking into consideration that many people do not have a profound knowledge of Spain and its wines.
This means that I am already writing a new book – one that is more specialized and profound – regarding a specific type of wine and a special area. More of a continuation of Vino! I also have a great grape index where I write about the 80 most common Spanish grapes, which is very appreciated by sommelier students in Sweden.
What advice would you give a winery looking to get in on the Swedish wine monopoly?
I once interviewed Miguel Torres many years ago, and asked him how to become a successful wine exporter. He said: “First of all, make a good wine. Second, learn English. Third, travel around the world and talk about your wine.”
I think that is a great answer, simple and profound. I think Spanish wine producers who want to sell their wines via Systembolaget should do the same thing.
Obviously it is also very important to find a serious, curious and passionate importer. And there are plenty of those in Sweden.
Can you tell us about the relationships that wineries must have with importers, who are the true interlocutors with Systembolaget?
There are many passionate importers in Sweden, but the wine scene is dominated by 15 of them, which is a very small number given that there are nearly 800 wine importers working in Sweden.
As a wine producer in Spain wanting to enter the Swedish market, it is absolutely necessary to understand how the monopoly and the Swedish wine market functions and is built up. That is what the importers must inform the producers about – not only telling them how good their wines are. (They must have) a profound understanding of the market, and the importers must also understand the wine producers, the mentality, and the cultural context of Spaniards. I am a strong believer in the idea that cultural knowledge is the key to a successful partnership.
What Spanish wines and Designations of Origin are most well-known and popular (or growing in popularity in Sweden)?
The most important and well known wine districts are, of course, the most famous ones like Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat and Cava. Cava is getting a lot of press since the new qualification of Cava de Paraje (Single-Estate Cava), which is lovely to see and the way to go. Rioja has recovered its fame and glory – and some part of the market as well – after a decade of problems/challenges.
But many people in Sweden are now interested in the Spain behind these giants. There is a great interest in the wines from Galicia, not only of Albariño and Godello (wines), but also the red ones, particularly those from Ribeira Sacra. There is also interesn in Bierzo wines in Castile-León. Red wines made with Garnacha (grapes) from Vinos de Madrid have become trendy and at last we are now exploring volcanic wines from the Canary Islands.
There is a small but considerable growing interest in Sherry finos, finally! There is more to come…
What Spanish wine regions and DOs are not available in the country and should be?
Most of the DOs are represented in Sweden, but of course, I miss quite a few of both wines and DOs. Txakolí, for instance, lands very infrequently at Systembolaget, which is really a shame considering the uniqueness of the wines. I also would love to see more Cavas, but high-quality ones like the Cavas de Paraje. White wines from Vinos de Madrid would be lovely to have and even some high-quality rosé wines.
What interaction have you had with the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office in Stockholm and do you think their message about Wines from Spain is reaching people in Sweden?
I think ICEX in Stockholm is doing an impressive job. They are organizing the Swedish Championship in Spanish Wine Knowledge (where I am the speaker and preparing the questions). This is one of the most appreciated wine events in Sweden and has been so since it started nearly 20 years ago. Spanish Wine Day is also a great event they stand behind – last time with an interesting Master Class by top sommelier Ferran Centelles.
Sweden’s Spanish wine expert Johan Franco Cereceda par excellence is sharing his knowledge and experience of these quality products with his countrymen, thanks to his new Swedish-language book Vino!