Wine, food, friends and family. Who wouldn’t be happy when you combine those four? It was on a trip to South Africa 13 years ago that an interest in wine interest began for wine importer Sara Wetterling. She was still in the IT business then, but started slowly to move over to the world of wine. After a recent tasting of her portfolio, I decided to dig a little deeper in to her world of wines. Spanish wines are on the rise again, and it’s wines from the world’s third largest wine-producing country that Sara represents mostly, though wines far from the classic oaked Riojas and cheap Castillo de Gredos that the Swedes have embraced for years.
Are Swedish consumers ready for a new Spain?
Of course they are. The journey [to a new market for Spanish wine] has just began I would say. I started in 2014 to bring in wines from unknown districts, and grapes no one ever heard of. Looking internationally “the new Spain” has gained its great reputation earlier. But now, since the fall of 2017 I can feel it coming [here in Sweden].
You really care for the wines of Catalonia and Galicia, two quite diverse regions, what makes them so interesting to you?
Let’s start with Catalonia, which is where I started. With 12 different DOs Catalonia is so interesting and the wine styles differ a lot. In a way I could find almost anything I need there. To streamline it a bit, you have the reds of Priorat and Montsant, the whites from Penedès and Terra Alta and then the Cava. There’s been kind of a revolution in wine making in Catalonia. Young wine makers find their own way with local grapes, and it makes it very interesting. But then you look west and you find the irresistible Galicia. The Green Spain, close to the Atlantic Ocean with a totally different style of wines. Most people know it for its Albariño wines but I decided to go deeper than that and travelled inland to Valdeorras, Ribeiro and Ribeira Sacra. It was not hard to fall in love with the wild countryside and the wines are amazing.
What Spanish region and wine will be the next to explore?
Believe it or not, although my focus is entirely on Spanish wines I have not visited the region of Rioja. But this coming spring, in May, I have a trip planned together with my two team members from the Swedish championship in Spanish wine knowledge. The winning prize was a trip to a wine region in Spain and we choose Rioja in combination with the Basque region. Hopefully I will have find some new producers to present on this trip.
What is about the ‘other’ Spain that makes it so exciting?
The diversity, no question about it. You have so many different styles of wines. With the high mountains both in the north and south you have the possibility to produce great wines, even where you think it is too warm. I love giving a tasting with only white wines from Spain for example. People are very surprised by the wide selection that exists. You put together a Garnacha Blanca from Terra Alta, a Verdejo from north of Madrid, a Godello from Valdeorras and a Treixadura from Ribeiro and you can present all new discoveries for most consumers.
It was the burning need to discover new wines and a sommelier course at Restaurangakademin a few years later that resulted in Wine Stories, the wine import firm, run by Sara, dedicated to the natural and small-scale. With Barcelona in her heart, many friends in Spain and a lack of exciting Spanish wines available in Sweden, it was easy to choose Spain for the Wine Stories portfolio. Introducing and placing her wines wisely from the start, positive results didn’t take long.
A wide selection of your imports can be found in bars and restaurants, but you have had some success at Systembolaget too, especially with the Ribeiro white Coto de Gomariz. Where else can we find your wines?
I find it very interesting to sell via the web and will, during 2018, expand my collaboration with gassaswine.se where you can buy wines from my portfolio and have them delivered to your doorstep. Unfortunately, Systembolaget makes it harder and very expensive for small importers to offer their wines through Beställningssortimentet, so I work together with Göteborgs Vinhus, distributing about 20 of my wines. The wines I import also match the Tillfälliga Sortimentet at Systembolaget and I have some more coming in during 2018. Otherwise the best thing is to follow me on my social media channels on Instagram and Facebook. Many of my wines I only sell in small volumes to restaurants and through private import.
The most important part of the story behind each wine Sara imports are the families that run the bodegas and their passion. Looking at the wines she represents, most of them are from small bodegas working with respect for the soil, the craft and the wine.
The story behind each wine is essential for you, how do you seek new producers and how do you choose what wines to import?
I read a lot of Spanish and international press. It is also very important to me to be present in Spain, where the stories and wines are. My ‘problem’ is that I don’t have room for too many new wines at this point and that troubles me a bit because I love finding new producers. Running my own business means a limited amount of time and I need to keep focus on and maintaining the existing portfolio. I only import wines I would like to drink myself, made by people I respect and with a passion for what they do.
Do you care for or drink wines from other countries too? And from where and what kind if so?
Absolutely. The problem though is that it is not enough time to drink as much as I would like. But my wine interest started in South Africa more than ten years ago, so I still have a piece of my wine heart there. I visited last year again and a lot was happening, with new styles of wines popping up. I also need to have my Riesling from Germany and Grüner Veltliner from Austria at home. Chianti Classico and wines from the Rhone Valley are also favourites of mine.
You have recently started a sommelier education course in Spanish wines. Please tell me a little more about that.
For me it is all about being an ambassador for Spanish wines. Not only importing them, but also spreading the word here in Sweden and having people open up their wine senses and trying something new. We have many professionals working with wine and we wanted to create an opportunity to learn even more about Spanish wines. Together with Johan Franco Cereceda and Sinisa Curovic, I have started SommAcademy. With Johan being an ambassador for Spanish wines in Sweden for more than 25 years and with his experience in giving master classes already, and together with Sinisa who lives in Spain, who knows Catalonia by heart and has connections in the wine world of Spain we can offer a unique Master Class in Spain. We offer our first master class in March this year. More info can be found at www.somm.academy.
What’s your absolute favourite among your selection?
Oohh that is a tough one. Of course I love all my wines, otherwise I wouldn’t import them. But here I give you a few: Llopart Brut Reserva Rosat, Llopart, DO Cava, Sameiras 1040, Sameiras, DO Ribeiro, Ay de Mi, Vins del Tros, DO Terra Alta and L’oblit Sumoll, Esteve i Gibert, DO Penedès.
Please give us two great food and wine pairings to try this spring. One for a white wine and one for a red wine.
Mas de les Valls Blanco pairing with Foie Gras. I like to challenge people with my white Priorat from Celler Devinssi. In Priorat only five percent of the wines are white and people are so surprised by this white wine made from Garnacha blanca, Pedro Ximenez and Cariñena. Serve it a bit warmer, about 12-14 degrees in wide glasses together with Foie Gras and a sweet marmalade and your guests will be more than impressed. Llopart Brut Reserva Rosat pairing with Toast Skagen. It is not easy to find a wine that matches with Toast Skagen and I can promise that Rose Cava is not the first you think of. But please try. The mousse goes very well with the creamy Skagen and the slight sweetness goes perfect together with the shrimps.