I arrived at an industrial estate in Gothenburg, in search of Wine Mechanics, an urban winery. The Uber driver didn’t know where it was, but when I spotted a grape conveyor and a receival bin, I reckoned we were at the right place. This was the meat packing district, a bit out of town, and the building housing the winery really was a pig sty in a previous life.
I wandered round the front, and here we were. Wine Mechanics. This is a very stylish bar, restaurant and winery. It’s the first urban winery in Sweden, and it has only been open a few months (opening date was April 18). The man behind it is Kenneth Gustavsson, a former professional footballer who caught the wine bug and has never looked back.
Kenneth was born and raised in Gothenburg but moved to Malmo aged 15, and went on to play for the local team. This is where he played with, and became friends with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Kenneth’s career didn’t take off in the same way as Zlatan’s, but he had a good career as a professional, playing in Norway, Iceland and Finland as well as Sweden. He ended up playing for 15 years, initially as a central midfielder, but later dropping back into central defence.
So how come wine? Kenneth’s parents never drank wine, but during his career he had some older team mates who were into their wine. During pre-season training trips to Spain and Italy they’d visit vineyards. One of his team mates even bought a bottle for €2000, which intrigued Kenneth. ‘It got me interested, and wine took over my life.’ He founded an import company, Fine Wines Sweden, and this urban winery and restaurant is the latest stage in the journey.
I had a look into the winery where Eric Johnsson, winemaker, was busy at work. He’d just received 15 tons of Riesling from Burklin-Wolff in the Pfalz, and was busy punching down a skin ferment of some of these grapes. Soon to arrive is some Syrah from Pierre Gaillard in Saint-Joseph. They’ll be sourcing from five sites, all with granitic soils. And they are getting grapes from Hungary, too.
In all, they will be making 11 different wines in 2018, and production is expected to be around 35 000 bottles. ‘We are trying out new stuff,’ says Kenneth. ‘We don’t want to compete with our producers. We want to make different wines.’ Another benefit is that a winery in Sweden is quite novel. ‘Many Swedish people have never been to a winery before,’ he says. ‘Now they cab take a train and see one.’
The first vintage is now on sale. There are three wines, but these were made at the wineries where Kenneth sourced the grapes. The first is a Pfalz Riesling, the second a rosé Spätburgunder, and the third is a northern Rhône Syrah. They are all really good, and as well as being sold in the restaurant, they are also being supplied to the trade and even exported. I was genuinely impressed by these wines: the Riesling was taut, dry and mineral, the Spatburgunder very gastronomic and dry, and the Syrah was polished and seductive yet also fresh and floral. In Sweden they retail for around 200 Krone, or 600 in a restaurant.
The front part of the restaurant is more of a wine bar, with excellent quality charcuterie and small plates, while the back is more of a standard restaurant with a proper menu. The wine list is cool and eclectic with a strong focus on the northern Rhône, which is Kenneth’s passion. Pretty much everything on the list is good and interesting, which is encouraging.
‘Some people have been sceptical about it,’ says Kenneth. But I think it’s a great idea, and it will be interesting to see how the 2018s, the debut vintage in the winery, turn out. Especially that skin-contact Riesling.