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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Denmark's wine challenge
Danish vineyard
Danes have not been able to make wine for 10 years

Want to celebrate? Then crack open the Dons.

Puzzled? You might be now, but in a few years time, if Bacchus, the God of wine, is kind, then Dons might be as famous as Burgundy or Champagne.


If the vineyard owner can do so well with such a difficult vintage as 2001, then the potential for the vineyard is very good

Jesper Boelskifte, wine connoisseur
Dons is a small village in Jutland, just off the motorway that leads eastwards to Copenhagen and it is home to a vineyard that has just come of age by making Denmark's first commercially produced wine.

Danes have been forbidden by Brussels from manufacturing wine for the past 10 years because of the bounteousness of the European wine lake.

But restrictions were lifted last year. The first bottles of the 2001 vintage have just gone on sale and have been snapped up.

The vineyard is owned by Sven Moesgaard, a pharmacist who makes his primary living from a food supplements company.

He has spent the duration of the EU moratorium perfecting his wines, and now he believes he can compete, in quality terms, with the world's traditional winemakers.

Global warming benefits

Mr Moesgaard's Skaersoegaard vineyard, named after the lake within the grounds of his modern yellow brick house, is one of the most northern in the world.

Danish wine
The white nights of the northern hemisphere are said to make the wine special
Its very existence is possible because of global warming, which has extended the growing period by three weeks over the past few decades.

But it is the white nights of the northern hemisphere, the extra long days where the sun often does not go down until eleven at night that make the wine special.

"This is the secret of Danish wine," says Mr Moesgaard.

At the moment, his budding grapes are the size of peppercorns, but if the Danish summer fulfils its early promise, they will ripen into fruits which will be transformed into wines that are red, white, rose and a challenger to Champagne.

Moesgaard is unable to call his sparkling white Champagne, because the name is the trademark of the French, which is why he has called his award winning product Dons.

But it is his red wine that is earning plaudits from the experts. It has been compared very favourably with Beaujolais, and it is recommended that it is served very young and chilled.

'Pearls on the tongue'

Sipping a glass in his exclusive restaurant just across the road from Amaliaborg, the Queen's Palace in Copenhagen, Jesper Boelskifte, president of the Danish Sommeliers Association, said: "It drinks beautifully now. It's very fruity, but it's lacking in body and structure. But if he [Moesgaard] can do so well with such a difficult vintage as 2001, then the potential for the vineyard is very good."

I took a bottle of red to Kings Square in Copenhagen to canvas the views of young Danish students celebrating their graduation.

They were indulging in the rite of passage of dancing around the statue in the middle of the square and getting squiffy.

Virtually every student was clutching a green bottle of beer - "possibly the best lager in the world" as the advert says - and were singing an anthem called "Beer is god".

"It's like pearls on the tongue," said one young blade ogling the décolletage of a bronzed colleague.

"It's very fruity," she replied. "I'd swap it for a beer any day."

But its probably going to be many years before their successors dance around the statue swigging a bottle of Dons.

See also:

13 Mar 02 | Country profiles
20 May 02 | Health
19 Dec 01 | Health
06 May 02 | Business
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