Posts Tagged : Ilkka Sirén

Surf n Turf

Text Ilkka Sirén

It’s no secret that most Portuguese wine regions are still unknown for most people. They are even quite unknown for people working in the wine industry. Portugal has gained some fame in the past few years as a wine country of good quality wines that doesn’t kill your wallet. This being said Portugal has every opportunity to produce wines of such stature that they probably will kill your wallet. That much we know. Still, as a hopeless romantic I’m just a tiny bit scared that mysterious wine country I once fell in love with is becoming more and more mainstream. Such is the burden of a genuine wine hipster, I guess.

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Wine Glass – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

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Chorizo – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

But I needn’t worry. Portugal with its kazillion native grape varieties will keep the busy soccer mom away from the ever so confusing variety names like Touriga Nacional and Tinta Pinheira, just to name a few. Many of my friends who have travelled to Portugal went in completely unaware of Portuguese wines but they left as huge fans. As did I.

I personally like to use wine when I’m cooking. Not in the food necessarily but as a source of inspiration. As I started slicing the spicy chorizo for my pasta I suddenly, but not surprisingly, got thirsty. One of Portugal’s strengths is definitely the good value for money wines which can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. Easy-going, quaffable and affordable wines of different styles flow in and out of glasses with considerable ease.

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Surf n Turf Pasta – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

While preparing the spicy shrimp and chorizo “Surf n Turf” pasta my mind wandered towards Bairrada. A cheeky little blend from Bagaland is just what the doctor ordered. I got my hands on Torre de Coimbra 2012. A blend of Baga, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Pinheira made by LusoVini. An export wine for sure because in all my travel in Portugal I’ve never seen a wine with a screw cap. I’m sure there is some it’s just not very common a country where the cork trees almost sacred. We in the cold north wouldn’t recognize a cork tree from a palm tree so screw caps are a very popular choice of closure.

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Torre de Coimbra 2012 – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The wine itself was, hmm, what is the scientific term for it…”just OK”. Well, considering that it’s less than 10 euros from the monopoly shop over here it wasn’t too bad. A very straightforward, fruity wine with a touch of oak. It might come as a surprise but finding a decent bottle of wine under 10 euros in Finland is easier said than done. We get plenty of polished techno-wines that are everything but interesting. This bugger from Bairrada actually resembles a proper wine hence it is a proper wine. I’m not going to lose sleep over it but I could see myself drinking more of this. If not else just as a source of cooking inspiration.

Lusovini Distribuição, SA
Avenida da Liberdade nº 15, Areal
3520-061 Nelas, Portugal
Tel: +351 232 942 153
Fax: +351 232 945 243

Ferreira 10-year-old White Port

Text Ilkka Sirén

I live in a city. I grew up in the countryside but couldn’t see myself living anywhere else than the concrete embrace of my city. Helsinki is just the perfect size; not too big, not too small. Only half a million people live here and it’s a capital of a country. Fairly peaceful but buzzing enough to keep it interesting. Still every now and then I feel myself, especially after a busy work week, yearning for some classic countryside peace.

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Wheat field – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Nothing around you except wheat fields, forests and lakes. Just over an hours drive north of Helsinki you can find all the space and peace you want. I usually grab a handful of wines, some good food and head out to cook and relax. People say cooking is very therapeutic and they are not lying. Doesn’t matter if you are a good cook or not, just doing something useful with your hands is very rewarding and makes you think things differently.

There is always room for friends and family. If I wanted some alone time I would move to Siberia and become a monk. I find it very harmonizing to have lots of friends and family around you, just doing what they do. When the table is set the food starts flying around and wines get lined up. Even if Finland is geographically challenged we do get quite a bit of wines up here. But there is one wine category that has been absent for too long, white port. It’s frustrating to be a fan of fortified wines in Finland when the selection is very limited. But now a “new” wine has arrived to Finland.

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Table is set – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

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Ferreira 10-year-old white port – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

It just might be one of the best listings in Finland this year. Ferreira 10-year-old White Port is the newbie everyone’s talking about. For a reason I can’t really understand white port wine has a slightly bad reputation. Well, for those who wonder I say WAKE UP! Aged white ports are in my opinion some of the most delicious and food friendly wines out there. This seductive port is a prime example of a good quality white port. The ripe fruitiness together with balanced aromas from barrel aging creates a delicious combination of flavours. A queen bee in the cheese table, going well with blue cheese or Gouda for example, or just as a slow sipper after dinner. Just let the golden hue flicker in the candle light. It’s a cliché but it works, trust me. I’m very happy that we can now find some proper white port in Finland. Slowly but surely people are starting to discover the wonderful world of port wines.

Chili con vino (Esporão)

Text Ilkka Sirén

“What do you eat in Finland?” That’s a question I hear a lot. People wait me to give all kinds of exotic answers like that I eat raw bear meat and I have my own moose that I ride to work every day. It’s not quite like that. We have plenty of traditional dishes but most of them we might eat once a year. We don’t have a thing like bacalhau in Portugal that we eat almost daily or at least weekly. Finns do not generally use a lot of spices in their food and to be honest the food here can be sometimes quite bland. On the other hand people here really appreciate the natural flavors of good ingredients. Vegetables, roots, berries and mushrooms are some of the most treasured things here in the cold north. But as a fan of for example Thai and Vietnamese cuisine I enjoy strong savory foods with a bit of heat.


Swirl – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved


Tortilla – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Now that we are on our way towards another harsh winter we sit and wait for the leaves to fall and cover everything with beautiful colors. The transition from summer to autumn in Finland is swift. As we speak the nights are getting colder and who knows, we might have first snow next month already. Indeed summer is just a distant dream at this point. This translates directly into one’s kitchen, especially mine. Not only that I start cooking up hearty dishes and pickling literally everything, I also see autumn in my personal drink selection. But let’s come back to that later.

Tortillas, tacos, burritos and carnitas are far from being authentic Finnish cuisine but I must say that I’m a fan. Tortilla itself, the thin flatbread, is merely an elaborate vehicle for all things delicious; in this case a fiery habanero and naga jolokia chili con carne. Even though the infamous naga jolokia chili is about 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce the idea is not to nuke your palate. I’m keen to create a balanced, powerful but most of all flavorful sauce. I don’t always succeed.


Esporão Reserva 2011 – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The question is what to serve with this kind of dish? My natural impulse was “go beer or go home”. Beer, yes, it’s definitely the easiest match but there must be something else. Many would have gone with an off-dry white, a riesling perhaps. The sweetness balancing the heat of the chili and so on. Sure, that could work but for this particular occasion it was too elegant. Tortillas are all but elegant. They are sloppy, messy and delicious. I wanted something with proper cojones. Enter Esporão Reserva 2011. A sturdy blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês, Cabernet Sauvignon and Trincadeira. Black and dense like the tree on the label. A godsend for our cold dark nights. Esporão Reserva 2011 is definitely a wine you can and should forget in your basement for a year or twelve but with the spicy chili con carne the match was brilliant. At first I thought it would be an assault on the senses. Well, there was a lot of action on the palate when this ample Alentejano collided with the chili. But when the dust settled there was a tasty and slightly surprising marriage of flavors. If you are not used to chili the combination might be overwhelming but if you love chili like I do you just might discover something special.

Azores Wines, Strange Encounters

Text Ilkka Sirén

I like to travel. Who doesn’t, right? But I don’t like flying and I think spending time at airports is inhuman. Yet it’s something we have to endure. Arriving to a destination, though. That’s magical. Discovering new things is like fuel for me. It’s what makes this whole weird life of ours interesting.


Waiting for my flight at Frankfurt Airport – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved


Vineyards in Wagram, Austria – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

I recently traveled to Austria to discover some of the best white wines in the world; Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. Little did I know I was about to discover something completely different aswell. To my surprise a Portuguese friend of mine was also in Austria during my stay there. The plan was to visit some Austrian wine regions like Wagram which is known for its Grüner and Roter Veltliner wines but also for the region’s deep loess soils.

After day one we gathered in the hotel lobby to enjoy a few glasses of wine with the group. That’s when things got interesting. Despite one, no, two dreadful hotel pizzas that were passed around the table like they were made of uranium. There was a wine that turned the night upside down.


Verdelho O Original by: António Maçanita 2014 – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

My friend pulled out a bottle of Verdelho O Original by: Antonio Maçanita 2014 from the Azores. Named “Original” because apparently people have a tendency to confuse Verdelho, Verdejo and Gouveio. And the Verdelho from the Azores is the OG one. How was the wine? Extremely drinkable. I think it took me about 10 seconds to finish my first glass. The second glass went down much faster. It had this particular ripeness to it but with a good acidity to back it up. Slightly viscous with a salty kick. I suspect that it might have had some skin contact but either way it had shoulders. Definitely got me even more interested about the Azores.

This group of islands is located over 1,000 kilometers west of continental Portugal literally in the middle of nowhere. A place so isolated and undiscovered by most people that even Captain Ahab would go “thanks, but no thanks”. The truth is that I don’t even know the truth. Unfortunately I have never been there. But the rumour is that the islands of Azores are beyond spectacular. An increasingly rare piece of paradise. Not well-known for their wines <yet> by any stretch of the word but apparently something is cooking over there that just might bring the Azores on the wine map with a bang. Looking forward to it and I really need to make visiting the Azores my top priority.

Craving for Crayfish

Text Ilkka Sirén |

Yes. It’s that time of the year again. Like every year on 21st of July at noon the crayfishing season starts. And like every year I’m both excited and just a tiny bit scared. All though very delicious the crayfish brings with it a series of long dinner parties where aquavit schnapps flows like water. But we will get back to that in a minute.


Going crayfishing with my son – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The crayfish season is open from 21st of July until the end of October. That’s the only period when you can legally catch crayfish. You can find the little creatures in some rivers and lakes. Like with mushrooms the locations of the best spots to catch crayfish are secrets that people usually keep to themselves. I’m fairly new to crayfishing but already I’m scanning my lake for the best spots and I wont make a big noise if I do find a great location. Why? I’m not sure but I think that’s just the nature of the game. I usually go with a small rowing boat and place the crayfish traps in the afternoon. These small and tasty crustaceans are usually active during the night. So, normally you would go check the traps maybe just before you go to sleep and very early in the morning.


Dill – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The hard part is catching the crayfish, cooking them is fairly straightforward. You clean them, boil them in hot water with some salt, sugar, dill and a dash of beer. The dill is actually the king of the table. It’s not just used to flavour the broth but people even decorate the table with it for the crayfish dinner parties. And if you have a headache the next morning it’s always the dill’s fault, not the schnapps. The crayfish dinner parties usually start with a soup. In this case my wife’s creamy chanterelle soup with cold-smoked reindeer shavings, chives and black pepper on top. Simply delicious.


Creamy chanterelle soup – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

To pair with the soup we had Niepoort’s Dócil Riesling 2011. A Mosel-like white wine from the Douro. A fabulous pairing with the soup I must say. Although the wine has more flesh around the bones than its German cousins, the quality for a fresh riesling from Douro is still pretty damn fantastic. One reason for this is the high vineyards at 800+ meters above sea level. Making a wine this fresh with 8% alcohol in Douro is no walk in the park but Niepoort nailed it. A light wine with the starter soup was good way to kick things off.


Niepoort Dócil Riesling 2011 – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Next up was: crayfish. A platter of these red devils is a feast for eyes. The prices of Finnish crayfish can get quite high so catching them yourself is not only fun but it can save your wallet from imploding. Eating them is a form of art. You have special crayfish knives but mostly you work them by hand. The claws contain some of that delcious broth as well as some meat. You can eat it as such or with some white bread and butter. Simple and tasty.


Crayfish platter – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Then comes the schnapps. Oh boy! The traditional saying goes “one schnapps per claw”. Each crayfish has two claws and on average you usually have at least 10 crayfish in one sitting. So, that means you would have to down 20 shots of aquavit during the dinner. Luckily nowadays that’s just a saying. That being said people do drink quite a bit in a traditional crayfish dinner party. It also involves a lot of singing, Helan går! (“All at once”) being the most well-known song. Aquavit doesn’t have the best reputation in Finland but make no mistake, there is some really good aquavit out there.

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Linie Double Cask Aquavit – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

One of my favorites is Linie Double Cask Aquavit. Like the Madeira wines back in the day this Norwegian aquavit matures at sea. It sails twice across the equator in sherry casks. This particular aquavit sailed on board the M/V “Tamerlane” from Oslo to Boston, then to Sydney, Singapore, Yokohama, Panama and back to Oslo. Quite an epic journey, eh? Then when it gets back to Norway it goes through an extra maturing in port wine casks. All together 22 months in cask. Definitely not the most cost-effective way of producing booze. Whatever the case it’s not only one of the best aquavits out there but it’s one of the best spirits, period.

Another great crayfish party. One thing I look forward all year and one thing I can’t wait to be over. That dill is lethal!

There’s Something About Aveiro

Text Ilkka Sirén

By now I have already lost count of how many times I have visited Portugal. But traveling there for wine mostly has given me a very different kind of view of the country. I think I have visited a beach only once in Portugal which a bit weird, especially coming from the cold north. People told me there are great beaches in Portugal but I could only imagine. Until I visited Aveiro.


Palm Trees and Preety Houses – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

I was visiting Bairrada, a wine region known for baga-fame and thermal spas. I concentrated mostly on the first one. After a while of stuffing myself with some really delicious leitão and visiting a couple of wineries a local winemaker Filipa Pato (see Sarah Ahmed’s article about Filipa Pato here) suggested I should visit Aveiro. I had never heard of this city before but I was intrigued. So, we took off from Bairrada and headed to the beach.


A Beach near Aveiro – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Aveiro is known for a couple of things. The beaches are definitely on the must-see list you ever visit this part of the world. Aveiro is called “the Venice of Portugal” because of its canals and gondola-like boats. But let me tell you, this ain’t Venice and those are not gondolas. First of all the boats, or moliceiros, are very colourful and quite beautiful to be honest. But when you take a closer look you find that the décor is quite hmm… shall we say particular.


Moliceiros – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Being close to the ocean the seafood is no joke here. The abundance of fish, crab and all sorts of maritime treats is just mind-boggling. I never know what to order so I usually order a bit of everything. Seafood rice, shrimps, maybe some clams and oh yeah, fish-of-the-day whatever that may be. Let’s not forget the wine. When you’re in Aveiro geographically speaking Bairrada would be a good choice to start.


I <3 Aveiro – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

I had a Quinta das Bageiras Bruto Natural Rosé 2011. A fresh and savoury sparkling wine from one of the best wine producers in Bairrada. 100% Baga, 100% kickass. An inexplicably good match with all kinds of seafood. Of course if you are in Aveiro for dessert you have to try the Ovos Moles. A local sweet delicacy that is made from egg yolks and sugar. If you are into really sweet things then is for you.


Lunch – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The beautiful beaches and the proximity to some of the most exciting wine regions in the world makes this city a great destination for surfers and foodies alike. Whether you want to catch a wave or an afternoon buzz drinking some delicious wines and eating world-class seafood, Aveiro is the place for you.


Sunset in Aveiro – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Highlights: Midsummer in Portugal

Text Ilkka Sirén

This summer me and my family decided to spend the midsummer in Portugal. It’s usually a period when I really prefer to stay in Finland but the weather here can be a bit of gamble. So, we packed our bags and took literally the first flight out of Helsinki Airport which just happens to be the only direct flight to Portugal.


Morning flight to Lisbon – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Like usual our connecting flight from Lisbon to Porto was cancelled and we suddenly had six hours to kill. Don’t know about you but there’s no way in hell I’m spending six hours at the airport by myself let alone with a 3-year-old kid. Instead we took a taxi and headed to the Lisbon Oceanarium. I just saw from Google Maps that it wasn’t too far from the airport and thought it would be something my son would like. BINGO! We came there just as it was opening up in the morning and avoided any queues. My son was so excited as was I. We don’t have a proper oceanarium in Helsinki so it was a nice experience.


Lisbon Oceanarium – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

When we finally did get to Porto I had a quick visit to the wine cellar of Ramos Pinto. I never visited their cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia so it was on my to-do list. The history of their house is interesting, especially from a marketing/brand point of view. Plus their wines are pretty kickass too.


Ramos Pinto’s wine cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Then some food. Oh yes! A must dish to try in Porto, “Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato”. A beautiful set of clams in oily-garlic stew. You just want to take that bread and dip, all day long. Attach a glass of Vinho Verde in your hand and you my friend will be happy.


Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

One of the reasons for our midsummer visit to Portugal was to spend the São João in Porto. The festival of São João particularly in the city of Porto is known throughout the world. I have never experienced it myself but let’s just say that it has a reputation. People grilling sardines on every corner, beer is literally flowing in the streets and all sorts of concerts and parties are happening all together. How I explained it afterwards to Finnish friend of mine that the São João in Porto is like  if you would combine New Year’s Eve, 1st of May and Finland winning gold in ice hockey world championship. It’s that crazy. But obviously incredibly fun at the same time.


The Steak – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

After a day of overdosing with sardines we headed for dinner restaurant Vinum which is located in Graham’s lodge. Partially for the food but most definitely also for the view. The restaurant has a perfect view to the Dom Luís I bridge. To eat we had some more sardines, of course, but that steak though. A beautifully cooked bone-in rib-eye steak. Delicious! After we had stuffed ourselves with some proper food it was almost midnight. As every dinner should the night ended with big fireworks above the Dom Luís I bridge. Afterwards we stumbled down back to the ribeira where we literally got hammered. The tradition on São João is that people have these noisy plastic hammers and you hit people over the head with it as they walk by. And yes, the garlic flowers. Those goddamn garlic flowers. As we were walking towards the bridge to cross over to Porto we noticed that the bridge was closed. We waited about 45 minutes in this massive beer-drinking, hammer-hitting herd of people while getting our noses shoved with garlic flowers. It was a long 45 minutes let me tell you. When the police finally started to let people cross the bridge it was a bit scary. The bridge was swinging because of the amount of people on the bridge. For a moment I thought the whole thing would come down but luckily it didn’t.


Fire works above the Dom Luís I bridge – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The next day we rented a car and drove to Vinho Verde for some rest and recuperation at Quinta de Covela. Sunny days of teaching my son to swim, walking in the vineyards and enjoying some tasty Avesso. Perfect!


Quinta de Covela – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Since my family was there I wanted to show them around Douro. Driving in the narrow roads was getting a bit too scary for my mom but it was well worth it. Anyone who has witnessed the beauty of the Douro don’t mind spending a couple hours in the car holding on to their seats for dear life. We stopped for lunch at Niepoort’s Quinta de Nápoles and tasted a few wines.


Tasting at Quinta de Nápoles – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

My kid especially enjoys to visit the barrel rooms. He is really interested in the big wine barrels and calls them “giants”. We left Douro with a big smile on our faces towards Porto. I was so happy to see that my family enjoyed Portugal as much as I do. How could they not? Great food, great wines, friendly people and nice weather. It’s pretty much all we Finns need.


Percebes – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

It was the last day of our trip and we had to return our rental car. But not before a quick pit-stop in Matosinhos to eat some insanely delicious percebes (goose barnacle). The last taste of Portugal; fresh salty sea and wine lingered in my mouth when our airplane took off. What a great trip!

The Port Knight Rises

Text Ilkka Sirén

A couple of months ago while having a vacation in Greece I received a letter. A letter signed by Mr. George Sandeman. A letter which was somewhat unexpected. It said I was to be knighted as a Cavaleiro da Confraria do Vinho do Porto. Ho…ly…sh*t!

Blend All About Wine The Port Knight Rises People jumping from Dom Luís I bridge

People jumping from Dom Luís I bridge – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Problem number one: I need to find a good tux. And by a good tux, I mean a proper tux. Think James Bond. The event was set to take place in Porto in June, just a day before the summer solstice. Considering that is the busiest wedding time in Finland so good rental tuxes can be a bit hard to come by. Yes, a rental tux. Who actually owns one?! Well anyhow, it’s a huge honour just to be considered by the Confraria let alone accepted. So without a moments hesitation I booked my flights with my family to Portugal.

Blend All About Wine The Port Knight Rises Family Sirén in front of Palácio da Bolsa

Family Sirén in front of Palácio da Bolsa – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

When the day of the enthronement actually arrived it was well over +30°C in Porto. Unusual weather even for Porto. Tourists flocked in the Ribeira, youngsters were jumping from the Dom Luís I bridge and dozens of Super Bock pop-up bars were being built all over the city in preparation for the São João festival. As a Finn I’m not allowed to complain about hot weather but wearing a tux in that heat nearly killed me. Luckily it was a short downhill walk from our place to Palácio da Bolsa where the ceremony was to take place.

Blend All About Wine The Port Knight Rises Walking on the red carpet

Walking on the red carpet – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The ceremony itself was very distinguished. Red carpets, evening gowns, cloaks, flags, big black hats with dangling ribbons and decorated sceptres that would make even Gandalf himself jealous. When all the soon-to-be confrades were seated I was among the first ones to be inaugurated. I was called by the Fiel das Usancas to the stage where Mr. Sandeman, the Confrarias chancellor, placed a green and red ribbon around my neck with a traditional 17th century port wine tasting cup tambuladeira hanging from it. After a picture was taken, I signed the Book of Honour and the chancellor handed me a diploma. I walked off the stage happy and extremely dehydrated. Speeches were made and the whole Palácio da Bolsa toasted the new confrades with a glass of port wine. It was tasty but to be honest I would have given my glass and the hand holding it for a big glass of cold water.

Blend All About Wine The Port Knight Rises Cavaleiro da Confraria do Vinho do Porto

Cavaleiro da Confraria do Vinho do Porto – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

After the ceremony the new and the old confrades marched to the Alfândega escorted by cavalry from Portugal’s National Guard together with a brass band. Lots of people were on the streets watching the parade. I felt like I was in some sort of wine Olympics and I just won the grand prize. At this point the avecs joined the confrades and proceeded to a terrace just next to the river. The sunset was beautiful, as was my dinner companion and the chilled glass of white port never tasted better.

Blend All About Wine The Port Knight Rises Port Wine

Port Wine – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The evening continued with good food, great company and fantastic wines. I’m not a big fan of formal dinners but I actually really had some fun. After a handful of courses and way too many glasses of wine it was time to call it a night. It was a long, hot and definitely one of the most memorable days of my life. What made it extra special was that I had the opportunity to share it with my family who have supported me in all my escapades to Portugal over the years.

Then I had a final sip of the port and disappeared into the warm night of Porto like a true Port Wine Knight, to relief the babysitter.

The Lighthouse Keepers

Text Ilkka Sirén

Let’s just put it out there; winter sucks! Sure snow is nice, winter sports, skiing, Christmas etc. but let’s be honest, Summer was the reason why we humans were put on this Earth. If you disagree you are just lying to yourself. In Finland we have a very short summer which has taught us to learn to appreciate good weather. If that means cold beer, swimming and semi-naked people, so be it.

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Darko the fisherman – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Sometimes you have to play it safe. Finnish summer can be quite “cool”, let’s say. With this in mind me and my wife decided to pack our stuff and head to Croatia for a week. The blue Adriatic Sea seemed like the perfect spot to chill out for a few days. Our accommodation was a bit out of the ordinary. We stayed in a lighthouse. No hotel staff, no random tourists, just us and the sea.

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The lighthouse – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

A really beautiful spot and nothing like any other accommodation I’ve ever been in before. It took about 25 minutes by boat to reach the lighthouse from the mainland. It’s a very small island and the house itself is very modest with a kitchen and a couple of rooms. There was of course the lighthouse keeper who lives on the island but he kept pretty much to himself. But I did made a new friend, his name was Mr. Jellyfish. There was plenty of dolphins around the lighthouse but those were a bit too fast for my taste. This jellyfish was more my speed.

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Mr. Jellyfish – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

After a long day it was nice to catch the sunset at the lighthouse. We witnessed some pretty spectacular sunsets. The dolphins swimming in the sunset was a total cliché but beautiful nonetheless. It was even my wife’s birthday so the situation called for some port wine. By coincidence I happened to have a small bottle of Churchill’s Reserve Port in my luggage. Whatever the situation and wherever you are in the world there is always time for port wine. Due the small size of the Reserve Port it’s perfect to take with you on trips. Because you never know when a glass of port is needed. With us it’s needed quite often.

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Churchill’s Reserve Port – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

We sat on the walls of the lighthouse. The place looked like a small fortress and the setting was an almost perfect spot for sipping some port. The velvety and spicy port with its smooth finish lingered long after the last rays of sun bounced off the calm surface of the Adriatic Sea.

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Enjoying a glass of port – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The whole stay in the lighthouse seemed a bit surreal. Something out of B-class movie starring Kevin Costner. But it’s an experience I can highly recommend. Being completely isolated with your thoughts, with the ever fascinating “big blue” and a glass of port just to make things perfect. I will miss this place and really hope I can return one day. After all, these situations where you can truly unplug yourself are quite rare. Just have to make sure to bring enough of supplies, meaning good port wine.

Churchill Graham Lda
Rua da Fonte Nova, 5
4400 -156 Vila Nova de Gaia
Tel: (+351) 22 370 3641
Fax: (+351) 22 370 3642

Summertime Rosé

Text Ilkka Sirén

Summer is approaching. At least that’s what they say. We have had a very cool start to the summer season here in Finland. In fact the last time it was this cool in June the Berlin Wall was still up. It’s not like the bad weather comes as a surprise but after a long winter we Finns are definitely ready for some warmth. If you have a good imagination and a glass of rosé in your hand, you just might get yourself in a proper summer mood. Only thing missing is my Speedos, sunscreen SPF 30 and Havaianas.

A Glass of Rosé

A Glass of Rosé – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Summer boosts rosé sales all over the world. In Finland rosé wines are virtually nonexistent throughout the year but in the summer shelves flood with rosés from China to California. Intense fruit bombs of different origins fly out of the shops at record speed. Big part of the rosé wines we get here are not very good to be honest. I get “easy-going” but most of the stuff is closer to pink Sprite. Just uninteresting. While rosé might not be the most intellectually challenging wine, it’s still a wine that can sweep me off my feet like the best of them. A good rosé wine, for me, has to be balanced, fresh and full of flavour. None of that watery bland liquid with aromas that feel almost artificial. Nowadays everybody seems to be doing rosé just because they can. Half-ass attempts, barrel rinsers, thirst quenchers. Wines that doesn’t excite nor quench. But when a rosé wine is really good, oh boy…

Crayfish sandwich

Crayfish sandwich – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

I came back home from a trip and I just had to have some crayfish. Don’t know why but sometimes I get hungry for something specific and when I get an idea in my head nothing else will do. In this case a creamy crayfish spread with dill and lemon on black bread. Not just any black bread but certain slightly sweet kind of black bread from the Finnish archipelago. Simple and delicious. Comfort food at its best. The crayfish was screaming for some wine and frankly so was I. As we all know a good rosé wine is extremely food-friendly. It has the mouthwatering acidity and drinkability of a white wine but it’s slightly more structured and has this certain vinous character to it. Luckily I had a JP Azeitão Rosé from Bacalhôa in my fridge just for this kind of tasty crayfish emergencies.


JP Azeitão Rosé – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

JP Azeitão is a straightforward rosé with seductive raspberry and cherry notes. It has some Syrah in it which gives it a nice spiciness. Not complex by any stretch of the imagination but simply a delicious little wine. Good bang for the buck and a great match with some seafood snacks.

Rose Screwcap

Screwcap – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

While I continue to wait for summer it’s this kind of small treats that make the wait worth while and with this you don’t even need the sunscreen. You can just close your eyes and feel the Portuguese sun through the wine.

Bacalhôa Vinhos de Portugal
Estrada Nacional 10
Vila Nogueira de Azeitão
2925-901 Azeitão
Tel: (+351) 21 219 80 60
Fax: (+351) 21 219 80 66