Wines from the forest
„My rucksack is packed“, I call over to Aino. I´m just gonna fill my water bottle and slip into my old, loyal hiking boots which have been with me for years now. Aino looks up at me and hold back a grin. “What are you doing there?”, she asks me. The face of my childhood friend holds a question mark. Amused she examines the wine glasses in my hand. “You know we´re going into the woods, right Stefanie?!” Of course, I know…. but style wants to be lived. Aino packs up her red Marimekko umbrella, takes the wine bottle with a wink off the shelf and walks calm and benevolently towards forest.
Please hold this feeling for a moment
Aino is the epitome of the Finnish soul. She is the embodiment and idealization of a deep national feeling. Aino stands like no one else for the beauty, for the harmony, for the clarity and for the uniqueness of Finland. And Aino gave her name to the most outstanding vineyard in Europe, the Ainoa Winery.
Between Quito, Cape Cod and Espoo
When David Cohen and his wife Paola left the United States more than ten years ago, he could not have imagined how much he would be appreciated as a winemaker in old Europe.
Growing up in Bay State Massachusetts, David was surrounded by America's highly acclaimed educational institutions such as MIT and Havard University. As one of the wealthiest states in the U.S., with beautiful seaside resorts like Cape Cod and Martha´s Vineyard, Massachusetts imports scientists, professors, democrats and engineers like hardly any other state. Fortunately, it exports David Cohen - to Finland!
What started as a hobby became a profession
In the United States, winemaking has long been a passion for David Cohen.
As an autodidact his hobby was pure fascination for him but the results...say like it should be...had room for improvement!
The best grapes from Sonoma or Napa were reserved for the great Californian cellars. But David accumulated an incredible amount of knowledge during this time. Eventually he went to Espoo in Finland together with his enchanting wife Paola, who came from Ecuador. Somewhere between a thirst for adventure, career development opportunities and an extremely likeable portion of madness, the former hobby became a real profession.
Berry wines from Finland
"Finnviini" was the name David and Paola gave their winery in Lepaa, south of Tampere. Like any good winemaker, David quickly realised that the decisive factor in winemaking was the raw material. Finland with its untouched nature and the "Everyman's Right" has a decisive advantage for the production of berry wine.
The raw material is available in excellent quality and freely accessible for everyone.
I was deeply impressed by Davids' awe for the unique quality of the Finnish berries. His greatest task was to steer his focus from the grapes to the berries and make the most of them. " I had to learn how to not ruin it", he said. Now you must understand that making a berry wine can be a real challenge for the winemaker. The creation of a berry wine's design requires a great deal of experience and skill since berries are much more difficult to work with than grapes. They have a lower sugar content and thus present every winemaker with serious difficulties in producing a corresponding alcohol content. David Cohen uses a method that is allowed under certain criteria for conventional wine production in Germany, too. He uses the enrichment of the musts, the chaptalization. This means that he adds sugar to the must so that he does not have to boost it artificially with alcohol. In this way a dessert wine of extraordinary quality can be produced even in cooler climates.
And the higher the quality, the more beautiful the tasting can be.
The wines of the Cohens attract attention. Not only are they in the most attractive wine bottles I've seen in all my years – they also have such a bold uniqueness as I have rarely found in dessert wines. Now my great scepticism about dessert wines is not a secret. But after countless tastings across the globe, the concept of terroir has deeply rooted itself in me. Regardless of my own wine taste, I value the reflection of its origin in a good wine. Personal preferences have no place in a professional tasting, but certain values - if one can speak of them at all in the ideal sense with wines - have manifested themselves over the years in my case as well. For me this includes among other things the authenticity of a wine. And this is where David Cohen comes in. His wines are an excellent reflection of the Finnish situation.
There are three factors that mark David and Paola's entire range:
On the one hand, there is the aforementioned authenticity. The wines are genuine, reflecting soil, berry and environment. The renaming to Ainoa is also a logical step on the way to a real Finnish attitude to life. Furthermore, they bear the handprint of their winemaker, a straight line that covers the entire range. And then there's what I call the „arctic factor“. I experienced it exclusively with wines from the far north and could describe it at most with the effect of an ice candy at the end of the 80s. It's a cool undertone that widens the palate. A kind of arctic clarity and freshness. A wonderful experience that you will not find in wines from traditional winegrowing regions.
I was especially impressed by the Sametti Sweet Blueberry Wine. With 14% alcohol it is a worthy representative of the dessert wines. In the nose fresh blueberries, a hint of musk and fine nuances of black powder. On the palate extremely complex, with smoke aromas, ripe blueberries, milk chocolate and arctic clarity. A good Finn! Sametti was the first Finnish wine to ever win a gold medal in an international competition.
Continue with the Vaapukka Sweet Raspberry Wine. In the glass appearing strongly reminiscent of a Pinot Noir, it exudes in the nose wonderful aromas of strained raspberries with a beautiful freshness and a woody touch. On the palate surprisingly powerful, with aromas of raspberry, liquorice and peach. Velvety and bitter at the same time, with a long finish and arctic clarity. Vaapukka won a trophy in Paris and also enjoyed wide popularity in our tasting, too.
I would especially like to recommend the Valokki Cloudberry Wine, a wine made from cloudberries that grow exclusively in very cool climates. Pure in the glass, the appearance is almost „pastel gold“. Fine, strong, smelling of roses and herbal tea, it exudes a touch of the exotic for all people who do not come from Scandinavia.
The surprise on the palate: The slightly tingling sweet wine develops unexpected nuances of resin, fir, essential oils and arctic clarity. This harsh shift lies so captivatingly over the sweet undertones that a wonderful interplay of invigorating contrasts emerges. What a wine! The price-performance ratio is extremely convincing, as no bottle crosses the 20 Euro threshold. The wines are now even available in Germany from Thorsten Kawinski in Bad Zwischenahn. And in Finland at Alko, Helsinki Airport Duty-Free stores, and high-end restaurants.
I wish Paola and David happiness, success and confidence for the further production of the new Ainoa wines.
The high demand recently brought the Cohens to Hollola, North-East of Helsinki, where they will expand their production.
I will stay on track for you and follow the development of Europe's most exceptional winery with great interest!
Stefanie Klever February 2019