Estonia presents its own champagne

  • 2001-11-08
  • Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - Estonia is ready to place itself on the world map of wine makers despite its northern location, which prevents grape cultivation. Wine made from apples and other locally occurring fruits and berries is as good as French and Italian varieties, the country's wine makers say.

Estonia's largest wine making company, Scandinavian-owned Poltsamaa Felix, introduced Fest, Estonia's first sparkling wine at a food and beverage fair on Oct. 30 in Tallinn. It will reach shop counters some time before the coming Christmas and will cost around 40 kroons ($2.30).

The company hopes to win over consumers who currently drink such tried and tested products as Sovetskoje Shampanskoje on festive occasions.

Sovetskoje Shampanskoje is imported to Estonia by various suppliers, with Riga's Latvijas Balzams drinks company taking first place.

Indra Ozola, Latvijas Balzams' marketing director told The Baltic Times Latvian-made sparkling wines have between 55 percent and 60 percent of the market share in Estonia. "Our competitiveness is ensured by the high quality of our products as well as by the marketing activities of our distributors," Ozola said.

Anti Orav, marketing director of the company Poltsamaa Felix, said that wines produced from fruits and berries in the central Estonian town of Poltsamaa are on the menus of most top restaurants in Estonia. Domestic vintages are also enjoyed at government receptions and gourmet feasts.

"We want to improve the image of Estonian wines," said Orav. "Fruit wines are just as good as grape wines. They have their own character and value."

Poltsamaa Felix's 0.75-liter bottles come with a modern turning cork, meaning they can be closed before the wine is finished. When it comes to the recipe, company director Andres Koern is secretive. "All I can say is our wine is made of local fruit," he said. But Estonian weekly Eesti Ekspress wrote that Fest is made from apples and gooseberries.

Commercial wine production in Estonia began in the 1920s in Poltsamaa, which is often called the country's wine capital.

A total of 13 different wines are produced in the town for the Estonian market and two for the Lithuanian market. Exports account for 10 percent of production with Finland importing a small proportion of this.

Unlike Estonia and Lithuania, Latvia has very little in the way of wine production since the making of wines from apples and berries on Soviet era collective farms has died out, observed Orav. Latvijas Balzams makes only sparkling wines in Riga.

Beside Poltsamaa Felix there are a couple of other smaller producers of wine from local products in Estonia.

Tallinna Karastusjoogid produces some of its wines from juice concentrate and some from local fruits, mostly apples, once a year in the autumn. Some products are fortified with alcohol, bringing the alcohol content up to 19 percent.

Wine production accounts for only one-tenth of Poltsamaa Felix's turnover, with its product range also including jams, soups, pickled cucumber, ketchup, mayonnaise, fish pasties and juices - 140 different products in total.

Poltsamaa Felix belongs to Scandinavian foodstuffs company Orkla Foods, a stock company owned mostly by Norwegian investors. The group's turnover in the 2000 was over $1 billion and it employed 6,000 people. Poltsamaa Felix netted a $5 million turnover last year but has not revealed this year's profits because of its stock exchange status.