04 July 2010

Sweden wants Pinotage

The Swedish alcohol monopoly Systembolaget has published its plans for 2011. “We will continue to renew our selection of Pinotage wines from South Africa,” they say and are tendering for a minimum of 260,000 bottles of “modern style “Coffee Pinotage”.

“We are looking for a full-bodied and tasty wine with substantial tones of roasted coffee, chocolate, spices and dark cherries. The wine should partly be aged and fermented in oak barrels.” They require a “Stelvin Screwcap closure” (hooray) and a “colour picture on the bottle with readable label.” Interesting, does that mean they want a Swedish language label? This wine will retail at between 70-99SEK.

They also want 70,000 bottles of a 2010 Stellenbosch WO Pinotage to retails above 100SEK.

“We are looking for a fruity, elegant and balanced wine with integrated character of oak barrel and hints of dark berries, spices and herbs. The wine will not be visible smoky, jam or burnt notes. The wine should be aged at least 12 months, mostly in French oak barrels.”

The Systembolaget is one of the world’s largest single purchasers of wine, which isn’t surprising as it is buying wine for an entire country. For a consumer, if the Systembolaget hasn’t got it, then it doesn’t exist. Currently they list the following varietal Pinotages.

Cafê Culture Pinotage
Fairview Pinotage Viognier
Fairview Pinotage
Graham Beck Pinotage
Jacobsdal Pinotage
KWV Pinotage
L'Avenir Pinotage 2008
Lyngrove Podium Pinotage
MAN Vintners Pinotage 2009
Rijk's Pinotage 2004
Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage
Stormhoek The Siren Pinotage

Doesn’t look to me that the Systembolaget wine buyers get out the office much. That's not the list for one shop, that's the list for an entire country.



  1. Yes, not impressive, is it? But what can you expect when one person is supposed to manage the whole country's wine purchasing for several countries of origin? I don't know how many buyers they have at Systembolaget but I can assure it is not hundreds - as you would have on a market that is not a monopoly.

  2. Checking, it seems they have some 10 buyers. Ten people who are supposed to provide full coverage in sourcing wine from the whole world for the entire nation of Sweden.

  3. Having worked and lived in Stockholm I have a deep loathing for the Systeema...

    This list wouldn't be bad for one independent shop but for a nation it is at best plain lazy..

    3 wines from the Fairview stable
    2 from KWV
    2 from Distell

    There's the L'Avenir, but is it there on its merits or because it's a Laroche winery and there are another 20+ Laroche wines on the list? Stormhoek is one 6 from Origin. Rijks and Graham Beck are excellent cellars and the Systema seems to list every single wine they produce.

  4. That's approximately the number of Pinotage wines in Korea currently, most of them imported by Jay Kim at WNB. Pinotage has suffered under Nederburgism in Korea during the last 6months due to a certain game played in S Africa this year.

    Any value for money wineries wanting to enter the Korean market? A friend is an importer building a wine list of 1000 wines.

  5. Hello Peter, so you lived in Stockholm once? I am Swedish living in Brazil, and getting involved in sourcing for some importers in Sweden.
    Great to hear how you remember the nickname 'Systemet' short for Systembolaget, I guess it evokes mixed feelings for many expats too. I am also in favour of the possibility of a more open system, as it is difficult for a wine loving Swede to experiment several wines from one and the same winery.
    However, that said, I believe actually Systembolaget is trying to get all wineries a chance and it is not that really that they are sitting back with cozy relationships with large wine companies.
    It works this way, in order to get new blood into the assortment, they have almost monthly invites for the temporary listings, and then twice a year to the strategic permanent listings. The final decision is made by a blind tasting session with several people involved. They have country managers but they are mainly there to create new categories and invites to tender. So sometimes you can have an odd 30-40 South African wines and wineries competing for one listing, and in the end only one can win, which can be a bit frustrating. However, Systemet has had a lot of scrutiny so I really do think all wineries do get a fair chance, but you have to tender the wines for a blind taste and it can be frustrating for wineries as a runner up is not getting an order. So a lot of patience needed.
    Maybe you can help me by the way, are there any more coffee style Pinotages around apart from Diemersfontein, Cafe Culture (already listed in Sweden) Barista Pinotage and Boland?
    Ulf Karlholm

  6. We have a number of interesting Pinotage wines on our books, but we would not be looking to supply "The System" - You're welcome to have a look at hamlin-house.com