Madeleine Stenwreth: low impact wine
Candid, direct and solar. Madeleine Stenwreth is one of the most competent people we've met in the world of wine, she combines sensitivity in tasting, empathy and a truly rare ability to listen and relate with others. Especially in his world, the inner circle of the Masters of Wine. She has a free approach and an exquisitely global vision. We reached out to her during quarantine in her home in the woods on the outskirts of Stockholm.
How has your work changed?
"At the beginning I had a very hard time accepting the situation, I always travelled a lot, to visit producers, to meet them in person, to inspire and communicate, to take courses and look my students in the face. In a short time everything blew up and I couldn't do any of that online. Of course, we have learned that with zoom and other platforms we can get in touch more easily, we will continue to use them effectively, but our industry is based on interpersonal relationships. I think of the work of importers. In order to put my wine, my image and my business in your hands I need to know you well. To create a bond I have to meet you in person. And if you want to win a monopoly tender, you have to equip yourself first, you have to create an ad hoc cuvée, you have to compare and put everything in discussion. All things that are done at the workplace, between the vineyard and the cellar.”
What do you think of all these live broadcasts and e-tastings?
It's a good opportunity only if in addition to being a good journalist you are also an entertainer. Now everyone is doing the same thing, if I open instagram I have 50 lives going on at the same time, everyone interviewing everyone. We're already wasting so much time on the phone, who is actually listening to all these live streams? Fernando Mora in Spain was among the first to launch in this aspect, and he created a serious, targeted calendar. The important thing is to understand who your audience is, know the technical level, speak the language, whether it's a study subject or just for a chat. Nobody specifies this, I only see appointments with the interviewee's name. It takes strategy.
What’s happening in Sweden? What will influence sales?
I start with a striking fact. Sales of bag in box wine have increased by 40% in just one month, people are drinking a lot and quality is not their first choice. Unfortunately, cases of domestic violence are also increasing. People drink more because they are desperate, not surprisingly Champagne sales are completely still, because we associate bubbles with a moment of happiness. With this crisis we have discovered how important it is to keep our immune system healthy, so we will be increasingly attentive to health. We have gone further, we have plundered the planet and its resources and now we find ourselves fragile. Not only organic or biodynamic wine will be increasingly essential, but also knowing everything about what we are drinking. I believe that we will see a change in the European Union law that today still allows 60/70 adjuvants in wine, this explains the success of natural wines with young people, because even beyond a few flaws, they know that they are putting a healthy drink into their bodies. We would always like to be more certain of this, reading everything on the label, I imagine a new category: a low impact wine, on the body and on the planet.
Are you able to drink with gusto during quarantine?
I drink wine every night, I need something nice to look forward to during the day. I don't want to waste time, so if I don't like it, I immediately open another bottle, since I need to feel inspired. I want to think of the person who made that wine, the place, the philosophy, I imagine the vineyard, I escape. In this wine is perfect.
How do you see the recovery? Will online sales continue to boom? What about the ailed dining sector?
Here in Sweden online sales have not increased as much as in the United States or other countries because we have never really been in a real lockdown. It will be very difficult for restaurants to return to the level of pre-Covid wine sales. People have improved a lot in the kitchen and have experienced many excellent bottles by paying a fourth of what they do in restaurants. Here restaurants also tend to mark-up by 800%, alcohol sales pay for staff wages. With the price of a good bottle we can buy a round trip ticket to London, as an example. Will we accept those markups now? Sommeliers will have to perform super research work, give even more personality to the wine list to present something new and original. I see two directions in which consumptions will go, one, a growth of low budget wine because people will have less money; two, those who have money will spend even more for important bottles. We realized that time flies, we don't know when the next virus will hit, we look at the important bottles in the cellar impatiently. What am I waiting for? Now is the time!