Sad in Sarande, Albania

From Corfu to Sarande, the ferry takes about 30 minutes. A nice, easy ride across the Adriatic gets you there but upon arrival I was shocked by the hotchpotch design of the city perched against the hill facing out over the bay. Electric cables join some pleasant looking buildings with some half-finished construction sites and if it weren’t for the boulevard and its palm trees, all would be lost.

Flowers Room – a haven in the heart of Sarande from Airbnb

The streets and steps, and there are plenty of the latter, are fairly decent but veer slightly off the beaten track and you notice so much trash and litter with rubbish bins overflowing and not a hint of recycling in place. Then you find out that tap water is undrinkable and that you need to buy bottled water to survive the hefty heat in the summer. Too much plastic, too much waste and very little urban planning is turning this seaside town into a concrete jungle with little more to offer than clear water and wall-to-wall beaches, a lot of which are private ones where you’re required to rent a lounger and umbrella. Top of the awful pops music blares and one bar competes with another as to choice and volume.

Ksamil islands – ‘commercial’ takes on a new meaning

You can’t say it’s not cheap, cheap it is in every way possible. Few shops have anything of value to offer and the restaurants have the same menu wherever you go i.e. ‘country’ salad, risotto, spaghetti, fish, seafood and meat. My country salad consisted of deliciously fresh veg and lettuce with feta cheese and olive oil salad dressing but the lamb ribs which I was looking forward to, came piled high on a plate with no more than a wedge of lemon. Ribs they weren’t, just random cuts of meat.

Too much plastic and trash

Everyone recommends Ksamil Islands but if you think Sarande is commercial, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Every inch of beach is lined with the ubiquitous sunbeds and umbrellas all costing something albeit cheap in comparison to other Mediterranean countries. Trash decorates the sidewalks with not a collector in sight.

My saving grace in Sarande was the haven of peace and beauty called Flowers Room which I booked through Airbnb. Besmir and his family couldn’t have been kinder or more generous and the smell of herbs and foliage filled the night air. Air conditioning meant that you could close out the sounds of honking hooters and get a good night’s sleep. I felt as if I’d hit the jackpot.

Kristiano Wine Bar – a must-see

Having said what I’ve said so far, there is one spot which is worth a mention – the wine bar called Kristiano, way up high on the hillside and perhaps impossible to find if it weren’t by taxi. The interior is elegantly rustic complete with stuffed animals and the terraces outside look out over the bay. Sip a glass of wine and just take it all in, including the huge cruise vessels that stop in during the summer months. My hike down the mountain was made all the more pleasant when I joined a mother, her child and grandmother who took me down a shortcut through bush and thoroughly uneven terrain. What amazed me even more was that granny and daughter were both wearing wedge-heeled sandals leaping across boulders and rocks with the sure-footedness of gazelles. We waved a friendly goodbye to each other when we hit the first tarred road.

View over the bay from Kristiano Wine Bar

Friendliness, smiles and generosity are in ample supply in this city and while English doesn’t trip off their tongues, they make an effort to understand you and to get you what you want. Here’s to the locals, in every way! My advice on food – go to the market, buy the freshest of ingredients and cook your own. The fish and seafood from the fish shops is excellent as is the meat from the many butcheries scattered across town. With a lathering of olive oil and green herbs, you’re your own best chef. One more thing, the internet works well in cafés and restaurants.

Links:

Flowers Room

Kristiano Wine Bar

 

Ackerman Winery – Saumur, Loire Valley

The more you read about this company, the more you like it. From the word go, Jean-Baptiste Ackerman, understood the principals of local and locality. He did his homework well and then transferred his store of knowledge applying it in a new place.

Ackerman Winery, Saumur, Loire Valley

From the caves of Champagne where this wealthy banker’s son from Antwerp, learnt the tricks of the trade, Ackerman proceeded to Saumur in the Loire Valley in 1810. His vision was to recreate those fine bubbles of mousse rising steadily to the top of the glass using the grapes of the area. He bought some of the best tracts of underground galleries consisting of cool, limestone caves and started implementing his ideas. Instead of importing experienced workers, he decided that local was best and launched forth in educating the people around him teaching them the ‘méthode traditionelle’. He even married locally. His bride was the daughter of a rich banker carrying the name of Laurance and hence the brand name Ackerman was extended. His sparkling wine, which he labelled ‘champagne’, a mistake that would cost him dearly, received high acclamation from a wine-tasting jury spurring the company on to export. Due to his efforts, an addition to the railway line from Paris to Rennes and Angers, ended up in Saumur and from there Saumur Brut became widely known in England, Russia, Sweden, Germany and Belgium.

Ackerman and Laurance, a formidable pair

Today, Ackerman has not lost the vision and passion that Jean-Baptiste Ackerman had for the product and the company. They operate sustainably, making sure that waste is separated, water re-used and their footprint minimised. They’ve been able to reduce pesticide-use by 40% without losing production, cut down the amount of water that is used mostly for washing the bottles and have encouraged their growers to plant grass in between vineyards which works against soil erosion.

The cellar master’s chilly office at 12C

Taking care of their labourers is high priority. The average age of their 150 workforce is 45 years, an ageing population and hence training in load carrying is vital. Planning for retirement with mentor-based training is another way this way company looks out for its own. Disabled people are employed in bottle-conditioning.

The products from this winery are held up as benchmarks for the rest of the region. In 1956, they joined forces with Rémy Pannnier and have gone from strength to strength in quality and quantity. Both still and sparkling wines are produced from the highest quality of grapes grown in the Loire Valley creating tannic, earthy Cabernet Franc from Chinon, delicate sparkling wines using Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and even Pinot Noir in their cuvées and nutty, intense Chenin Blanc.

Creamy crémant

The iPad guided tour takes you on an informative, delightful journey through the caves including an installation art exhibition with a writhing python, a beautiful blonde and a spider web stretched across a huge hall. The whole tour costs a meagre €5 including a tasting of their entire extensive range, if you so wish. When the personnel are chatty and genuinely friendly, you know you’re in the Loire Valley and not in Paris or some other renowned regions where egos outstrip generosity and kindness. The service here is superlative and when you can walk away with a stash of outstanding bubbly and a few robust stills, most of them for under €10 per bottle, you count yourself lucky.

Tourism – Treat or Threat?

The travel industry is growing at an unprecedented pace with numbers increasing from 1,2 billion to 1,8 billion in the very near future. It also accounts for 10% of the world’s GDP, provides 1/10 jobs and is responsible for a massive carbon footprint due to airline travel. To encourage people to travel less is hardly an alternative since it is a valuable resource in developing countries some of which would be deprived of much-needed income if it were radically reduced. Besides, we expand our knowledge of the world, become more tolerant of other cultures, enrich our lives by experiencing new destinations first hand and escape the ignorance bubble of thinking that all we need to know about the world is on our doorstep. But this industry is in dire need of decoupling from abusing resources.

Drinking from a stream in Croatia

Choosing to sail by ship to our country of choice, is simply not an option due to time restrictions. The suggestion is not that we should all start travelling by boat but what if this is so, holidays could be extended to become ‘staycations’ in stead of just ‘vacations’. Here’s how:

  • Companies should get involved in work programmes whereby they transfer their employees to foreign places together with their families, to work and live there for periods of 6 months or more. The enrichment such an experience would bring to the table is immeasurable.
  • Visas should be lengthened beyond the current 3 month maximum.
  • Sabbaticals should be a requirement

And while we’re thinking of how we could gain from all this, what about the residence in these highly sought after spots that we so eagerly invade? Some villages, cities and countries, some with tiny populations, get overrun with tourists during high season. Resources are overwhelmed with all the demands made on them and it becomes all too easy for the traveller to complain causing angry rebuttals from locals who are then branded as ‘unfriendly’.

If you’re a visitor in a foreign country, that is exactly what you are, no more. We may dream of ‘staycations’ but if our holiday extends for a short week or maybe two, we should all be painstakingly aware of how we conduct ourselves.

Request:

No change of towels during your one week stay

No change of sheets

Use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign and make your own bed, or not!

Where the bottle deposit is

Added to this:

Take your own trash home with you especially in places where recycling is minimal

Use containers for toiletries and cosmetics that can be reused over and over again

Eat and drink locally produced products

Eat less meat

Travel by land if possible using bicycles and public transport rather than renting a car

Travel light and carry your own water bottles

Treat your hosts with respect even in the face of frustration

Look into the projects that Future Camp is involved with and join their community of believers by checking out their Living Lab Hotel and their Zero Waste Hotel to reduce your carbon footprint and expand your mind in stead.

Links: Future Camp 

Living Lab Hotel

Zero Waste Hotel

The Frightful Prospect of 2050

“We’ve come a long way….” The wry words of Kitty van der Heijden, Director of Europe and Africa, World Resources Institute, at the World Circular Economy 2017, held at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki from 5 to 7 June 2017.

Followed by a string of evidence on how little we have evolved, Kitty was quick to point out that the future is bleak. With a population explosion of 9 billion by 2050, we need to produce 70% more food in order to sustain mankind.

In today’s world, one out of every nine people goes hungry every day while 32% of food gets thrown away.

Credit: World Resources Institute

“We are at a tipping point,” she says. “We need a reduction in consumption and the issues of food waste and loss need to be addressed urgently.”

Beef cattle alone use 25% of the earth’s mass, consume 33% of its water, produce 1/3 of emissions while the industry has grown by 95% due to increased prosperity. Western societies have set the tone and are still leading the overall consumption chart. No less than nine developing countries, some with the world’s largest populations, are following suit with the dangerous ‘middle class effect’ when the average per capita income reaches $6000 per year and household expenditure increases contributing to further growth of a middle class.* With more spending, more resources are needed and this is where the picture starts looking dismal. Business growth will grind to a halt and unless new models are embraced, the glimmer at the end of the tunnel will be eradicated.

A not-so-quick fix is suggested by Kitty van der Heijden. For a truly circular economy to exist on the planet, the following issues need to be addressed:

No poverty

Zero hunger

Clean water

Decent work and economic growth

Responsible consumption and production

Climate action

Life below water

Life on land*

However, take a look at our daily existence in a first world country. Most of us cannot live without:

Shelter

Water

Food from supermarkets usually packaged in unrecyclable plastic

Electricity

Transport in the form of cars, buses, trams and trains

Holidays involving airline flights

Mobile phones and computers that have a short lifespan and cannot be fixed

Clothing travelling the globe before it reaches the shelves of a store

Waste removal

We hide behind the argument that we are as green as we can possibly be ‘under the circumstances’ but how many of us are willing to give up that long-haul flight, that Harley Davidson we’ve wanted since childhood, the status of living in a dwelling far larger than we need?

If we are heading for an increase of 70% to feed the 9 billion human beings that will be inhabiting our planet by 2050, closing the food gap is the challenge that awaits us. Businesses and politicians have to face the elephant in the room. Increasing production is unsustainable. Decreasing consumption however, is reachable by a shift to diets that are kinder to our planet, not an impossibility considering the huge range that is at our disposal. Less meat and dairy products, eating local, demanding better packaging and recycling will contribute. Lessening food waste is vital. From our own private kitchens to those of restaurants and supermarket shelves, we need to be aware and ask if we’re not, making sure that we keep everyone in the industry accountable. Become a custodian not a fanatic and spread your green story with tolerance.

And just when you think that the difference you are making is but a drop in the ocean, bring to mind the Ethiopian proverb, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, go to sleep in a room with a mosquito,” Kitty van der Heijden advises.

*World Resources Institute

Red, White and Blue – Viking Line

The dark blue waters of the Baltic are brightened up by the red and white of Viking Line’s many crossings to Tallinn and Stockholm this summer. To liven up their regular timetable, they’ve gone as far as renting a catamaran which will be in operation until the end of October 2017. Besides FSTR or ‘Faster’, the aptly named aforementioned vessel, two of their other cruisers viz. the Mariella and Gabriella will also be called on to ply the heavy traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn together with their regular ship XPRS.

While there’s plenty of competition out there, Viking Line has always tried to stay ahead of the game with their friendly service, good food and cheap prices. The FSTR catamaran gets you from Helsinki to Tallinn in an hour and 45 minutes and is big enough to carry 835 passengers and 120 cars making it operational in all kinds of weather. The focus is on seating with airline-type loungers for everyone. The bar and cafeteria on board make sure that no one goes hungry or thirsty and for an extra fee, a hot breakfast or supper with beer and wine are available in the Club Lounge where the standard of service and products are of exceptional quality.

Viking XPRS is a little bigger with a 2500 passenger capacity taking a little longer. The two and a half hours on board can be spent singing karaoke, dancing to a live band, dining in one of the many restaurants, shopping at reduced prices or watching your kids play in the designated area. The Bistro Buffet is the most popular choice since the selection is vast and even pernickety eaters can find something they like here. Beer and wine are on tap. But for something a little more upmarket, Wine & Dine has white linen on the tables and service with lots of smiles is effortless. A 3-course meal sets you back around €38. Get into celebratory mood with a glass of Charles Heidsieck champagne at €8, a steal anywhere on the planet.

Kumu Art Museum in Kadriorg Park, Tallinn

Some hours in Tallinn can be combined with the Viking Line ticket and there are all kinds of options for all ages to keep the group happy. The Old Town always presents a photo opportunity with its architecture and colourful buildings. The Seaplane Harbour is a mecca for anyone interested in boats and sea craft, a real hands-on place where the most reluctant of museum-goer will dive into the activities. The Tele Tower is a futuristic experience with a 3-D movie to start your journey before your snappy elevator ride to the top floor where the view literally takes your breath away looking out over the city and down through the ‘hole’ in the floor. Kumu Art Museum is housed in a spectacular modern building with art treasures covering the period from the beginning of the 18thC until the end of World War II. Temporary exhibitions showcase Estonian and international artists and the performance schedule is choc-a-bloc. Besides, the walk through the immaculate Kadriorg Park to get there is a treat all on its own and there are many other museums to visit on the way.

Dinner aboard Viking Line’s XPRS at the Wine and Dine Restaurant

If time is not at a premium, staying overnight in Tallinn is reasonably priced especially when you book it with your Viking Line crossing. Budget to luxury are all within a price range that won’t bring tears to your eyes.

Here are the links to Viking Line’s timetables and ways you can spend your day in Tallinn:

https://www.sales.vikingline.com/

https://www.visittallinn.ee/eng

Me, Me, Me

As modest as the Finns may be, selfies have caught on here too, dating all the way back to the 19th Century. The exhibition Me: Self-Portraits Through Time is a collection of 160 works by 102 artists from Finland ranging through the Finnish Golden Age to noteworthy contemporary ones.

In the early days they were called self-portraits and perhaps the focus was slightly different from today’s aren’t-I-stunning approach. ‘The eyes are the window of the soul’ is an expression we’re all familiar with, but what if you’re too shy or simply don’t want to reveal it to the onlooker, but you still want to be immortalised? Is it about immortality or just vanity?

Otto Mäkelä: Self-portrait (1929)
Alexandra Frosterus-Såltin: In the Studio (1858)

Thank God for Justus von Liebig who invented the mirror in 1835. Without it, some of these would never have existed and while they all used it, only a few admit to the fact and show it in their pieces. But even mirrors can be too self-revealing and hence reflections come into distorted focus in the metal of blenders as in Pauliina Turakka Purhonen’s Oaig, referring to the only visible letters on the cardboard Laphroaig box in which she keeps her paintbrushes. Or could it be a groan, an utterance of loathing? Or the sculpture in wood of 84 year-old Radoslaw Gryta strangely staring out at you from the backdrop of honeycombs.

Pauliina Turakka Purhonen’s Oaig (2010)

As a foreigner, I find the Finnish style rather intriguing. Seeing the exhibition as a whole, shows that most of these are realistic in the way they bare themselves to the general public. Some are perhaps flattering, some are distinctly distorted, others horrifying and abstruse. While you wonder about the character in the painting or photo or sculpture, it also brings you to a point of self-searching and your own reaction to it. The creator must have had this in mind and while they couldn’t predict the response, they could control it to an extent. This is where emotion comes into play. Seeing the irony and humour in Sampsa Sarparanta’s The White Man’s Burden, the Heidi man-girl ridiculously laughing back at you, the grotesque Last Man Standing evoking fear, the sadness, the playfulness, the sorrow – it all draws you into their world and their feelings at the time of execution. Finally, you walk out with a bag of mixed emotions to sort through and the memory of faces you never knew but will never forget.

Sampsa Sarparanta’s The White Man’s Burden (2015)
Last Man Standing – Stiina Saaristo (2007-2008)

Me: Self-Portraits Through Time is on show at Kunsthalle Helsinki from 27 May until 6 August 2017.

Kunsthalle Helsinki

Nervanderinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki

Tickets +358 40 450 7211

Tue, Thu, Fri 11–18

Wed 11–20

Sat-Sun 11–17

Mon closed

€12 / €8

Under 18s – no charge

Celebration! Silja Line Turns 60

What a year it is! Finland celebrates 100 years of independence, Silja Line celebrates 60 years of being in business and what a long way they’ve come. (See the video!) New products have been chosen and a celebratory menu has been designed by Tommy Myllymäki and Matti Jämsén, Tallink Silja’s Head of Restaurant Services.

As you can see from the video, food has always since the very beginning, been a vital component of cruising. Putting together a menu of the best tastes of summer is the task ahead of Tommy and Matti and what fun they’re having. Finland explodes with spring vegetables, seafood and fish and some of the best ice cream in the world. At Bon Vivant, the fine dining option on board, Menu Nordic consisting of 5 courses is a tribute to Silja 60. Tomatoes are finally ripening and serving it as a cold soup with feta and basil gives you that first hint of warmer weather. With the Sauvignon Blanc from Domaine de la Garrelière from the Loire Valley, it’s an acidic rush that pricks the palate and opens the taste buds for the surprises to follow.

Veal tartar with crunchy green peas and slivers of radish

Veal Tartar comes with a tarragon sauce and crisp, sweet raw peas that Finland is so famous for. Just walk along the Market Square and see the number of empty pods lying on the ground, a habit that is cleaned up at the end of every day in the summer. Dry Rosé de Carsin especially made for Finland 100, gives this dish an extra dimension. Followed by Pike Perch & Ginger comes the Beef & Onion main course with morel mushrooms on a bed of spelt, hearty and filling and complements the Carsin Cuvée, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc to carry it through to its full conclusion. Rhubarb for dessert and to sweeten it there’s meringue and a creamy mascarpone ice cream. Price €109/118 including wine, the former with Silja Card.

Pike perch with brown butter sabayon sauce, sauerkraut and ginger

Every second year a new range of Ship’s wines and beverages are chosen. The lucky producers can look forward to massive sales on board but criteria are strict and supplies need to be forthcoming. Choosing them is not easy since you have to keep the general palate in mind, the price and not least of all the label. Hence, nothing too challenging and under €10 except for the champagne. Bauchet Brut Champagne at €28,90 is light and user-friendly with toast and almonds on the palate. Riesling is a huge favourite in Finland for the time being and hence needs to be represented. Geil Riesling Trocken from Rheinhessen, Germany, fits the bill. It’s a no-nonsense wine with acidity, pear and herbs. Zonin Velluto Appassimento is the red choice with a blend of dried Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes. It’s velvety and smooth and rather sweet as a result of the drying of the grapes.

Chocolates by Kultasuklaa celebrating Silja 60

Marimekko has entered the fray of the jollifications on board and has come up with special colours highlighting the marine mood that can be seen in the suites and restaurants. Don’t leave the ship without some bars of chocolate from Kultasuklaa. White chocolate with a flavouring of salty liquorice, dark chocolate with salt and milk chocolate, all made with heart by this small producer in Finland.

Happy cruising and cheers to Silja Line on this auspicious occasion.

Let’s Talk Champagne – J.L. Vergnon

The Old Student House is anything but the way it sounds. The building, which used to be the party place for university students, screams pomp and ceremony with its arches and corniced pillars. What could be more appropriate than a Grand Champagne celebration in these glorious surroundings?

Amongst the 50 champagne houses represented, are some new names that stand out and one of these is Christophe Constant from J. L. Vergnon. Besides the tastings and Master Classes at Vanha, as we refer to the venue, there are other occasions to extend the pleasure of drinking this ‘king of wines and wine of kings’. In the fitting environment of one of Helsinki’s top restaurants Olo Garden, brunch is served accompanied by a tasting of four of the J.L. Vergnon range.

Christophe Constant, oenologist and winemaker at J.L. Vergnon with Petra Anttila, co-owner of Bottlescouts.

The titles of each one in themselves are points of discussion. We start with Conversation, what else? It’s a Blanc de Blanc which breaks the ice and oils the wheels of a good chat with your table companions whether you know them or not. It’s crisp, very dry and the fine mousse rises rapidly to the rim. Made from 25% of 2006 reserve wine with grapes from the Grand Cru region of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, it has a classic nose of biscuit and citrus. Apricots, lemon and again that cake and biscuit flavour plays around on your palate with a finish of slight saltiness. A cabbage/kale dish for breakfast could be a conversation stopper but with this sparkling mouthful of acidity, words start flowing and chatter becomes easy, even for the Finns.

Eloquence is next, or is it? If you couldn’t find the words in Conversation, you’ll never find them in Eloquence. The excellence of language usage comes into play with this tight, flinty champagne. Christophe Constant does it again in his inimitable style of creating a racy, tense wine that brings you brioche, pear and lemon zest with a finish of lingering marzipan. A deep structure keeps you coming back for more and every sip reveals another secret. The slightly sweet pickled cucumber delicately laced with dill on a bed of shrimps brings out notes of grapefruit and melon. The elegance of Eloquence is hard to resist.

Brunch at Olo Garden, Grand Champagne 2017

Renowned for Blanc de Blanc, Christophe has gone out on a limb creating the Rosémotion, a blend of Chardonnay and Grand Cru Pinot Noir wine. Tart strawberry and yeast on the nose is followed through on the palate with minerality, some lingonberry and grapefruit. This is not a candy-style rosé, it’s far more serious and displays dense structure which would go well with Steak Tartare, unfortunately not on the menu at this brunch. However, the crisp little Madeleine’s sweet, almondy flavours, makes the wine sing.

A deep Résonance is sadly, our final mouthful of this exceptional flight. The 2008 vintage blanc de blanc champagne digs deep into your thoughts with its complex structure. It brings that ever-present grapefruit and almond to the fore with elements of vanilla and honey. On the second drop the creaminess of a long time spent on the lees reveals itself while the third taste makes talk unnecessary and you settle in to a cosy, satisfying warmth. Rich is an understatement without ever losing elegance and minerality. This one will resonate for a time to come.

These fine products are available from:

Finland

http://bottlescouts.fi/articles/viinikategoriat/sesonki/grand-champagne/

Elsewhere:

http://www.champagne-jl-vergnon.com/partenaires-en.html

 

Winning Wines of 2017

The wine competition took place this year as usual and here are my favourites from the flight of winners.

Getting ready for the tasting

Whites:

 Camie Salié Jurançon Sec 2014 – way down south in a lesser known region of wine making in France comes this gem made from Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, also lesser known. But the careful hand vinification has produced a wine with walnuts, mandarin, sometimes marmalade and vanilla. Each sip is a new revelation. Alko price €18,89.

A really good wine at a really good price

Dal Cero Vigneto Runcata 2014 – a soave superior with the classic Garganega grape. Its deep flavours come in the form of rich butter, citrus and baked notes with plenty of acidity to give it structure. You could mistake it for a Chardonnay but then there’s this nervous finish which gives it a whole new profile. Alko €22,90.

Fraser Gallop Parterre Chardonnay 2015 – all the way from Margaret River this wooded Chardonnay is made from free run juice and has elegance second to none. It is wooded but not overtoasted and shows a mingling of citrus fruit and baked Alaska leaving you with a mouth full of creaminess in the finish. Alko €32,98.

White wine winners

Reds:

 Baron de Ley Gran Reserva 2010 – a big wine, full-bodied and ready to take on any steak or red meat delivery out there. The woodsmoke shouts out for a barbecue and the strawberry and dark cherry puts it on a level with some outstanding rivals. Balance is the key and firmness can be found in the finish. Alko €24,94

Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – wood ash opening up to cigar box and cherries on the nose, this comes from Stellenbosch, South Africa. It’s got a whole load of stuff happening with plums, cherries again, coffee and chocolate. A barbecue is calling you with a nice fat lamb chop on it. Alko €16,89.

Domaine Bousquet Ameri Single Vineyard 2011 – an organic wine which at first almost gives you a fright with its pungency of balsam dissipating into boysenberry and chocolate notes. It’s a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot that grows on you and keeps coming back with more intriguing flavours every time you have a taste. Definitely made for meat in its full robustness. Alko €29,94.

Red wine winners

NEXT TASTING – get your head around some dizzying rosés on Tuesday 30 May 2017 at Nomad Cellars, Annankatu 22, 00100 Helsinki with Veli-Antti Koivuranta. Bookings: +358 40 4143705.

Links:

Vuoden Viinit 2017

Alko

It’s a Wild Ride at Linnanmäki Amusement Park, Helsinki

The locals lovingly call it ‘Lintsi’ and when the first rays of sunshine start appearing after the long winter, the kids are already tugging at their parent’s nerves to take them to this summer attraction. It’s a happy place and something sincerely has to go wrong for it not to put a smile on your face. Even better, the proceeds go to Finnish child welfare work. It’s the kindest thing you can do for not only your own children but also those less privileged.

Magia for a heady ride

A new year brings new stuff to explore starting with Ice Age in 4D with arrows whizzing passed your head, water spraying lightly in your face and plenty of bumps and jumps for you to get the full effect. This is included in the wristband. Magia will take you on a whirl that reaches the heavens while you look down vertically at the ground below, spin you and settle you down back to earth before it all starts again. There’s wild and gentle for the not so brave and if you’re not interested in the rides at all, there’s the wheel of fortune which will add yet another soft toy to your already overflowing collection. Lots of the kiddie rides are free of charge and there is no entrance fee so if you just want to come along and watch, that’s possible too. The American Diner will satisfy your hamburger needs and there’s a lot more besides that. Caruzello has a family buffet while the Sports Restaurant has finger food to go with your beer.

Starting with the Spring Carnival, Linnanmäki has special events happening at times when the park might not be that crowded. Between 2 – 14 May, clowns, ventriloquists, and music are put on to entertain the crowds and you can even take a twirl on the dance floor if the mood hits you. At the beginning of September Iik!week brings zombies to scare you and other eerie phenomena to keep you intrigued. The Carnival of Light is a show to behold with plenty of design teams working on displays to light up the dark time of year.

Linnanmäki is open from 28 April until late October but do check the website if you’re planning to go in September or October.

Links:

Linnanmäki Amusement Park