Thursday, 14 May 2015

Wine tourism in Latvia: Zilver

Zilver Winery's history ties in with some important moments in Latvian history, too.

Located in Sigulda, off A2 road from Riga, the farm came to the family as the Soviet Occupation came to an end in 1990's. Initially it was all fruit until the financial crisis that hit Latvia really bad in 2007 hit the Zilver family, too. Like so many others, the son Jānis found himself out of work and had to explore ways to employ himself. "Luckily that time consumers too had a newly-found interest in arts and crafts and artisanal products" he sighs now, relieved.

Jānis felt a change coming and studied agriculture, in Finland of all the countries. He even took part in a wine-making project there.

The answer came in 2010 in the form of a legislative change liberating the manufacturing and selling of alcohol. Jānis was one of the first ones to take the leap and started a winery carrying the family name.

These days there are around 40 wineries in Latvia, which, for a small country of only 1,5 million residents, is quite a bit.

We've previously visited two of these: Abavas and Libertu.

Zilver represents the traditional style of wineries of non-wine-countries. They have more than 10 different varieties of wines made of fruits, berries and flowers.

The tasting house, echoing Wild West is a popular sight and in an important role. Half of 10 000 bottles sold annually are sold through retailers (for a list please see here) and half directly to visitors on the farm. Want to visit? Get in touch over here!

They have wine made of quince, raspberry, cloudberry and dropwort. Based on what I've heard of Latvians' taste so far, I can imagine these are popular among them. They are sweet, though not ickily so. The taste is natural, too, you can really taste the fruits and berries. 

I personally find it difficult to think of these as wines (body? Texture? Acidity?) but The Boy Next Door loved the gentleness of them. Properly chilled I can imagine them working well as dessert wines. The dropwort wine for instance has lovely, aromatic quality.

But there were some surprises in store, too.

After one particularly abundant apple harvest they had to come up with something new and now Jānis is experimenting with Calvados-style fruit brandy.

Jānis estimates it still has a couple of years ahead of it in French oak barrels, but already now it seems promising. First year in oak has mellowed it down and brought on notes of warm vanilla. 

Here's another surprise. Jānis is one of those three Latvian wine-makers using the traditional Champagne method and a perfect example of how it's not the easiest, quickest or economically soundest way.

First two batches of the sparkling wine failed. Now he's waiting to see how the third one turns out. Oh, the ingredient? Rose petals.

The bouquet has aromatic and not artificially perfume-like quality. I can't wait how the wine turns out!

Running the winery certainly keeps the man busy - Jānis laughs he even had to quit smoking as he didn't even have time for that.  This husband and father-of-one is only 27, but full of ideas. And we wish him and his family all the best in making them happen!

The brave fearlessness of the wine-makers we met in Latvia was refreshing. A lesson in taking risks and believing in dreams that I, too, could use.

And with this visit we end our tour of Latvia (at last!) I hope you've all enjoyed the trip; perhaps even got some ideas and inspiration...?

Don't forget, your feedback is always appreciated so hey, how did you like it? Too much of something? Too little of something else? What was your favourite bit?




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