When I watched the Danish Queen Margrethe II abdicate last Sunday in favor of making her son, Crown Prince Frederik X, become King of Denmark, it truly felt like witnessing history being written. I cannot say I am in favor of a society where royals have their own set of privileges but then, on the other hand, I am born in a country where a constitutional and more symbolic monarchy works. They fill a certain function as ambassadors of the country and somehow – as a historian – I see how they link to a past that to a certain extent fascinates me.
I guess that many of you would here say that this is a part of being Eurocentered and talking in favor of a society built on birthright rather than merits. However, at least in Scandinavian countries, the monarchies have been marginalized to having only a symbolic function, they are not allowed to speak directly to the people about politics or any other socio-economical questions. They only represent the country as ambassadors of history, tradition, and culture.
Anyway, now you might think, ok, but what does this have to do with wine?
The Dilemma of Pairing Wine With a Monarch
While sitting watching the change in reign from Queen Margrethe II to King Frederik X, I thought about what wine could be paired with the very intelligent now ex-Queen Marghrete II and her son, the new King Frederik X. It might sound superficial, but I started thinking that it is not as easy to just pair a stereotypical premium French wine with ex-Queen Marghrete II (to honor her French husband) or like a newer Supertuscan with King Frederik II. There is more depth to it than that. I also realized it could be linked to the ongoing discussion of wine language and the future of wine. As I write mostly about Italian wine, my references will be mostly to that. I will get back to this below.
Lately, with the pandemic, Prince Charles who became King Charles III of Britain, most countries heading towards ultra right-wing governments, and the many wars going on, it feels like we are witnessing event after event that will be in the history books of the future. Well, it might be that I feel the winds of history blowing more strongly because of being a bit ‘older’ myself. Still, I think we are in the middle of historical change and disruption, a lot of uncertainty is making us all feel a bit in limbo and worried about our present and future as well as doubting the past. I am not a huge royalist even though I am in some way, as mentioned above, all right with a constitutional monarchy where the royals have only a symbolic function.
Still, I am not Danish so why do I talk about the Danish king?
True. But I am from Skåne, the southernmost region of Sweden, and sometimes it feels like we have more in common with Denmark than with Sweden. Even if I, of course, feel Swedish to the core. However, there is a general idea that the southern regions have to suffer the ‘oddness’ of people from central and northern Sweden when they come to spend their summers in our part of the country to soak up the beauty and more ‘relaxed’ living. These are very common internal jokes or thoughts in every country between different regions – a sort of center and periphery concept.
Now, I think I will get a lot of Swedes writing me angry messages. LOL
Let’s get back to talking about the Danish monarchy and wine.
The abdication of Queen Margrethe II was indeed a historical event as it was the first time in about 900 years that a Danish monarch abdicated. The last time was in 1146 when King Erik III abdicated to join a monastery. The intelligent Queen Margrethe II has no intention of joining a monastery, rather it is said that she abdicated out of health reasons or perhaps more plausible to “future-proof” the monarchy. She is a queen, a woman, who has always been very sharp and in step with time. An interesting fact is that she never gave her husband, Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, any clear title other than a prince and first male consort, but he never became a king consort like Queen Mary now has become a queen consort. He ended up resenting her very much for that it seems, stating there should be equality in a marriage. But do you think anybody would have cared if it was the other way around?
So, Queen Margrethe II has always been a very clever and strong woman. She increased the Danish people’s support for the crown from 40% at the beginning of her reign to over 80% in today’s Denmark.
If we now look at it from a wine-related point of view, where several “wine thinkers” lately have stated that the wine language is Eurocentric and needs to be decolonized. That is true to a certain extent, even if “decolonization” is a strong word here, and it is odd when it comes from American writers considering that the world in modern times is rather politically and economically “colonized” by the US and most of Europe is invaded by American language and culture. Of course, it is true that France, the United Kingdom, and many other countries have a past as colonizers and also have had and have an extensive influence on the wine vocabulary. I do not think that this is necessarily a bad thing. I do not think there is any need to only use certain British or French wine terms all over the world, if I have other fruits or flowers I know from Sweden, I refer to such notes without asking permission from any French, British, or other wine scholar. I think a big part of the problem is also class-related here.
Anyway, language is always in constant change and a reflection of the society we live in. The last few decades have been about equality, #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, inclusivity, etc. and thus it is natural that this starts to show itself also in the (wine) language.
When it comes to Denmark and its royal family, they are indeed part of a European – i.e. Eurocentric – royal tradition. It is one of the oldest royal families in the world. There is nothing else to say about that. Queen Margrethe II married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, who was from the French nobility, so Denmark has a clear connection to France. (The French connection was strong also during the Napoleonic wars when they were a military ally of France.)
Even if the Danish royal family is one of the important foundations the country stands on, a part of the history and tradition, it can still be seen as being low-key, authentic, and not afraid to take those unpopular decisions needed to safeguard its existence. This I think will also be important in the wine language debate, where working towards more inclusivity and being more in line with the changes in language worldwide, it is still crucial to not lose touch with history. History cannot be changed or erased but you can decide how to learn from it and move forward.
A French Wine Pairing with The Danish Royals
Therefore, rather than pairing the Danish royal family, especially ex-Queen Margrethe II and the new King Frederik X, with a wine from the big Bordeaux maisons, I would go with the contested Liber Pater wine by winemaker Loïc Pasquet. I feel I have to start with a French wine pairing due to historical liaisons.
Liber Pater is a very inaccessible wine, even if going against set winemaking rules in France, which could fit with an older as well as more modern model of monarchies. However, monarchies have shown to be able to modernize themselves to be able to survive. It started with marrying “commoners” which today is a common occurrence. In recent years, it has become important to be able to cut down on the spending of state resources, therefore, the decision to eliminate the titles for all the royal grandchildren who are not direct successors to the throne, as in Sweden and Denmark. Many royals, for example, King Frederik II, are more down to earth and favor important social and political questions such as climate change. This is probably strategic to some degree to be more accessible.
Italian Wine Pairings Worthy Danish Royals
Looking more at Italian wines, as well as more accessible wines, I wanted to share a couple of wines that I think pair well with the characters of ex-Queen Margrethe II and the new King Frederik X.
Trefiano Riserva Carmignano DOCG from Tenuta Capezzana
Trefiano is a wine that was created by Vittorio Contini Buonacossi in 1979 as a way to experiment with something new. The wine is made with grapes growing in vineyard plots around Villa Trefiano where Vittorio Contini Buonacossi, as he has recounted, went to sleep one night as a young boy when the villa was still in a state of decay. He was fascinated by the experience and later on, as an adult, he went to live there with his family. Villa Trefiano is a villa that was built in 1570 by Giovanni Battista Battaglioni for the noble Florentine Rucellai family.
Trefiano Riserva is made with Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Canaiolo. Vittorio’s idea was to make an elegant yet velvety and smooth red wine that represented the local territory. It is a wine that conveys the history of Capezzana as well as the micro-climate and terroir of Carmignano.
Last year, I attended a vertical tasting of Trefiano Riserva with 10 vintages ranging from 1979 to 2019. If I would choose one of the vintages here, it would be 1983 for its vibrancy and freshness despite being 40 years old, and for its structure and backbone. A wine that fits the strength, fierceness, and “strong backbone” of ex-Queen Margrethe II.
Armancione IGT Toscana Bianco by Ugo Contini Bonacossi
Ugo Contini Bonacossi is the son of Vittorio Contini Bonacossi whom I talked about above, and thus a part of the Capezzana history too. He used to work at Capezzana together with brother Gaddo and the rest of the Contini Bonacossi family. Still, in 2011 he decided to break out on his own and go making artisanal beer and growing grapes in the village of Roccalbegna, situated in Maremma, in southern Tuscany. It is the village where his mother comes from. He contemplated what his father Ugo had told him about viticulture and winemaking, such as the idea that it would be possible to make a great red wine in the Vignali locality where he now has one of his vineyards.
In 2014, he launched his artisanal beer and in 2015 he planted vines and had his first harvest of white grapes in 2019. Well, he did make a wine also from the harvest 2018 but due to hail at the end of August, the harvest was quite destroyed. The grapes were only at the beginning of their maturation and therefore the result was a less alcoholic wine, only 10.5%.To give it a particular image he bottled the wine in smaller beer-like bottles and called it Grandinello (little hail).
In 2019, it became the macerated white wine Armancione which is a blend of the grapes Procanico, Trebbiano, and Ansonica plus a smaller percentage of Duropersico and San Colombano. The 2019 is a complex, fresh, fruity, citrusy, and savoury wine. It has done around 7-10 days of maceration on the skins.
The macerated Armancione fits well with the character of the new King Frederik X because of its structure and uniqueness as well as being a low-intervention wine. The grapes are grown organically, the juice is doing wild fermentation, and without any fining or filtration. Ugo’s idea is to respect nature and produce terroir-driven wine where he puts his stamp separately from Capezzana. King Frederik X is very down to earth, interested in sports, and outdoor activities, and working in favor of climate change.
Reversing the choices of wine…
Then if I were to reverse it and pair a white wine with ex-Queen Margrethe II, I would go for Munazei Bianco, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC, from Casa Setaro which is made with the locally native and unique variety Caprettone. The grapes are grown on ungrafted vines in the volcanic soil of Vesuvius. A wine standing with “both its feet in the soil” withstanding the test of time just as Queen Margrethe II has done.
The choice of red wine for King Frederik X would then be Taurasi DOCG 2012 from Perillo Winery in Castelfranci in Irpinia. Michele Perillo is known for producing Taurasi wines with a strong authenticity and connection to the local territory. Another particularity is that he matures the wine in the cellar for several years before releasing it to the market. This allows for a Taurasi that is smoother and more “ready” to drink. Today, his sons Felice and Nicola are working in the winery and starting to put their stamp on the wines. King Frederik X has an authentic and down-to-earth approach – just like Perillo’s Taurasi – and his mother made him king at the right moment also.
Well, enough about kings and queens now…
Try and find the wines mentioned if you can, taste them, see what you think about them, and write me a comment!