In Vino Päritas – In The Heart Of A Wine Journalist

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Photo: Linus Pettersson

For the last few years, internationally-acclaimed Swedish wine magazine Världens Viner has been kept alive by one man, Johan Franco Cereceda. Long-time journalist and wine aficionado, Johan has earned his wine-writing reputation at several Swedish media companies and lately as editor-in-chief for Världens Viner. Recently I saw a statement announcing the end of the noted editor’s term and I was a tad bit surprised. Despite receiving awards and honours, their reputation and keeping their head held high, the magazine has struggled financially. I called Mr. Franco Cereceda up to get straight to the point about this.

What made you decide to leave as editor in chief of Världens Viner?
The magazine has run into some economic problems. My intention when I started was to collaborate with freelance journalists and photographers, to create a cluster of interesting writers. But due to the financial situation, I ended up writing all the articles myself. Not a very good situation to develop a magazine. In fact I am not even sure that the wine magazine will survive this fall.

As one of Sweden’s most merited wine journalists and lecturers, is there a new path to follow for you now?
At this very moment I am writing a book about Spanish wine, my experience of the wine industry, meeting interesting people and having tasted thousands of wines. I have a book contract with one of the most established publishing companies in Sweden. The book will be launched in springtime next year. I will also restart my freelancing career, writing about wine and travel, hopefully in a more profound way, using my skills in a more developed manner. I will also hold a lot of tastings and master classes about wine, offering this to companies, not only in the wine business.

The Världens Viner magazine has an internationally-acclaimed reputation. As editor-in-chief for three years, what has been the most challenging with that position? And what has been the most rewarding?
The most challenging work at the magazine was, regarding the economic situation, to have a long term strategy. I like to work that way, being very structured and organised. However, it was great fun to discover new interesting wine areas, visiting these, tasting the wines, meeting the people, getting to know the culture. I think we did a great job presenting our special issues about wine countries like Greece, Croatia, New Zealand or even smaller areas as Sardinia in a profound way, but also presenting classical wine districts as Bordeaux in a new and different way.
The most rewarding moment was when we received the Golden Pen Award Grand Prix in Zagreb, Croatia in competition with media from all over the world. This gave us quite the fame, even internationally.

Is there anything on the scene of wine journalism you wish to see more versus less of? Internationally versus Swedish?
I think that Swedish wine journalism is a matter of recommendations only. You don’t see many interesting stories about anything else but a visit to a producer and some tasting notes. I think this is a dangerous pattern, not developing the wine journalism. I don’t mind wine recommendations at all, but I strongly believe in journalism and I think that the wine business in Sweden deserves to be investigated or reviewed. Not only the monopoly, but also the wine importers. I think it would create a healthier climate. What we do have in Sweden is wine writers with integrity. We are not in the lap of businesses, but I would like to see a greater effort to handle this, to work more as journalists and less as wine-tasters.

Reading and editing wine texts from all over the world, where do you find the best wine journalism today?
Internationally I think the British and American wine journalism stands out for its independence, but only some parts of it. Even there you see the growing tendency towards tasting notes and nothing more.

What is great wine writing according to you?
Independence, integrity and creativity. That you keep your readers and your media in mind, that you have done your research and that you present this in an adequate way.

What makes wine such a hot topic and an ever-growing source for new followers and interested people?
Wine is much more than what you have in your glass. It’s a question of many things and I always like to put the wine in a context regarding the culture, the social structures in the country or area. My most important questions when I taste a wine are not how it tastes, but why it tastes like it does. What is the intention of the wine maker, the conditions or the possibilities for making this wine? I always want to learn much more than just what I have in my glass.

How do you see the future for learning, aside from sommelier education, in more niched areas like wine writing?
I actually have initiated a wine writing course that I will run for the third time this fall in collaboration with Vinkällan, the largest sommelier school in Scandinavia. Since I begun my work as editor-in-chief at Världens Viner, I realised that this was badly needed. A lot of the wine writers, especially the up-and-coming writers, know a lot about wine, but they lack the knowledge to present it. I also believe in the meeting, the discussion and I think this has been an interesting platform to communicate a vision of wine journalism. I would love to see more people attending this course so we can develop the way of writing about wine and the wine industry further.

Your speciality has been the wines of Spain, is there anything special about that country and regions you wish to highlight especially?
The plurality. In Sweden, Spanish wine is red, it’s oaky and it’s mainly from Rioja. Please – Spain is one of the biggest wine countries in the world and produces some of the greatest wines, red and white. Not to mention the wines from Jerez, just amazing and singular quality with great personality.
I wish that we could see more wines in Sweden from smaller areas as Ribeira Sacra, Terra Alta, Vinos de Granada, Bierzo, Tacoronte-Acentejo in the Canary Islands, the non-denominated wines from Mallorca, some of the wines from Vinos de Madrid, txakolí wines from the Basque country, white wines from Priorat, interesting blends from Navarre. You see, there are plenty and I always say that in every wine area in Spain, you find at least a couple of very skilled and interesting wine-makers initiating a new way of thinking.

Do you have any other favourite spots in the world of wine to share with us?
When I was in New Zealand a year ago, I found out that the chardonnay wines were surprisingly good with great acidity and balance. Far better than most of the sauvignon blanc wines. I was also surprised by the quality of the wines from Croatia, especially the ones from the northern part, Istria. I am very fond of cabernet franc wines from Loire, but this is yet to be discovered a little bit more.

When fall is approaching, we tend to stay more and more inside, shifting our focus from crisp rosés and wines for the barbecue to the more candlelit indoor evenings with stews and game. What are three suggestions for our readers to taste this coming autumn?
Three wines, all from Spain, two reds and one white:
Guimaro 2014 (71399) from Ribeira Sacra in Galicia, 145 kronor.
This lovely red wine from one of the smallest and most interesting areas is a wonder of balance with great minerals, lots of red fruit, really nice acidity, elegance, it’s indulgent with a great after-taste where you can sense the stony type of crispiness. With some slices of the best pata negra, it’s addictive.

Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2003 (72665) from Rioja, 259 kronor.
One of the most classic white wines in the world made by Bodegas López Heredia in Haro. Sensational mature character with a whole bunch of tropical fruit, lots of dried berries, apricot, persistent acid structure, elegant in a very personal way, singular with balance, simply one of a kind. Have it with grilled sea bass, some home-made mango chutney and roasted almonds and you are in heaven.

P.F. 2014 (99337) from Manchuela, 179 kronor.
Acclaimed wine made of the local bobal grape, which has recently been discovered to be a quality grape. Aromatic, with lots of plum character, it is spicy with hints of chocolate, coffee, licorice, good tannic structure with balanced fruitiness, acidity and alcohol. To be served a little bit chilled, with arroz con liebre, a paella-like rice plate with rabbit.

Words: Pär Strömberg