A dark rainy November evening is the setting. The sparsely-lit restaurant at Strandvägen 1 is the scene and Petter Alexis Askegren is the protagonist. I’ve arrived for the release of the new book from Natur & Kultur and I’m curious to the bone about what I will experience this evening.
As you might know, I have talked to wine professional Alf Tumble a few times before in this column, and he too is behind the bar as I’m approaching the busy line leading up to get a word with Petter, mostly famous as arguably Swedens no 1 hiphop artist.
Together they have worked for about six months on the release they call Vin – så funkar det (Wine – How it Works) and tonight they are serving some of the great bottles featured in the book, by the glass, to an enthusiastic crowd of invited fans.
I manage to taste a great diverse selection of Clotilde Davenne’s Cremant de Bourgogne from a Magnum and a vibrant white South African by Duncan Savage before heading over to the reds to gulp my way through Foillard’s Morgon Côte du Py and La Spinetta’s Langhe Nebbiolo.
There are more wines to taste, but I need to stay focused on the book and my protagonist.
The chapters in this brand-new release are built up from the personalities of both Petter and Alf. You’ll find an introduction on how to get into wine, you’ll find rider lists from an array of performing artists and comments and fun anecdotes, how to deal with wine and sport, wine to music, wine and food, general information in a fun and explanatory manner. There are interviews with exciting wine personalities and tips and tricks about buying wine, ordering wine from a wine list and much, much more.
I can easily say, and not under the influence, that the number one Christmas gift to anyone with the slightest taste for the fermented grape this year is Vin – så funkar det by Alf Tumble and Petter Alexis Askegren.
What’s in your glass tonight, and can you tell something special about it?
I’m having a wine with great drinkability, it’s a Beaujolais Noveau called Cuvée Camille, a Morgon from the producer Marcel Lapierre. I think Winetrade sell this wine and it’s really great. I love when wines are complex in their simplicity, light, juicy and gulpable. What I find great with wine is more or less the same as what I find in music – you start with something and find your way through a whole array of new stuff. Just be open, taste and try a lot and let it lead you to new experiences.
When selecting wines to write about and focus on for this book, what have your criteria been, and how have you made your choices?
We really wanted to give the book a breadth and depth and to keep it to wines in a decent price range for everyone. It’s important for us to value the wine in quality, not by the price tag. The selection is of course made out of a lot of our personal taste, which may differ a little sometimes. At the end of the day, it really comes down to what’s in your glass, what it tastes like and if it rocks you or not.
The strength of the book lies in its diversity, how did you sketch up the ideas and make the decision what to keep and what to scrap?
I believe we had many of the same ideas of what this would be from the start. This book is a little bit like a crusade for me among my fans. Some of them might not be that much into wine, but have an interest in new things and will therefore get the basics and hopefully learn more. We want to attract more people, perhaps a new audience, to the fun side of wine with an elemental and accessible introduction. This is no school book, but it’s informative in a fun way. When I started studying about wine, I realised there was a gap in the literature and with this book we’re trying to over bridge that gap.
Who had the drive to start this project, or was it a joint idea from the very beginning?
As me and Alf are neighbours we’ve been spending a few nights tasting wines together. Somewhere during those evenings this idea popped up. I’ve been writing on my end for some time and Alf is already pretty famous for his books and his journalism on wine, so we thought a collaboration could be interesting. It’s a fun meeting of our two personalities and there is a clear connection in our drive for projects like this. We met up to write during early mornings down the street in a local breakfast café, before our families woke up. Chapter by chapter it grew, little by little from January to August and then we got a little more effective towards the end when we did photo shoots with Bobo Olsson, made interviews with wine personalities, travelled and so on.
You and Alf both have a lot on your respective plates – music, restaurants, quizzes and tastings among other things. How can you balance all the other projects you are involved with?
I’ve always been very project-oriented and focused on my work. I keep a lot of irons in the fire, staying focused on the project I’m currently busy with and staying time effective. My song Kul På Vägen (Fun Along The Way) is all about this. To have fun and increase your quality of life, even during working hours.
What is the best with Alf as a partner in this?
Alf is a real wine whizz, he knows so much, like a little Winopedia and I’m constantly curious, so I guess we complement each other. I also like to play down Alf’s knowledge sometimes, in a good and gentle way of course. We’re like Yoda and a padewan and our collaboration has grown stronger and stronger, so we do most of all our wine gigs together nowadays.
Are there more wine collaborations to come during 2017?
There are a lot of new stuff for me and Alf, new wine tastings in different settings, music/wine quizzes you name it. For my part, I’ve just become a registered stock holder which means I can start importing wines to distribute and sell to restaurants. Everything about wine is just so much fun, I can do so many new things, new projects and getting in to this world has really been the best thing I’ve done since starting with music.
As a celebrated artist for so many years, talking about wine to people, does your fame get in the way or can you use it somehow?
It’s like nip and tuck, as I can lift my thing in both ways. I can affect my followers and be a role model when it comes to the conviction that you can become what you want to. If you believe in something you can achieve it, to do what you want with your life, and not having to stick to just one thing.
How and when did you decide to pursue wine as a career?
I’ve always loved wine, but I think as I grew a little more mature, my relationship to wine also matured and I’ve gained a lot of respect for wine and the making of it. This all built up to a conviction that I wanted to work with it professionally somehow, and in 2014 I graduated as a sommelier from Vinkällan, I started to write about wine and the rest is a short but good history”
Will you continue to develop your own P.LEX range of wines and what will be the next step to take?
Yes of course. I have lots planned and I really would love to broaden my range. I’ve looked into the natural wine movement to possibly find something there and I would love to make a bag-in-box-killer, a great value wine right under a hundred crowns, preferably a French Côte du Rhône or similar.
Words: Pär Strömberg