Food & Drink
Visit a Norwegian vineyard
The white farmhouse at Egge Gård enjoys fantastic views over the undulating hills of Lier. Below it stand the small apple trees, stripped of their fruit and green leaves. The apples have long since been harvested and bottled. But the presses are still working hard.
“Taste this,” says farmer Marius Egge as he fills a glass with apple juice straight from the press.
It has a warm sweetness and fresh acidity, like having a hot August day on your tongue. And very different from the pre-packed apple juice you find in stores. But the folks at Egge Gård don’t just make sure you get juice at breakfast. Egge Gård also provides accompaniments to dinner, as the farm produces cider, apple liquor, schnapps, and dessert wine.
License to distill
Egge Gård has been around for centuries. The Norwegian-Danish King Christian IV owned the estate containing the farm in the 18th century. His son Frederick III took over the farm and sold it on. And so the farm ended up being owned by the Egge family. Today Marius Egge is the eleventh generation on the farm. Lier is a horticultural village, with somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 apple trees, which have ensured Norwegians can have their baked apple pie in the fall and that there will be apple juice for breakfast and parties. But in 2005, the alcohol legislation in Norway was relaxed: private individuals were allowed to make alcohol. Egge, who had a keen interest in food and wine, saw the opportunities and was among the first in the country to obtain a license.
“The first thing we made was cider.”
Using the Champagne method with second fermentation in the bottle. Just like in Champagne and the cava district of Spain.
“This cider contains only the natural sugar of the apple. It’s nice as an aperitif or with a salad,” he says as he shows us the farm’s cool store, where the bottles lie in a pupitre, perhaps contemplating their future life on the liquor store shelf for sparkling wines.
A variety of products
But it’s not just the cider that’s full of bubbles. The farmer himself is bubbling with ideas. He dashes between the office and the storehouses, as he taps, smells, and tastes. Having made a success of his cider, he moved on to his next project, a calvados-style spirit. It’s called Egge Eplebrennevin and according to the critics it tastes like a cousin of French calvados. Not bad!
“A producer helped me to refine the technique,” he says, as he shows us the farm’s cream room where the apple liquor is now maturing in oak casks.
After that, Egge started producing gin, an award-winning wine called Iseple, a wine called One, and schnapps.
“The great interest in locally produced food and drink that hasn’t traveled far has put the wind in my sails,” he says, adding that it’s now possible to buy his cider by the glass in some pubs.
He opens the doors to one of the storehouses, where red and yellow apples sit in large crates. There is a sweet and mild smell, like a jar of freshly made jam. This is where the adventure starts: in fresh acidic apples.
“Have you ever known a smell as good?” he asks. “It’s the climate, with its long, sunny days and cool, short nights, that gives the apples their freshness.”
Lerkekåsa farm in the fruit village of Gvarv in Telemark also produces wine.
“We make wine from fruit, berries, and grapes,” farmer Wenche Hvattum of Lerkekåsa Vingård & Galleri tells Scandinavian Traveler.
Production is on such a small scale at the moment that you can’t buy these wines at the liquor store, but if you visit the farm, you can sample the products and also stay overnight in a giant wine vat on the farm.
Kvelland farm in Lyngdal, southern Norway, has been growing grapes since 1999. Today the vineyard produces small quantities of wine. Locally produced food is also available at the farm.
Text: Inga Ragnhild Holst
Published: February 24, 2016