In the wake of Finland's microbrewery boom, domestic craft ciders and fruit wines also seem to be enjoying an upswing in popularity. For instance winemaking studies at the Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) fill up quickly with many would-be winemakers turned away.
Eva Palotie, who teaches winemaking classes at the university's Lepaa campus, was pleased – and a little surprised – by the success of the latest course which began this autumn.
"The popularity of microbreweries certainly plays a role in this," she tells Yle. "And of course local foods are also in style, and that too boosts sales of local wines."
HAMK's winemaking course lasts two years, with room for a maximum of 18 students. Although many more are interested, Palotie says the classes can't be expanded or accelerated.
"Most of the students are working and this course requires a lot of studying. That's why it takes two years," she explains. The school, which has its own vineyards and orchards, lies near Hämeenlinna, about 120 kilometres north of Helsinki.
Some winemaking students at Lepaa, such as Christiana Harle, already work in beverage manufacturing. Joni Lommi, who lives nearby, hopes to begin a career in the field.
"I hope to make wines and ciders in the future as a job," says Lommi as he sniffs and tastes a glass of local fruit wine.
"We're going to turn this into cider by adding water and sugar – it'll be good," he says.
In Finland, apple or pear wine with an alcohol percentage of 8.5 percent or less is classified as cider. According to the Finnish brewing and soft drinks industry, last year the average Finnish adult consumed 8.4 litres of cider – one-tenth of the corresponding amount of beer.
Comparing apples and oranges
In principle, making fruit and berry wines is similar to making grape wine, but the use of frozen berries is one key difference. Freezing berries allows continuous year-round production, and also makes the berries juicier.
Grape wines are rarely made from frozen grapes, although subzero temperatures do play a crucial role in the production of Eiswein, a dessert wine. Eiswein grapes are harvested when frozen, which produces a concentrated juice and sweet, sought-after wine.
Finnish fruit winemakers discourage comparisons with traditional grape wines made further south in Europe. One key difference is that fruit wines are at their best when young.
"The sugar content and acidity are different, and so is the flavour profile. Of course they each have their place," says Lommi.