With many readers and followers of his impeccable wine and dining-in-style blog, Kent Johansson of Gastrovin Is going from strength to strength on the Swedish restaurateur scene. Having been trained by and worked with the best there is, this Öland native is a force of nature when it comes to producing great-looking and fantastic-tasting dishes for his events, dinner-at-home parties and his acclaimed blog.
Starting off as a young aspiring cook, working with and learning from chefs Josef Weichel and Jonny Johansson, Kent’s first flirtations with wine came in what became Eriks Vinbar at Slussen in Stockholm. Growing into the gastronomy and wine world with super-sommeliers Andreas Larsson, Biörnstierne Antonsson, Lasse Solum and Daniel Crespi as private tutors, his road to stardom in the wine scene was staked out.
A few tours around Sweden, working with some of the top names in the Swedish culinary elite – Gastro in Helsingborg, The Local in Åre, Esperanto, Gondolen, the Grand Hotel and Jonas Lundgren in Stockholm – Kent slowly but surely won the acclaim he now enjoys.
I have been closely following Gastrovin for some time and it is delightful. Our paths have not yet been crossed, since it’s hard to get a hold of this traveling wine connoisseur. Nevertheless I was keen on getting his own words on his work.
In your own words, can you describe GastroVin? What is the aim with the blog and what is the whole concept based upon?
Gastrovin was started in 2004 and my first thought was to use the blog as a bulletin board to myself in the future, a place where I could write down my thoughts and experiences. A private forum where I could unify all what my life is about, the soul of the wines and its associated gastronomy.
During some periods I write on the blog every day and sometimes it takes several days before I get the words down on paper. I am not writing for writing´s sake, but when the emotions are right.
I’m curious about your desire for tastes and aesthetics. Where did that start and how would you describe your way of keeping it interesting and exciting for yourself?
”What flavours and senses are to me is easy to explain. It is experiences, memories and moments that I have learned from. Björnstierne was always very clear about that I shouldn’t think in the same way as them when we tasted wines. It was very important that I found my own thoughts about flavours and expressed it with my own words. Associate the flavours with memories from smells and experiences.
Today I associate some of the experiences from my summers as a young child, the time me and my family spent the summers in the deepest forests of Hälsingland. I constantly discover new senses and taste sensations and realize that experience is about emotions all the time.
A person I exchange a lot of memories and taste sensations with is Anette Roswall, a very open-minded person who knows so much about wine, but never brags about her knowledge. She always listens to others and in that way she learns even more and gets to see other approaches. We can discuss so deeply and intensely over a glass of wine during a tasting lunch that people wonder what we are doing. I’d like to see more humble and open minded sommeliers just like Anette.
All your images looks fantastic, do you take all photos and make all arrangements yourself?
I photograph all of my dishes and the bottles I have enjoyed myself. Most of my friends know that I take pictures of all the food and beverages I enjoy wherever I am, I do not care what the people at the table next to me think. For me it is a work of art on the plate that I see, created by a talented chef which I want to immortalize. Pictures of gastronomy and beverages are my life so others will just have to accept that.
It’s very important to me that I shoot all the pictures on the blog and other media by myself. I want to make sure that the feeling I want to pass forward is the perfect feeling, so that is why I create everything by myself, all the way from taking the perfect picture to posting it on the blog together with my words.
I’m a very critical person, especially when it comes to things I have created by myself. I try and test things hundreds of times and do not settle with something mediocre. I can feel it right away if something is not one hundred percent and that will shine through in the picture or in the text. What if Sayan (Isaksson) or (Jonas) Lundgren was to see the photo – would they would be able to tell right away if it wasn’t perfect? I also have the best fiancé who is a perfect taste panel and is always honest.
Your texts are pretty defined, a play on words and meanings. Do you have any role models you care to mention?
I try to use my own language when I write, I do not want to use words I do not fully understand or stand behind. If you read a column about barbeque wines it’s damn impossible to understand how they can use those words about the wines. Then there are always the ones that use words just to make it sound good. I want to pass on a feeling, an experience, you should almost be able to feel that you are sitting around the table or at least understand what a great time we are having around the table. We all know the feeling of salty water in the throat after losing it in a big wave, the smell of a pile of hay during the summer and what a sweaty horse saddle smells like, right!?!
I’m an emotional person and you can tell that from my writing. When I’m writing about a visit to a vineyard, a restaurant or a hotel I do not look for the less good stuff, but the good stuff I want to highlight.
You have worked with many of the noted sommeliers in this country, any of them you’d like to give extra credit to for their significance to the Swedish wine scene?
I think you already know the sommeliers that mean something extra to me. But I would really like to highlight the young sommeliers that spur each other on and help each other up on the stage of sommeliers. I’m on the jury for both the Swedish and Nordic championships, on the board of *Association de la Sommellerie Internationalle* and it’s amazing to see how everyone is struggling. This is what I mean about learning new things about wine all the time, the younger ones can have a whole different picture of how a wine is. And my generation was taught about the wine in a different way and that is that nothing is wrong.
I know that Robban Andersson will do amazingly well in the next sommelier championship! Sören Polonius is a fantastic role model for sommeliers in Sweden and all around the world. Then there is one person that would beat most of us in both tasting and knowledge and that is ”Svampen Mr Z” a shy person outside the restaurant stage in Sweden but a very big name for the Californian wines. I wish more people were as humble as Zvonko. And I do admit that I would really like to have some of Mr Svampen’s knowledge”.
Please tell us a little about your choices of wines for the blog. Do you have a sponsorship or collaboration of some kind?
The wines that I write about are partly from wine companies such as Enjoy Wine & Spirits, where I each week write about two wines with suitable gastronomy. It’s a co-operation that is very important to me, I get to write about all sorts of wines, from the simple to the really big ones, and everyone has the opportunity to appreciate the wines. I prefer not to look at the price tag before I write about the wine, because I’m afraid that would make me judge it and then write about it in another way.
And then there are so many tasting lunches.
What is some of your best bottles you have had?
The best bottles I have tried are not the most expensive ones. I will never forget when I had Don Weaver at the table for breakfast at a tasting and trying out a larger amount of wine from Harlan Estate, or when I got my first bottle from the staff working at Bond Estate. My first bottle of La Tâche at Gastro, the feeling of waking up a bottle of Petrus, down in a cold basement in the deepest Bourgogne at Domaine Comte Georges de Vouge, and getting to listen at François´s philosophy of how to create the perfect wine. Or at Madame Faller´s castle in Weinbach in Alsace. There are tons of wonderful experiences and I know that there will be many more.
Can you recommend a few ”spring” bottles for our readers?
Yes, spring is already upon us and already I’ve tasted a whole lot of the new wines that are coming. When the spring is spinning and when all the lovely fragrances spread out I get really happy by drinking a cool Riesling from barren ground in Austria, a handsome Pinot Blanc from Alsace or a Gruner from a higher rank.
Unfortunately I can’t mention rosé wine because I drink rosé wine all year round and think it’s ridiculous to say that rosé wine should only be opened during spring and summer.