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Month September 2016

James the Wine Guy Interview Series – Arto Koskelo


In this edition of James the Wine Guy Interview Series is Arto Koskelo.  Arto is a Helsinki-based wine and food writer, wine judge, wine vlogger and radio host of a programme on food and wine.

I met Arto while we were judging wines in Bari, Italy for the 2016 Radici del Sud.  I was fortunate to be on the same tasting table.  Arto wine and food knowledge is vast and I appreciated his thoughtfulness.  I feel it is essential to not just know wine writers in North America but my many friendships with European wine writers helps me to hone in on European wine and food and even the trends in respective locations throughout Europe.

Arto has such a great sense of humour that I found myself chuckling constantly at his quick wit.  I had a flight scheduled to Helsinki this year that was cancelled and I was very disappointed as it would have allowed me time in Helsinki.  But this was before I got to meet Arto–now I know a Helsinki resident and when I do get to visit it will be a great and optimised experience because I know I will get a great list of activities from him.

It is with pleasure here is the interview with Arto:

Q: What is your favourite southern Italian variety

A: I have two favourite Southern Italian varieties. No, wait, three. I adore Nerello Mascalese, the lusciously elegant reason behind Sicily’s Etna’s rise to stardom. I also love the nerello’s white counterpart Carricante, able to produce zippy and vibrant wines on volcanic soils that are closer kin to Chardonnay from Chablis than fat Grillo from the same neck of the woods. The third is my new love, Gaglioppo from Calabria. Especially from the region of Cirò, the variety is able to produce some stunningly appealing wines with finesse and poise but that come with an unforgivingly rustic tannic structure.

Q: What makes Primitivo so compelling?

A: To be brutally honest, I’m not sure if anything does. This is of course terribly harsh of me, but let me try to explain. The variety is capable of producing some lip smacking wines with depth and a tempting juicy character, but too often the impression I get from the variety is soupy, plummy and straightforward, which are not my favourite characteristics in an Italian rosso. Sorry Primitivo lovers but nothing ruins a perfectly decent day in South of Italy like a 16,5% Primitivo, served under the scorching sun of South Italy. Feels like a monster truck running over your palate and yelling prego while fleeing from the crime scene.

Q: Any stand out Primitivo’s for you from the 2016 Radici del Sud competition?

A: I enjoyed the Primitivo di Manduria from Masseria Pietrosa. It was juicy and savoury, like a Southern Barbera but with more muscle. It’s all about the balance.

Prior to judging wines at Radici del Sud had you tasted so many Primitivo and other Southern Italian wine varieties?

I had experience with Aglianicos, Primitivos, Negroamaros and so forth but visiting the source is always an altering experience for a wine lover. I’ve visited Sicily a few times and next on my list are Campania and Calabria.
Q:  What is your ideal food wine pairings for Primitivo?

A: I’d go with All American Barbeque with lots of hickory smoke. Maybe a thick sauce to make it official. Nothing too elegant for Primitivo, it’s a big boy. The paradox of Puglia is that the local cuisine is mostly about delicate seafood and gargantuan red wines. This has a lot to do with the history of Puglia supplying Northern wine regions with a full bodied blending component with lots of colour and alcohol. Doesn’t really fly with uncooked shrimp, I tell you.

Q: How do Primitivo compare to Zinfandel?

A: I’d be careful with the comparisons, but it is obvious that the two share some of the same traits. Whether Zinfandel is irrigated or not seems to make a difference similar to also witnessed in Puglia. At worst, Primitivos and Zinfandels can be as overbearing and sappy, but with a touch of restraint, they can be very palatable and delicious.

Q. Any other callouts of from Radici del Sud?

A: Cote di Franze from the Cirò region of Calabria. Marvellous stuff, very easty to get geeky about. The Cirò boys are dong wonders down there as we speak.

Q: In addition to Italian wines any other favourite regions, varieties?

A: I seem to like many wines that come from Volcanic soils. For example, the Assyrtiko from the Greek island of Santorini is nothing short of stunning. I’m also a big fan of serious Beaujolais coming from one of the crus. A hidden gem with a bad rep, if you ask me.

Q: Has the wine culture changed in the past 5 years in Helsinki? What are the top 5 regions you will find in both restaurants and wine retail shops?
A: Helsinki is going through a restaurant boom with lots of great new places opening all the time. I’d say the sommelier favourites are German Riesling in general and French natural wines (any region, to be honest). Champagne is always a good thing to offer. Orange wine is bubling under. The general public is drinking more and more sparkling wines. Cava and Champagne are growing double digits. The most popular wine country is Chile with it’s bold and affordable wines.


About Arto Koskelo: Arto Koskelo is a Helsinki-based trouble maker on eating and drinking. He started with video blogging 2009 and was the wine guy of the Finnish morning show until 2014. Arto’s a published author on food and wine and a member of the prestigious Circle of Wine Writers. He’s hosting a radio show about gastronomy and writes to different medias about beverages and restaurants. Arto was elected as “the Food Ambassador of Helsinki” earlier this year as a token of his commitment to eating and drinking.

Arto’s blog: and

Twitter: @Arto_Koskelo


About the James the Wine Guy Interview Series.  I love to interview people in my blog as I think it is essential to highlight people from all aspects of the wine world. The series is to look at not just wine makers, people who have had some touch to wine.  I also believe it is important to highlight contributors to making wine a highlight and delight on each and every table.




James the Wine Guy

Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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Photo is courtesy of Arto Koskelo.

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New and Present Online Wine Writers and Wine Video Creators Are Essential – James Melendez

Attending this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi I met a whole new group of people that I didn’t know before.  I feel that it is essential to support new online wine writers as well as videographers.  Traditional press I feel have not always been complementary about a large community of online wine writers–who for the most part are largely unpaid.  I think the traditional and paid press might pick up on those who write to get “free” wine.  But the industry has recognised those who write because there is a higher purpose and those who are seeking samples only are those who I believe over time get fewer and fewer samples.

No one has a number of how many wine labels exist year over year.  Needless to say it is very large and I have talked often about how there are not enough people to cover all the wines that exist.  Wine publications do cover a large portion but there are so many others that are not picked up by the publications.

The newer online wine writers I feel are important to not just keep content fresh but also new approaches.  I also like seeing a great diversity of online wine writers–that cover gender, race, ethnicity, age and experience and every walk of life.  I know a lot about my demographics of my viewers and readers but I also know that I cover a lot of important demos but I don’t cover every person.  When Gary Vaynerchuck retired from wine videos–I could hear a collective sigh of disappointment.  I pointed out to many people in the industry that Gary while he and his PR partners brought a lot of attention to the wine world — even his reach was limited.  I look at his videos today and they are certainly aged – I am not sure I can connect with a particular game of the NY Jets and still find that relevant today.  While wine producers loved Gary I am not sure his demographic reach touched all wine consumers.  After Gary the wine world survived as I had expected and now I think there is a time for new people who are committed writers to find their audiences and their potential viewers and subscribers to find them.

I think the community of online wine writers will succeed not by competition but by cooperation and collaboration.  When I meet new(er) online wine writers or even wine vloggers I give encouragement.  I have rarely received encouragement but it is my recognition of little encouragement that I do want to encourage other people who write or complete videos about wine.

I do believe that a wine bloggers conference does bring people together once yearly.   I would love to see a stronger organization or platform to get to know each other and to support one another.  I do think an organization is needed and I could see such an organization can lift all boats.   This organization could also keep it’s foothold of relevance and value of online video creators and wine writers.

I look at the many online wine writers communities and there are many are not necessarily what I am speaking of–as each time a new community is created it is a place to post material.  Perhaps there is a higher calling that we can come together and offer our value proposition via an organization.  After all Sommeliers have various organizations to represent their value.

While I am an advocate of a more formal group–I am not saying that I want to create this potential organisation by myself.

Post your thoughts below.



Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

© 2016 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Follow, subscribe, like, browse: