On a mild autumn morning, Sven Moesgaard climbed a sunbathed hill and inspected an undulating expanse of neatly planted vines. A picking crew was harvesting tons of hardy Solaris grapes that he would soon turn into thousands of bottles of crisp white and sparkling Danish wine.
A decade ago, winemaking was regarded as a losing proposition in these notoriously cool climes. But as global temperatures rise, a fledgling wine industry is growing from once-unlikely fields across Scandinavia, as entrepreneurs seek to turn a warming climate to their advantage.
“We’re looking for the opportunities in climate change,” said Mr. Moesgaard, the founder of Skaersogaard Vin, cradling a cluster of golden grapes. “In the coming decades, we’ll be growing more wine in Scandinavia while countries that have traditionally dominated the industry produce less.”
Nordic vintners are betting that they can develop what were once mainly hobbyist ventures into thriving commercial operations. The dream is to transform Scandinavia into an essential global producer of white wines, which are beginning to flourish along Europe’s northern rim.
Denmark now boasts 90 commercial vineyards, up from just two 15 years ago, and around 40 have sprung up in Sweden. Nearly a dozen vineyards are operating as far north as Norway.
But many are in the start-up stage and are tiny compared with established wineries in Europe, which has 10 million acres of vineyards — enough to cover almost all of Denmark. Producers in France, Italy and Spain own three-quarters of that land, dominating the European industry. By contrast, Denmark and Sweden have European Union approval to grow less than 1,000 acres of vineyards, and questions persist about quality and price.
“We’re still a drop in the bucket,” said Hans Münter, the head of the Danish Wine Association. “Right now, we don’t have the volume to evaluate if this is a good business or just a business.”
Yet in 50 years, Scandinavia’s climate is forecast to be more like northern France’s, as regional temperatures climb as much as 6 degrees Celsius. In the last decade alone, warming has produced milder winters, a longer growing season — and a small but rising number of award-winning wines.