Vinhanen is one of a kind in Copenhagen. There’s nowhere else you can get quality wine on tap, purchase it at such an incredibly good price, and refill your beautiful bottle for cheaper than you’d pay for a glass at most other bars. However, soon there will be not one, but two Vinhanens pouring out wine to the good people of Copenhagen.
I loved Vinhanen the moment I first set foot in the place, and talking to Jacob and learning more about the finer details of the place, the people and the story behind it all has only made me love it more.
Vinhanen was founded in 2013 by a group of 4 wine enthusiasts, Jacob, Thomas, Julia and Mette. Inspired by the free flowing wine culture of southern Europe where one can stroll into a wine shop with a plastic bottle and fill it up for 1€, and by Le Baron Rouge in Paris, it is a concept that until two years ago, was unheard of in Copenhagen.
“I lived in France and I was visiting a lot of wine growers, where you could get wine in bulk, for 6 francs, or 1 euro or something. It was amazing. I came back to Copenhagen in 2000 and there were not so many wine bars. Then there began to be a lot opening up all at once, and I was so happy. But it was all so high-class and expensive and not like what I saw in the wine regions at all. There, they drink wine like we drink beer here.”
Vinhanen is really about ‘wine to the people’ (or ‘vin til folket'), demonstrating that it’s possible in Denmark - like it is in France - to enjoy quality wine without the extortionate price tag. Champagne is included in that too. In fact, 4 years before opening Vinhanen, Jacob and Thomas, along with two others, started Champagne Klubben - a company importing champagne and selling to small restaurants in Denmark. You can buy the bubbly at Vinhanen as well. Though it's nowhere near as cheap as the wine, a bottle of Champagne costing 310 kr in Vinhanen might go for 900 kr at one of the restaurants they supply.
“People say to us ‘this is so cheap’ and sometimes we wonder if maybe we shouldn’t be that cheap. But we should, because it’s possible, and it's the whole concept of this place. The idea was never to make a big business.”
The profits Jacob and co. make from Vinhanen, are spent exploring the wine regions of Europe, tasting wine and incredible food.
Five huge steel tanks sit up high behind the counter. At the moment they hold three reds, a rosé and a white. Most of the wine comes from France or Italy, but what’s on tap at Vinhanen changes as the founders travel Europe and are inspired to bring new wines back to Copenhagen. Jacob is the one who sources and imports the wine in bulk directly from the producers, before it’s bottled up. Cutting the bottling part from the chain means the wine can be purchased, and therefore sold, much more cheaply.
You can order a bottle or a glass to drink in, or a bottle to take away. The bottles are so beautiful I’m not sure why anyone ever would throw them away, but if you were planning to - don’t! Vinhanen has its own little ‘pant’ return system, whereby when you buy a bottle to take away, 7 kr of what you pay is the value of the bottle, that you can claim back when you return the bottle.
I’m quite curious how it all works logistically, filling the tanks etc. I’m imagining someone wobbling precariously on a stool emptying a huge bag of wine into a 900 litre tank. Not quite.
“First we take the tank down, clean it, put it up again and then we pump the wine up into it. At the beginning we hadn’t quite figured out the pumping thing. None of us had ever done anything like this before, and there aren’t many similar places doing it in Scandinavia so we had no one to ask!”
Julia is a curator and Jacob a furniture maker, and together with some good artist friends, they created the space that is Vinhanen. Bjørn Nørgaard designed the mosaic burnt-brick floor, and FOS (Thomas Poulsen) - who was actually an apprentice of Bjørn’s - is the artist behind the first rooster logo.
Primarily, Vinhanen is about the wine, but what’s wine without bread, olives, meat and cheese? Like everything else at Vinhanen, the ‘Snacks’ menu is simple, high quality, and fairly priced. Without a doubt, my favourite is the bread dipped into olive oil and sea salt. If I had to choose one thing and one thing only to eat forever, I think this would be a strong contender for the top spot! It comes as no surprise that the bread is baked at the incredible Mirabelle, just around the corner.
On Tuesday, a perfect summer’s evening, happy people spilled out under the scaffolding and onto the street outside Vinhanen enjoying the freely flowing Rosé and good vibes.
“We like to pour out a lot of free wine, it’s our way of giving back, saying thanks. It’s so common in South of France - and in Italy and Spain - if you’ve been at a place for a while and bought two or three bottles, the owner will come down and offer you a glass or something, just like that.”
The idea to open a second Vinhanen in Vesterbro is not so much about expanding the business, as it is about reaching more people and making quality wine at a fair price more widely available in the city. Vinhanen has a very local kind of vibe. In the same way you’d stroll down the street for a beer on a warm summer’s evening/cold winter’s night, you’d head to Vinhanen for a glass or a bottle of wine, or pop out quickly to buy one to go with your dinner. But so far, this has only been the case for the lucky Nørrebronxers.
“Many people have come and asked if we’d open one in their neighbourhood…”
Nicholas Wændelin (pictured above, top left) is jumping aboard to help manage Vinhanen Vesterbro, and they’re working with a few new artists, so it will look a bit different, but otherwise the concept will be much the same as the first Vinhanen. I did wonder if, for example, it might be a small shop where you could only get the bottles to take away, or swing in the other direction entirely and turn the snacks menu into a fully fledged restaurant affair.
“I think the idea is as good as it was two years ago, so why try to change it?”
There will be a new logo though, a rooster again, designed this time by John Kørner, which will go on the bottles. However, you’ll be able to return either bottle to either shop, so they’ll end up intermingling!
Currently Vinhanen need extra funding for two new developments. Due to the low ceilings in the space in Vesterbro, the tanks will have to stand on the floor, meaning the wine can’t flow down naturally to the tap, so they’re working on a new system to press the wine out. They’re also going to build a cold storage area for the wine.
“The way the crowdfunding works is that we’re selling wine before we open, like a pre-sale. It’s not just putting money in, you get the wine you paid for - just a few months later. People have to trust in us and say ok, we believe you will open.”
You can choose from several ‘perks’ on Vinhanen’s fundraising page, such as the 12x refill bottle, which is marked each time you refill it, or a keychain that entitles you to a free glass of wine every day for 3 months. In general, the prices mean you pay a little less than you would when they open. So it’s wins all round! See how it’s going and checkout the perks in more detail here.
Vinhanen is located on Baggesensgade 13 in Nørrebro and soon to be at Enghavevej 24 in Vesterbro.