The Wine Rebel at Manor Frederiksdal
Finding a Niche
in a worldwide acclaimed Cherry Winery
When things come to an end, there is always a chance for something new. As the impact of globalization brought a decline to the cherry juice industry in Denmark, farmer Harald Krabbe discovered a new way of using the masses of Stevnsbaer cherries in his orchard. A small remark from a food gourmet would change the direction of their cherry farm towards a whole new field of production. Ever since, the Cherry Winery of Frederiksdal has gained a reputation all over the globe. And as it turned out, the little red fruit has become the major source of income for the manorial estate, which has been in the family for three generations.
As told to Annika Kiehn, July 2021
All pictures are owned by Frederiksdal and are kindly lend for this Blog story
I love to read and watch documentaries about successful people – be it an economist, a judge, a popstar or some kind of entrepreneur. It is appealing to learn, how they endured the long way of trial and error, of how they kept rejecting a No and searched for another Yes instead. How they would develop their own tools in order to get closer to their aim. Of how a moment of sharp clarity and luck would suddenly push away all odds and lead to a never-ending domino-effect of positivism and enthusiasm. Harald Krabbe is one of those people. He is the owner of manor Frederiksdal, a picturesque estate at the Westcoast of Lolland, South Denmark. The grand white manor house sparkles like a diamond within the green surroundings framed by the Baltic Sea. Its intact condition proves, that it has been through an intensive renovation process.
„It is quite decadent, I know“, says Harald Krabbe. „It is the result of someones‘ success, of being bored and a need to show off. It’s my heritage, though. And as a famous Danish landowner once said: ‚My heritage is my freedom.‘“ He smiles and explains: „It is what you do, you have no other choice – and that kind of speaks for me, too. When you talk to young people these days, they seem utterly confused because they have so many choices and they don’t know which one to go after. That is a pity. With this estate, my path is more or less set.“ And it seems, he is making the most out of it.
Harald Krabbe, now in his early 50s, is the eldest of five siblings and descendant of a long Danish family line. As tradition has it, he held the privilege to inherit the estate. „I remember, when I was 14, my father said to me: Do you want it? – and I said yes.“ For 21 years now he has been running the place, which was bought by his grandfather in 1956. The estate is said to date back to the year 1305, whereas the manor house was built in 1756 in a late baroque-Style. Krabbe is a trained farmer, who mostly grows various kinds of crops, grass seeds and agroforestry. „Even if I hadn’t had this farm, I would have become a farmer anyway because I love being one.“ But, he admits, farming has become a rather fragile and wearing business these days, heavily influenced by the ups and downs of the global market. Not the best position for maintaining a manor. „This house is insanely expensive, but I like to keep it, so I have to think in money.“ Owning and preserving (and heating!) almost 2000 square meters of living space, is surely a challenge. But a lack of money has proven to be a valuable sorce for endless creativity and sometimes, it just takes the right timing.
“With this estate my path is more or less set. I’ve been put in here and it’s my job to look after it and I find it exciting. Lolland is a fantastic place for growing food.“
Harald Krabbe, Owner of Cherry Winery Frederiksdal
Harald Krabbe seems to be the kind of person, who envisions future projects all the time. Once he goes for something, he likes to do it thoroughly. That is true also for the restauration of the manor. All windows were restored with the old-fashioned technique of dipping them in a tank of heated linseedoil to make sure, they get an extra layer of protection on a natural basis. It is a time consuming and expensive process, but the effect is longlasting. „And that,“ Krabbe says, „is the overall purpose of maintaining Frederiksdal.“
His life is based on a simple attitude: „Everything I do, I do because I like it. In terms of the manor, I have just borrowed it. I’ve been put in here and it’s my job to look after it. And I find it exciting.“ He smiles with a confidence, that seems to derive from an utterly positive mind. Harald Krabbe always seems to have a Plan B, D and C waiting in his drawer. It was in the early years of the new millennium, when he was forced to find different sources of income. When the rise of globalization had ruined the family’s long-standing cherry-juice business, he planned to chop down the cherry trees and plant grain instead.
Luckily, fate had a different plan. Legend has it, that one day in 2006 changed everything. He went for a walk around the fields with food journalist Morten Brink Iwersen and chef Jan Friis Mikkelsen, when Iwersen, whilst tasting the rich flavour of the unique Danish stevnskirsebær, recommended: „Let’s make wine from them!“ A spontaneous „Okay!“- answer by Harald Krabbe marked the beginning of a now 15 year ongoing journey of producing award-winning cherry fruit wine, which sells to every corner of the world. Trying to fathom the essence of traditional wine production, they started off with the best field study there is: a three week road trip to various wineries in Italy, Spain and France. „We literally drank our way through Europe. I would say we are soul brothers in terms of food and wine. You could pick three random wines out of a shelf of one hundred and I am pretty sure, we would prefer the same ones, even if we would not know what the others choice was.“
Their courage for an adventure led them to process the cherry in the traditional way of producing wine, meaning the wine will ferment freely and mature in oak barrels. „Becoming a wine producer,“ Harald Krabbe says, „is like becoming an artist. You choose, which direction you want to go: if you want to be a Picasso, a Renoir or Andy Warhol. You pick it your way.“
Meanwhile, the „Frederiksdal cherry universum“, as they call themselves, holds a range of different products of exceptional flavours like Liquor, Vintage or the Sue Lie, for instance. Its‘ taste derives from having aged in French oak barrels and the amalgamation of two or three different vintages. An average wine takes nine years until it will be served on a table. But another fact adds to the unique taste. „It’s the terroire of the stevns cherry, as we dubb it shortly – the unique taste that derives from the fact, that it has found the perfect conditions to grow in Lolland. The acidity is unique, it is the DNA of our fruit. You have nothing else in the world having this amount of acidity. It has been habituated here for millions of years and won’t grow elsewhere. We are on an island, where the surrounding sea water is not very deep, so it functions like a heating bank. It is being warmed up by the sun and that is why the winters are warmer than in other regions and summers are cooler. The land is very fertile clay that can hold the water more efficiently. So all in all, Lolland is a fantastic place for growing food.“
What started with a vague idea, has turned Frederiksdal into a renowned monopol-business, which, according to Harald Krabbe, will guarantee the last for a few more generations. So that’s the aim: To produce the most authentic cherry-wine the world has ever seen and expanding from a start-up company into the biggest Winery of the Nordic countries. „It has been a very important shift for my life,“ Krabbe says. Producing world-class wine, he finally has found an alternative way to do farming. „Ten years ago I used to say I was stuck alone in a John Deer tractor cabin. These days I am on the road to China or the USA to sell the wine. It’s good fun.“
Tastings and Vistings at Frederiksdal
We are open every day for visits and tastings and there are every tuesday a tour of the winery at 11,00 in English until end of August.
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