In less strict usage, the term "Swedish wine" has also been applied to fruit wine from Sweden, which has a very long tradition, and wine produced in Sweden from imported grape juice, which goes back longer than actual viticulture in Sweden.
Sweden is well north of the area where the European vine, Vitis vinifera, occurs naturally, and there is no tradition of wine production from grapes in the country. Some sources claim that some monastic vineyards were established when the Roman Catholic church established monasteries in Sweden in Medieval times, when Sweden's climate was milder, but traces of this supposed viticulture are much less evident than the corresponding activities in England, for example.
Small-scale growing of grapes in Swedish orangeries and other greenhouses have occurred for a long time, but the purpose of such plantations were either to provide fruit (grapes) or for decoration or exhibition purposes, and not to provide grapes for wine production.
Towards the end of the 20th century, commercial viticulture slowly crept north, into areas than the well-established wine regions, as evidenced by Canadian wine, English wine and Danish wine. This trend was partially made possible by the use of new hybrid grape varieties, and partially by new viticultural techniques.
The idea of commercial freeland viticulture in Sweden appeared in the 1990s. Some pioneers, especially in Skåne (Scania), took their inspiration from nearby Denmark, where viticulture started earlier than in Sweden, while others took their inspiration from experiences in other winemaking countries.
Perhaps surprisingly, the first two wineries of some size were not established in the far south of Sweden, but in Södermanland County close to Flen (in an area where orchards were common), and on the island of Gotland, which has the largest number of sunshine hours in Sweden. Later expansions have mostly taken place in Scania, though.
Small quantities of a few commercial wines made their way into the market via Systembolaget from the early 2000s.
Only a handful of Swedish producers can be considered to be commercial operations, rather than hobby wine makers. In 2006, the Swedish Board of Agriculture counted four Swedish companies that commercialized wine produced from their own vineyards. The total production was 5,617 litres (1,236 imperial gallons; 1,484 US gallons), of which 3,632 litres (799 imperial gallons; 959 US gallons) were red and 1,985 litres (437 imperial gallons; 524 US gallons) white, and this amount was produced from around 10 hectares (25 acres) of vineyards.
As a member of the European Union, wine production in Sweden has to abide by the European Union wine regulations. However, as long as the total commercial vineyard area in Sweden stays below 100 hectares (250 acres), Sweden does not have to apply planting rights. Since this part of the regulations will be abolished in 2015, Sweden will probably never be affected by them.
So far, Sweden has only enacted a minimum of national legislation and regulations related to viticulture, which includes a list of allowed grape varieties. However, there are no protected designations of origin for Swedish wine, which means that Swedish producers are restricted to marketing table wines, and can not market quality wines. This means several restrictions on labeling practices. For example, the vintage year may not be mentioned on the label.
The following grape varieties are authorized for commercial wine production in Sweden:
- Henriksdals Vingård: Är det möjligt att odla vin i Sverige? Archived 2009-06-10 at the Wayback Machine. ("Is it possible to grow wine in Sweden?"), accessed on June 10, 2008 (in Swedish)
- Dagens Nyheter, April 23, 2007: Skåne på väg bli vindistrikt ("Scania on its way to becoming a wine region") (in Swedish)
- Expressen January 23, 2008: Åke vill sälja vin direkt från gården ("Åke wants to sell wine directly from his estate") (in Swedish)
- Jordbruksverket: Vinodling Archived 2007-11-13 at the Wayback Machine. (Swedish Board of Agriculture: Viticulture), accessed on July 9, 2008 (in Swedish)
- Föreningen Svenska Vinodlare: Vingårdar Archived 2010-08-28 at the Wayback Machine. - as of July 8, 2009, 26 of the members of the Association of Swedish winegrowers had elected to be listed on the Association's webpage
- SJVFS 2007:18 Föreskrifter om ändring i Statens jordbruksverks föreskrifter (SJVFS 2003:31) om uppgifter om vinodling, klassificering av druvsorter för vin-framställning och om skördedeklaration (in Swedish)