Is the Finnish Alcohol Monopoly Coming to an End?

The current government in Finland is aiming to liberalize the alcohol market and turn Finland into a wine-producing country. Vincent Messmer reports.

Reading time: 2m 30s

Vineyard in Finnish Kesälahti by Juha Quist. The vines are deeply buried in the ground to protect them from the cold, resulting in a low grape zone (Photo: Juha Quist)
Vineyard in Finnish Kesälahti by Juha Quist. The vines are deeply buried in the ground to protect them from the cold, resulting in a low grape zone (Photo: Juha Quist)

From the current government program in Finland, it appears that the country intends to seek the status of a wine-producing country within the EU. This information is provided in a report from the Finnish media outlet, Yle. The Finnish Winemakers Association, Viininkasvattajat ry, submitted a corresponding proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in August 2022.

Wine sold in supermarkets?

Kari Latvus, the head of the Winemakers Association, also told the German wine trade magazine WEINWIRTSCHAFT that the government plans to allow wines with alcohol content of up to 8% to be sold in regular supermarkets, bypassing the state alcohol monopoly, Alko. Currently, this is only applicable to fruit wines with alcohol content up to 5.5%. This could be a first step to freeing distribution of wines with alcohol content reaching up to 13%.

Even the move to liberalise retailing of sub-8% wines would effectively signify another easing of the Scandinavian alcohol monopolies, in line with the Swedish market's expansion into online sales. However, the legislative implementation of these governmental plans remains uncertain. The existing coalition composed of conservative and right-wing parties is under scrutiny due to various scandals associated with the right-wing Finns Party coalition partner. Whether the coalition will survive in its current form is unclear. The finance minister Vilhemlm Junnila, a Finn Party member, resigned in June down after attending a far-right rally and making jokes about Nazism.


The Swedish Supreme Court has ruled that online marketing and sales of wine from abroad may now be allowed as a private import, even if a Swedish parent company is involved in the administration of the company. Anja Zimmer takes a look at the background.

Reading time: 3m 45s

Finland as a wine-producing country?

The motivation behind the efforts to become a wine-producing country stems from Finland's choice during its EU accession in 1995 when it was offered the option of defining itself as an arctic agricultural country which would make it eligible for specific subsidies. The government at that time was concerned that pursuing the classification as a wine-producing country might lead to denial of this status. Without it classification, Finland cannot label its products as wines. Instead, they must be termed as " mild alcoholic beverage produced from grapes by fermentation," as reported by The New York Times in 2008, a report confirmed by Kari Latvus, chairman of Viininkasvattajat ry.

Since subsidies for arctic agriculture are no longer contingent on Brussels, the situation has changed. According to a briefing from the European Parliamentary Research Service in July 2023, Finland and Latvia are the only EU countries where no regions are currently authorized for commercial wine production.

A niche with potential?

Newly planted vines (Photo: Juha Quist)
Newly planted vines (Photo: Juha Quist)

The extended growing period due to climate change and the cultivation of new hybrid grape varieties adapted to cold winters have contributed to this potential. Additionally, cultivation in greenhouses and polytunnels is being tested - though wines made from these grapes would fall outside EU definitions for grape wine.

So far, only one winemaker, Juha Karvonen, has marketed his Rondo grape wines through the state monopoly, Alko, without using the term 'wine.' However, the government's plans for liberalization also include allowing wineries, fruit wine producers, small distilleries, and breweries to market their products online.

Neighboring Sweden has held the status of a wine-producing country since 1999, and it currently boasts a total vineyard area of around 250 ha – potentially with a protected geographical indication (PGI) in the near future.


Finland is a beer drinking country where craft ales are currently booming. Nearly half - 47% - of all alcohol consumed is beer, compared to just 19% for wine. But wine is fighting for its place. Petri Pellinen reports. 

Reading time: 5m 40s



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