Surprising wines with one-of-a-kind cuisine

Geranium’s peaceful dining space overlooks Copenhagen’s tree-lined Fælledparken commons. (Martin Dyrløv Madsen)
Jun 30, 2016

Peanuts and Cracker Jack. Hot dogs and nachos. Sports stadiums offer all kinds of sustenance. But tucked away in the Copenhagen home of Danish Cup champion F.C. København is a restaurant with a different approach: a 20-plus-course tasting menu of eye-popping gastronomic acrobatics.

Geranium is located on the eighth floor of the team’s stadium, but turns its back on the field. Its floor-to-ceiling windows look onto the stately, tree-lined Fælledparken commons, built in 1906. The stadium’s rear elevator leads to a calm, contemporary dining space with a white open kitchen and tablecloths, natural wood trim and gray-clad staff, banquettes and walls.

Rasmus Kofoed and Søren Ledet, both 41, founded Geranium in 2007. It carries three Michelin stars today, but the longtime friends, then co-chefs, started small and focused. Ledet, now the wine director, says, “Rasmus was a Rudolf Steiner kid who grew up vegetarian … and we wanted the restaurant to be 100 percent biodynamic and organic.”

That meant the wine list too. “Everyone shook their head and said, ‘That’s not possible!’ ” says Ledet. But he pulled off the impossible: a list of 300 wines, all biodynamic or organic. “Suddenly that became the standard. The wine scene in Copenhagen changed overnight. All the restaurants and wine bars were clamoring for natural wines, no sulfur.”

But success brought a change of heart. “I appreciate the classics, and it became way too much,” Ledet concedes. “You couldn’t find a glass of Champagne in Copenhagen—it was all pét-nat.”

When the restaurant moved into its current space in 2010, Ledet added more traditional European wines. And Geranium lost the Michelin star it had earned at the smaller location. “We learned that day that nothing comes easy,” says Ledet. “You’ve got to fight for it, every day. If we’d kept the one star then, I’m not sure we’d have three now.”

Kofoed and Ledet had been serving as co-chefs in the kitchen. To better serve guests, they decided to take turns working wine service in the dining room. “Since I had an interest in wine,” Ledet says, “I [took] the first shift. That was in 2008, and it hasn’t ended. [Wine service] has been my life ever since.”

The list, which now offers nearly 1,700 selections, is still strong in the categories that drove the local wine market 10 years ago: whites from Austria, Germany, Alsace (and even Denmark). And there’s still a large selection of organic and biodynamic wines, with a page devoted to orange wines.

But Geranium’s top sellers these days are Burgundy (28 vintages of Domaine Leflaive, including Puligny-Montrachet 2010 by the glass, $42); Champagne (18 vintages of Krug, from $230 for a half-bottle to $4,200 for the Clos d’Ambonnay 1995); and Bordeaux (14 vintages of Mouton-Rothschild; $7,400 for the 1899). (Values, by American standards, do not abound in Denmark due to steep import taxes.)

The tasting menu pairings swing further afield. This spring Ledet was pouring the crisp Hirsch Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2012 ($40 by the glass) with a delicate arrangement of golden beets, sliced paper-thin, with anise, fennel and caraway. The sanguine Yarra Yering Underhill Shiraz 2010 (also $40) accompanied a duck heart with sliced truffle.

Kofoed’s extraordinary cuisine draws diners from around the world. As at Copenhagen’s internationally acclaimed restaurant Noma (where Ledet was once an executive assistant chef), the food here is delightfully playful and often begs for instruction. At a recent dinner, for example, two back-to-back dishes set the tone. The first, “charred potato,” arrived under a glass dome filled with the smoke of burning oak bark, beneath which was a plate of oak charcoal and a small, shiny, blackened potato. (“Please only eat the shiny one,” a server quietly deadpanned.)

Then came the “dillstones,” a bowl of smooth, gray river stones along with two green “stones” (“Please only eat the green ones”) composed of dill gelatin and a mystery filling, dressed with dill and yogurt. Guests are challenged to identify the protein. (Spoiler alert: It’s trout.) And it’s paired with a good old-fashioned Champagne.

Read the entire 2016 Restaurant Awards package, including the cover story, "Guide to the Growing World of Restaurant Wine," in the Aug. 31, 2016, issue of Wine Spectator.

2016 Grand Award Winners 13983