For Samuli Pasanen, the year revolves around seasons of wine. He spends some of the year hosting food and wine events in Finland and some of the year harvesting grapes in the French countryside. A winemaker is at the mercy of mother nature, which Pasanen sees as a positive in today’s hectic world.
When studying economics, Pasanen took a job on the side at Alko, the Finnish alcoholic beverage retailer, where he grew increasingly interested in wine. Soon he found himself travelling around the world from one grape harvest to another.
”When my university angst reached a boiling point, I decided to take a gap year and go pick up grapes in France. I didn’t want to wake up one day in an office with a tie around my neck. From France, I headed to Australia, on to New Zealand, and again back to France.”
Now Pasanen spends some of the year hosting wine and food events in Finland. The rest of the year he lives in the French countryside working at a vineyard. The journey from economics to where he is today is partly the result of random chance and partly due to his outlook on life.
”You have to seize your opportunities. I have this approach in life that when I have an idea, I keep on talking about it to everyone. At some point, a person comes along that brings that one missing piece.”
Pasanen wants to bring this sort of recklessness to everything he does. Once he had a cider brewer and their products flown in all the way from Texas just because he thought it would make for a nice bonus for the customers.
”There are so many passionate people in this business that want to do stuff simply because they like it. You shouldn’t put money-first in everything you do but rather hold on to a certain amateur enthusiasm and passion.”
“A year is still a year, even if everything around it is getting faster.”
Traveling around the world in his various wine pursuits, Pasanen has come to view different countries through the lens of their wine culture. Having seen how Finland compares to many countries with strong wine and culinary cultures, he knows the strengths of his home country.
“Finland is not some backwards country where we somehow do everything worse. We have the same opportunities as anywhere else.” With a young and growing wine culture, Finland is one of the best countries in the world for a budding wine lover, because you get to choose from thousands of wines from various wine-producing countries.
When the summer’s event season is over in Finland, Pasanen returns to France where he feels most at home. There he isn’t just a business owner or an event manager but also a craftsman and a farm worker.
“In France, I get my hands dirty. Making wine is pure agriculture – picking, scrubbing and cleaning – genuine down-to-earth work and the most honest part of winemaking. When the wine is bottled, it’s time for marketing, sales and differentiation plans to take over, stages that involve varying amounts of bullshit.”
And while harvest is a hectic time, it also involves slowing yourself down to mother nature’s pace. There is something primal there that Pasanen really likes.
”The vines grow in their own pace as dictated by nature, and the grapes are harvested once a year. If you screw up, you have to wait a year for the vines to grow again. A year is still a year, even if everything around it is getting faster. In a world as hectic as ours, it can only be a good thing.”