Satyr’s Harmonious Blend of Music and Wine

In a symphony where black metal meets the finesse of viticulture, Sigurd Wongraven, the iconic frontman of Satyricon, orchestrates a fascinating transition from the stage to the vineyard.

An image of Satyr from the black metal band Satyricon, presenting his Wongraven wine collection. He stands confidently at a table in a well-lit restaurant setting, holding a glass of red wine, with multiple bottles of Wongraven wines displayed in front. He is dressed in a black shirt and a baseball cap, with a focused expression, representing a fusion of his musical and entrepreneurial ventures.
Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven and his Wongraven wines
Key Takeaways
  • Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven, of Satyricon, ventured into winemaking, creating Wongraven Wines that mirror his passion for quality and tradition.
  • His approach to winemaking emphasizes personal taste and quality, focusing on classic wine styles like Barolo.
  • In 2019, Satyr sold 90% of Wongraven Wines to Vingruppen, a subsidiary of Arcus, marking a major business milestone with the company valued at approximately $5.4 million.

From Black Metal to the Vineyards

Imagine a world where the frontman of a black metal band is as versed in the subtleties of winemaking as he is in creating thunderous music. This isn’t a fanciful scenario but the real story of Sigurd Wongraven, singer of Satyricon, who took his passion for wine and turned it into a full-fledged winery: Wongraven Wines. This venture isn’t about a celebrity slapping their name on a product for easy cash. It’s about a musician’s genuine passion for wine, combined with a knack for entrepreneurship.

Wongraven’s journey into winemaking started as a balancing act between leading Satyricon and nurturing a growing interest in the world of wines. Over the years, he transformed this interest into Wongraven Wines, a brand that’s gained a solid footing in Norway’s wine scene. This achievement is not just about commercial success; it’s about earning a nod of approval from wine enthusiasts.

Whether it’s creating a haunting melody or a captivating wine, Wongraven brings the same dedication and vision to the table.

In chats and interviews, Wongraven often draws a line connecting his music and winemaking worlds. Both realms, he says, require a mix of experience, intuition, and confidence. Whether it’s creating a haunting melody or a captivating wine, Wongraven brings the same dedication and vision to the table.

Starting small with an initial production of just 1,500 bottles, Wongraven’s approach was hands-on and knowledge-driven, distinguishing his venture from other celebrity-endorsed projects. The warm reception of these first bottles wasn’t just encouraging; it was a green light to delve deeper into the craft.

Wongraven wasn’t interested in following trends. His aim was to craft wines that mirrored his own palate, leading him to produce wines he admired, like traditional Barolo. Collaborating closely with top winemakers, he began with a Langhe Rosso and a Barolo, later expanding to Champagne and unique Rieslings. His approach was fresh, innovative, and very personal.

The journey wasn’t without its challenges. The popularity of his Langhe Rosso meant ramping up production to 200,000 bottles, a feat that required a meticulous balance and blend. Wongraven’s focus was clear: quality trumped quantity every time.

His winemaking style is a reflection of his personal taste: fruit-driven, elegant, and sophisticated. Just like his quest for a unique sound in Satyricon, Wongraven sought to carve out a distinct identity for his wines. He steered clear of the typical industry route, instead emphasizing quality and his involvement in the process.

A decade down this path, Wongraven Wines has made a mark in the Norwegian wine market. Now, Wongraven is eyeing the global stage, not just for business expansion but as a natural progression of his passion.

Satyr’s Wine Journey

Sigurd Wongraven’s journey into the world of wines wasn’t a sudden plunge but a gradual and deepening exploration, fueled by his travels and experiences with Satyricon. Between 1997 and 2004, while touring Europe, Wongraven found himself in the midst of a diverse range of wine cultures. Particularly in 2003, his experiences with wine began to take on a new depth. From tasting old white Port in Porto to savoring Northern Rhône wines paired with Norwegian deer, Wongraven discovered a complex and fascinating world far beyond the standard offerings. These weren’t just passing indulgences; they were formative experiences that pushed him towards a more profound exploration of wine.

This growing interest in wines soon found an outlet in writing. Wongraven began penning wine articles for Norwegian publications, offering an alternative voice in the wine world. His unique perspective as a musician-turned-wine enthusiast caught the attention of publishers, leading to several offers to write books about wine. Initially reluctant, Wongraven eventually accepted one of these offers. This decision became a turning point, leading him to visit wineries and spend time with winemakers. It was this hands-on experience that deepened his understanding of wine, ultimately sowing the seeds for Wongraven Wines and overshadowing the book project.

Wongraven’s approach to winemaking was shaped by his experiences as a consumer, focusing on creating wines that he personally enjoyed rather than just commercially viable products.

Wongraven’s experiences with winemakers and in vineyards led to a crucial realization. He observed that importers and product managers often played a significant role in developing wines tailored for specific markets. This sparked an idea: what if he, too, could create his own wine blends? Wongraven’s approach differed significantly from that of typical product managers. While they focused on commercial viability, Wongraven was driven by his personal taste as a consumer. He saw an opportunity to create wines he admired, like the traditional Barolo, regardless of their current demand in the market. This approach was less about following trends and more about bringing a personal vision to life, a vision rooted in the authentic experiences and preferences of a true wine enthusiast turned winemaker.

The Business Beat of Wongraven Wines

As Wongraven Wines grew in stature and success, 2019 marked a significant milestone in its journey. Sigurd Wongraven made a strategic business move by selling 90% of Wongraven Wines to Vingruppen, a subsidiary of renowned wine and spirits producer Arcus. This deal valued the shares of Wongraven Wines at a notable NOK 51.3 million (approximately $5.4 million).

In the same year, Wongraven Wines reported impressive financial figures. The company achieved sales of NOK 6.6 million (around $700,000), culminating in a profit of NOK 3.7 million (approximately $390,000) before tax. These numbers not only reflect the brand’s solid market position but also its efficient business operations.

Wongraven Wines, led by Sigurd Wongraven’s personal involvement in blending and close collaboration with winemakers, adheres to organic principles, reflecting a commitment to quality and sustainability.

The portfolio of Wongraven Wines is as diverse as it is distinct. It includes notable varieties like Wongraven Morgenstern Riesling, Wongraven Alleanza Langhe Rosso, and Wongraven Champagne. Sigurd Wongraven’s hands-on involvement in the blending process, coupled with his close collaboration with winemakers on viticulture and vinification, ensures that each wine reflects his personal touch and commitment to quality. These wines are produced organically or according to organic principles.

Since 2015, the sales of Wongraven Wines have seen a meteoric rise, more than quadrupling. In a striking achievement, Norway’s liquor and wine monopoly, Vinmonopolet, sold nearly one million liters of Wongraven’s wine, catapulting the brand into the top ten in the Norwegian market. This feat underscores the brand’s growing popularity and the high regard in which it is held by Norwegian wine consumers.

Wongraven’s journey in winemaking has been marked by significant collaborations. About a decade ago, he partnered with Luca Roagna, a fifth-generation winemaker, to create traditional Piedmontese wines. This partnership, along with collaborations for organic Champagnes and Bordeaux-style whites, reflects Wongraven’s dedication to quality and his respect for traditional winemaking methods.

The reception of Wongraven’s wines in Norway, especially his white wines, has been particularly noteworthy. These wines have not only been successful but have often led in their respective price categories, a clear indicator of their quality and the esteem in which they are held by Norwegian wine aficionados.

This success story is not just about numbers and market positions; it’s about Satyr’s unwavering commitment to creating wines that resonate with both his personal taste and the preferences of discerning wine drinkers.