Kukkula Wines

Monday October 31, 2022

having sisu

Those of you who are famil­iar with kukku­la and our wines will know that

we have a wine named sisu. And if you’ve vis­it­ed our tast­ing room, you’ve

prob­a­bly tast­ed sisu and heard about the con­cept. Late­ly I’ve been

think­ing more about the word, it’s mean­ing, and how it relates to our


I reflect on our strug­gles over the years in build­ing our busi­ness, and

there cer­tain­ly have been many peri­ods in the past and now where we’ve

had to dig deep to fig­ure out how to nav­i­gate dif­fi­cul­ties. This is

espe­cial­ly true the last few years with the removal and replace­ment of

our vine­yard, busi­ness chal­lenges due to COVID and the lag­ging effects

of it with respect to infla­tion­ary pres­sures and staffing shortages.

Sisu is a word of pride in the Finnish cul­ture. It’s some­thing you possess.

Our back label defines it as patience, per­se­ver­ance, and sta­mi­na”. It’s all

about nev­er quit­ting, march­ing onward in the face of adver­si­ty. Paula

likes to say it means stub­born”. Sure­ly, she’s not refer­ring to any­one I


The word first crept into Finnish cul­ture in the 17th cen­tu­ry. It’s derived

from the Finnish word sis­us”, lit­er­al­ly mean­ing inte­ri­or”, and over time

the mean­ing grav­i­tat­ed to guts”.

The West­ern world first became famil­iar with this word around 1940,

because of the Win­ter War of 1939/1940. The Sovi­ets invad­ed their

neigh­bor, Fin­land, and the Finns faced, what appeared to be

insur­mount­able odds. To paint a bet­ter pic­ture, the Finns pos­sessed just

over 30 tanks vs. esti­mates as high as 6,500 for the Sovi­ets. The Finns

had about 100 air­craft and the Sovi­ets close to 4000. Yet, despite the

obvi­ous dis­ad­van­tage the Finns had, the fierce­ness of their

deter­mi­na­tion to pre­vail result­ed in an out­sized shift of the scales in

their favor.

The Finns lost around 25,000 lives, while the Sovi­ets’ loss of life is

esti­mat­ed to be around 250,000−420,000 (Frozen Hell, William Trotter,

1991), 20 – 30 Finnish tanks and 62 air­craft were destroyed, as compared

to between 2,514−6,541 tanks and 261 – 515 air­craft that were lost by the

Sovi­ets (Wikipedia).

In the end, Fin­land was forced to cede about 10% of its land to the

Sovi­ets, yet it was the only coun­try in the Baltics to remain independent.

The Finns would for­ev­er more be known for their fierce­ness of self-


Field Mar­shal Man­ner­heim, in his farewell address to his sol­diers said:

That an army so infe­ri­or in num­bers and equip­ment, should have

inflict­ed such seri­ous defeats on an over­whelm­ing­ly pow­er­ful enemy,

and, while retreat­ing, have over and over again repelled his attacks, is a

thing for which it is hard to find a par­al­lel in the his­to­ry of war. But it is

equal­ly admirable that the Finnish peo­ple, face to face with an

appar­ent­ly hope­less sit­u­a­tion, were able to resist giv­ing in to despair,

and instead to grow in devo­tion and great­ness. Such a nation has

earned the right to live.”

Sisu exem­pli­fied!

As I said, I have been want­i­ng to talk about the sig­nif­i­cance of the word

but per­haps was look­ing for a cat­a­lyst for the con­ver­sa­tion. The catalyst

was the onset of the Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian war that start­ed this last


I’ve been mulling this over in my mind for sev­er­al months, and meant to

get this down ear­li­er, but with all the crazi­ness of the last year, maybe

this mulling per­co­lat­ed into my read­ing this sum­mer at our lake house in

Cana­da. A lot of the books seemed to cen­ter around the turn of the 20th

cen­tu­ry, with a cou­ple of books by Amor Towles, A Gen­tle­men in Moscow

and Rules of Civil­i­ty, Dev­il in the White City, by Erik Lar­son, and Frozen Hell

by William Trot­ter. The last being a work of non-fic­tion about the Winter

War of 39/’40. I had been mean­ing to dig deep­er into the his­to­ry of this

con­flict for a long time, so I guess the Ukrain­ian con­flict pushed this

sto­ry to the top of the list.

There are a lot of strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties between the Win­ter War and the

Ukrain­ian con­flict, and as we see now, what seemed insurmountable

odds for the Ukraini­ans, has proven that the will to sur­vive and to retain

one’s sov­er­eign­ty is innate in all of us. This war is cer­tain­ly one of the

quin­tes­sen­tial exam­ples of a nation hav­ing sisu!

Of course, as dif­fi­cult as our per­son­al strug­gles are and have been, they

cer­tain­ly pale com­pared to the plight of the Ukraini­ans. The word sisu

comes from Finnish cul­ture, yet it’s clear­ly not a trait exclu­sive to the

Finns. The Ukraini­ans are proof of that! Let’s hope the tide con­tin­ues in

their favor and the sup­port they require will con­tin­ue until they reclaim

the coun­try that is right­ful­ly theirs.

I, for one, will keep our chal­lenges in per­spec­tive, Here’s to hav­ing sisu!



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