Trends and a behind-the-scenes look at 4 vineyards, a wine trip in July 2023.
From a short visit to 3 days full of vineyard visits
What started as the idea to do a tour at the Apostelhoeve in Maastricht, thanks to a call from Wijnclubje via Instagram, turned into three days of vineyard visits, tasting beautiful wines and above all, enjoying ourselves. In early July 2023, we drove from Amstelveen to the beautiful south to discover some vineyards.
We started the afternoon at Sint Martinus in Vijlen and then drove to our B&B, where “coincidentally” there was also a vineyard. More on that later. The next day we left early for Wijndomein Aldeneyck in the heart of the Maas Valley. There we got the best tour you can imagine.
On the last day, we started in the vineyard of our B&B, Domaine Villa Bayard, where we did a beautiful tasting together with Roel Bongaerts, the winemaker, and heard wonderful stories about his experiences. Then we quickly went to the Apostelhoeve in Maastricht for the tour and tasting, after which we drove back to Amstelveen.
What stood out at all the vineyards was the good quality of the wine and the sales. Many wines were sold out and at the Apostelhoeve, you couldn’t even buy any wine anymore because everything was gone! Is this a positive trend? We’ll have to find out.
Emerging and increasingly popular: wine from Belgium and the Netherlands
In recent years, you hear and read more about wine from Belgium and the Netherlands. Although the wine industry here is still relatively young, the quality and popularity are increasing, with more and more international attention. The winegrowers in the Netherlands and Belgium are passionate about their work and strive to produce wines that express the unique qualities of their terroir.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, a lot of work is done with hybrid varieties that can withstand local climate conditions, such as high humidity, cold and wet soil. However, many traditional varieties can also be found, such as at Aldeneyck where they only work with traditional varieties since the beginning.
Climate change is making viticulture increasingly accessible in the Netherlands. For example, due to rising temperatures, grapes ripen more easily, leading to experimentation with new varieties in various places, as you also see in Bordeaux. It would not surprise me if somewhere in the Netherlands a row of Touriga Nacional has already been planted. It takes 6-8 years before good wines can be made from these varieties.
Tour of the most innovative vineyard Sint Martinus
Our first stop is Wijngaard Sint Martinus, located in the Limburg town of Vijlen. This vineyard is a pioneer in Dutch wines and is known for its innovative techniques and sustainable practices. Stan Beurskens is a well-known pioneer who, in addition to his own wines, also helps many other winemakers in the Netherlands and beyond. I was lucky enough to meet Stan briefly and according to him, the 2023 season looks very promising. Sint Martinus has a wide range of wines, from red and white to sparkling wines. Quality and innovation are clearly emphasized at Sint Martinus. Drones fly over the vineyards and make scans with various sensors, so that more targeted adjustments can be made if necessary. In the future, drones may even spread compost, and robots drive between the vines with special equipment to make an echo in the plant and determine what is needed. They continue to experiment with new grape varieties and have a trial garden with about 170 varieties (will Touriga Nacional also be among them?). In the three-level cellar, they create wines that are a reflection of their unique terroir. This terroir results in an elegant style of wines. The soil consists of sand, loess and limestone.
- Bergdorpje white is a fresh white wine made from Johanniter, Solaris, and Muscaris. The wine has aromas of jasmine, gooseberry, and citrus, and flavors of gooseberry and citrus. It has medium acidity with a fresh finish and is a delightful summer wine.
- Johannes is a beautiful full red wine made from Cabernet Cantor, Cabernet Cortis, and Pinotin. The wine is aromatic and fresh with red and exotic fruit and flavors of strawberry, cherry, and peach. The finish is fresh, with medium tannins and medium acidity. It is delicious chilled.
- 7 Zonden is a beautiful, full-bodied red wine with great depth, made from Cabernet Cortis and Cabernet Cantor. It has spicy aromas and ripe red fruit, a complex palate of ripe red fruit, dried green herbs, and spices, medium (+) tannins, and medium (+) acidity. Perfect for enjoying in the evening.
The Best Tour at Aldeneyck Winery
Our next stop was Aldeneyck Winery, located in Maaseik, Belgium. This vineyard is known for its high-quality wines and has been named the best wines in Belgium multiple times! Aldeneyck has a strong focus on quality and believes that the best wines are made by letting nature take its course. They exclusively work with traditional varieties such as Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling. They currently have 11 hectares and plan to expand with an additional 3.5 hectares.
The winemakers at Aldeneyck deeply respect their terroir and strive to produce wines that express the unique characteristics of their vineyard. They use sustainable practices in their vineyard and winery to ensure that their wines are not only delicious but also have minimal impact on the environment.
At Aldeneyck, the passion for wine is evident. The winemakers are constantly looking for ways to improve their wines and try new things, like a sparkling Riesling that, together with their Pinot Noir Charles 2018, won the Belgian Wine Awards 2023. They believe that the best wines are the result of a combination of tradition and innovation. During the enthusiastic tour, we received very detailed and accessible information about how they make their wines. Everything looked super neat, and the tasting was more than excellent. Highly recommended!
- Riesling brut is a 100% Riesling blanc de blanc with a delicious fine mousse. It is recognizable as Riesling and has fresh aromas of citrus and green apple, and peach. The flavors are fresh with hints of citrus, peach, red and green apple, and medium (+) acids. It is a real summer bubble!
- Pinot Blanc 2022 is a true crowd-pleaser: not too complex, full of aromatic exotic fruit, apple, lime, and rosemary. It has flavors of apple, pear, lime zest, rosemary, and other dried green herbs. It has a beautiful thickness in the glass with medium (+) acidity and a fine finish.
- Riesling Finesse 2020 is a very fine extra-dry riesling with full citrus and apple flavors. The flavors of green apple and citrus are elegant, and there is a refined minerality and medium (+) acids.
- Pinot noir 2020 has a beautiful light color and a full nose with aromas of cherries, vanilla, strawberry, and other black fruit. The taste palate is silky smooth with ripe red fruit, cherries, raspberry, vanilla, and fine wood tones. The tannins are medium, and the acids are medium (+), with a very elegant finish.
A look behind the scenes at Domain Villa Bayard
Domain Villa Bayard, located in Eben-Emael, Belgium, is not only a great B&B, but also a vineyard where winemaker Roel Bongaerts has been making wine since 2017. The vineyard has the same terroir of marl and gravel as the Apostelhoeve, which is only a few kilometers away. After successful experimentation with Johanniter, Roel has also planted Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot gris, and Gewürztraminer. There are 3800 vines on 0.8 hectares. He not only makes white, rosé, and red wine, but also a sparkling wine according to the traditional method that is truly fantastic. Unfortunately, this wine was produced in a very small quantity and is already sold out.
The winemaker has a lot of passion and wants to have the same style signature in his wines. You can taste it: they are all elegant wines with beautiful terroir expression in minerality and a pure nose. I expect a lot from this vineyard in the coming years!
- Blanc de Noir Brut (nature), 2021 has a delicious mousse with aromas of apple, lime, and salty mist, combined with brioche notes. The taste is fresh and acidic with notes of mineral-lime and brioche, followed by a long, elegant finish.
- Chardonnay 2022 has typical Chardonnay aromas without vanilla or oak, which makes sense because this wine did not mature in oak this year. This gives you a nice expression of the grape in combination with the minerals of the terroir. The wine has aromas of buttery flowers and citrus. The palate is filmic and salty with flavors of lime peel, citrus, and red apple. The finish is long and elegant with medium (+) acidity.
- Mathilde Cuvée Blanc is made from 40% Pinot noir, 40% Pinot gris, and 20% Johanniter. It has a pleasant nose with full aromatic scents, without being too complex. It contains a lot of fruit, such as citrus, peach, and exotic fruit. The flavors of citrus, peach, and apricot are filmic, with fine minerality and medium acidity. The finish is elegant and I think this is Roel’s signature wine because you taste everything here, from minerality to fruit, with a lot of elegance.
- Pinot gris 2022 has floral aromas with fine citrus notes and dried green herbs. This wine has something special. After destemming, the grapes have had 24 hours of skin contact. This results in a very gastronomic wine with flavors of citrus, dried green herbs, floral peach, and medium acidity. The finish is fine and gives a slight tingle on your tongue.
- Late harvest Gewürztraminer from November 2022 from the barrel has a medium sweet taste with fresh acidity and floral aromas. It has fine minerals and flavors of ripe pear and citrus. It’s already very tasty, but I can’t wait to try it from the bottle, perfect with a delicious dessert or a salad with pear and blue cheese. Looking forward to it already!
The most famous vineyard in the Netherlands: the Apostelhoeve
Our last stop during the trip was the tour at the Apostelhoeve, one of the oldest vineyards in the Netherlands. The Apostelhoeve is located on the slopes of the Louwberg in Maastricht and is known for its high-quality white wines.
At the Apostelhoeve, the emphasis is on quality and tradition. The vineyard is run by the Hulst family, who have a deep passion for winemaking and strive to produce wines that express the unique characteristics of their terroir. They use traditional techniques and work closely with nature to create wines that reflect their unique location. During the tour, the use of square stainless steel inox wine barrels stood out. The advantage of these is that they take up less space, have more capacity, and can be cooled from four sides, making them more flexible during winemaking.
The wines of the Apostelhoeve are known for their elegance and complexity. They have a strong minerality, which reflects the limestone-rich soils of the Louwberg. The Apostelhoeve also experiments with new grape varieties, such as Viognier. Unfortunately, I couldn’t taste this because it was already sold out. We were able to taste three other wines, but unfortunately, everything was sold out, and we couldn’t buy anything.
- Auxerrois, 2022, is a tasty fresh and fruity wine that is similar to Pinot Blanc. The wine has a light yellow color and a floral aroma with notes of peach, pear, and citrus. The taste is a combination of pear, fresh red apple, peach, and apricot, with medium acidity.
- Cuvée XII from 2022 is a very well-known and popular wine, made from a blend of 40% Müller-Thurgau, 30% Auxerrois, and 30% Pinot Gris. The wine has a medium yellow color and a nice thickness in the glass. The aroma is floral with notes of citrus, orange peel, lemon, and mandarin. The taste is fresh with notes of orange and lime. The finish is finely spicy with medium (+) acidity.
- The Riesling from 2022 has a light yellow color and is immediately recognizable as a very young Riesling. The aroma is very fresh and fruity, with lots of citrus, lime, and green apple, and the taste has notes of citrus and green apple with medium (+) acidity and a fine finish. This wine is already good to drink now but can certainly also be stored well. According to the Apostelhoeve, this is the only wine that can be stored for more than 4-5 years.
Trends in the Dutch and Belgian wine industry
The Dutch and Belgian wine industry is constantly evolving. One of the most important trends in recent years is the increased focus on sustainability. Many vineyards strive to minimize their ecological footprint by implementing sustainable practices in their vineyards and wine cellars.
Another important trend is the growing popularity of organic and biodynamic wines. Consumers are becoming more aware of the impact of their purchases on the environment and are looking for wines that are produced in an environmentally friendly way.
In addition, the popularity of wines from the Netherlands and Belgium is also growing, leading to an increase in their sales. This sometimes results in wines being sold out quickly, even before the grapes are harvested! This does mean that there is an increasing amount of wine production in the Netherlands, with quality always being a top priority.
Finally, there is a growing interest in local and regional wines. Consumers want to know where their wine comes from and are interested in tasting wines that reflect the unique characteristics of their region. This has led to an increase in the number of small, artisanal vineyards in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Future of Dutch and Belgian wine industry
The future of the Dutch and Belgian wine industry looks promising. There is a growing interest in Dutch and Belgian wines, both in the domestic and international market. The winegrowers in these countries continue to innovate and improve, aiming to produce wines that express the unique characteristics of their terroir.
Moreover, there is a growing trend towards sustainability in the wine industry. More and more vineyards strive to minimize their ecological footprint and implement sustainable practices in their vineyards and wine cellars. This is not only good for the environment, but also for the quality of the wines they produce.
The Dutch and Belgian wine industry has a strong future ahead. With their focus on quality, innovation, and sustainability, they are well positioned to continue growing and flourishing in the coming years.
Recommendations for trying and buying Belgian wines
If you are interested in trying Belgian and Dutch wines, I have a few recommendations. First, visit a local wine shop and ask the staff for recommendations. They can help you choose a wine that fits your taste preferences and budget.
Second, consider attending a wine tasting. This is a great way to taste different wines and learn more about the different grape varieties.
Third, if you get the chance, visit a vineyard in the Netherlands or Belgium. This gives you the opportunity to meet the winemakers, see the vineyards, and taste the wines in the environment where they are made.
The Dutch and Belgian wine industry is fascinating and full of potential. From their innovative techniques to their commitment to sustainability, these vineyards are truly unique. Whether you’re a seasoned wine connoisseur or someone just discovering the world of wine, I recommend trying Dutch and Belgian wines. You won’t be disappointed.
Previously published on Anne-Wies.nl