France may be the first destination you think of when the subject of European wines comes up, but it is by far not the only one. Some really spectacular wines are produced by its east-side neighbors. In this blog post, we take a look at a few of the best wine estates you can visit in the Netherlands and Belgium.
A winemaking tradition that goes back centuries
The history of winemaking in the Netherlands goes all the way back to Roman times. For a long time, other crops dominated agriculture and viticulture was almost forgotten. But then the 1970s brought rock and roll vibe and the revival of winemaking tradition. Today, you can find over 150 vineyards spread across the Netherlands alone.
The Lowlands climate is better suited for hardier grape varieties such as Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Regent, Cabernet Cantor, Pinotin, Riesel and Cabernet Blanc. Here you will rarely find Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons. Instead, white and sparkling wines dominate the production.
A short journey from the city of Maastricht in Limburg allows you to explore some of the oldest and finest vineyards in the country.
Vineyard De Apostelhoeve
This charming and well-organized vineyard was one of the first to revive Dutch viticulture. The friendly staff are eager to educate you about the details of making wine in this region. You can then sit back and sample some of the sensational whites and sparkling wines against the scenic backdrop of the vineyards.
The first mention of this historic farm is found in archives dating back to 1304. Owned by the same family since 1934, the vineyard was first planted in 1988, making it the second oldest wine estate in the Netherlands.
The estate offers three whites and one red. The lime-rich soils give the wine a fresh and fruity character as well as imparting a mineral taste.
This hillside estate is located in South Limburg. The first vines were planted here in 1991. Not only is this the highest vineyard in the country, but it is also the only south-facing one.
Fromberg focuses on producing artisanal wine for local restaurants and travelers. A mineral-rich terroir produces powerful, pronounced wines. You can enjoy and sample a wide variety of red, white and sparkling wines.
Good wines come in small packages
Belgium may be renowned for its chocolate and beer, but it has also been cultivating vineyards and producing wine since the early middle ages.
From the mid-20th century, there has been a concerted effort to revive the old practices and jump-start viticulture in the region. Wine production in Belgium is concentrated primarily in the regions of Wallonia and Flanders. There are around 90 farmers growing wine grapes on just 185 hectares. This means, that among all countries that have officially recognized and designated wine regions, Belgium would be the world’s smallest wine producer.
Belgian wines are primarily sparkling or white. Such focus is common for cold climate wine-producing countries. You can expect a good range of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Chardonnay’s of the oaked variety produced here have been the most successful ones according to the critics.
Wijngoed Zilver Cruys
This winery has the distinction of having the only vineyard planted on former WWI trenches. Just over a hundred years ago this area, on the Northern edge of Ypres Salient, was nothing but mud and ruin. Today, it’s a peaceful and picturesque oasis – an example of how beauty can overcome the devastation.
Located in the stunning countryside of West-Flanders, this vineyard is cradled between the Roderberg and the Zwarteberg, which provides the basis for its name (between two mountains).
The unique terroir of this area involves an iron and sandstone base as well as a climate affected by the North Sea. Summers are always a little cooler and winters a little milder. Stop by to sip and sample some of the country’s finest sparkling wines.
A discovery cruise
Ready to savor the terroir of the Lowlands? Our history-loaded Battlefields Cruise runs to or from Maastricht – just a stone throw from the Dutch wineries on this list. If you’d like to add it to your itinerary, we’ll be happy to advise you on how to plan your visit.