Friday, August 15, 2014

Emerging Wine Producer The Netherlands

Picture: Typical Dutch Windmill in Ouddorp, South of Rotterdam in Zeeland

I visited The Netherlands for the first time when I was 5 years old. My parents had decided to spend the summer vacation at the Dutch beach town Noordwijk aan Zee in the west of the Netherlands; I learnt to swim there. Infrequent visits to The Netherlands followed, in particular after I met my wife, who comes from a German region which borders The Netherlands.

My interest in The Netherlands got a boost recently when my daughter Katharina accepted a position as junior researcher at the University of Wageningen. I started to do some research on winemaking in The Netherlands and recently visited one of the best winemakers of The Netherlands, Wijnhove De Kleine Schorre in Dreischor, Schouwen-Duiveland. A separate posting on Wijnhove De Kleine Schorreis will be released in due course.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller at Wijnhove De Kleine Schorre in Dreischor, Schouwen-Duiveland with Winemaker and Owner Johann van der Velde.

Wine in Holland? The Dutch climate is cool and damp, which is not conducive for producing premium-wines. Yet, over the past twenty years, Dutch viticulture has boomed, with farmers planting vineyards at a growing rate. The 2 main contributing factors are: The European climate's rewarming to Roman-era temperatures of 2,000 years ago and the development of new, colder climate-resistant hybrid grape cultivars. Still, now exceeding 200 hectares, Dutch wine production is negligible by international standards. In neighboring Germany, for example, the vineyard area totals 100.000 hectares.

Pictures: The Netherlands

Snooth on Dutch Wine: The climate in The Netherlands, or Holland, is too cool and damp to produce quality wine. However the Dutch have been very active in the European wine market through the centuries, with their geographic location perfectly positioned as a prime merchant port for German and French wines. In addition, the Dutch have heavily influenced the production of South African wines. The Dutch settled there in the 17th century and established many wineries throughout the country, and also the Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Bpkt (KWV) in 1918. First developed as massive wine cooperative, this became the regulating force in the South African Wine industry. But while wine is not a big Dutch export, the Netherlands is known for gin….

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Cornelia Schiller Tremann at the Beach


Adriana Stuijt: Two-thousand years ago, after Roman conqueror Julius Caesar invaded trans-Alpine Europe, his colonists planted extensive vineyards, also in the Netherlands. The climate must have been much warmer then: The ancient Roman grape vines required an annual temperature which should not drop below 23 Fahrenheit for too long: and any brisk freeze would usually kill these old Roman cultivars. Over the centuries, the temperatures in The Netherlands, even the most southerly province of Limburg where most of the vineyards were located, dropped to such an extent that most of the old Roman vineyards disappeared.

French-American Hybride Grapes

The Dutch wine industry was kick-started by the development of new hybrid cultivars. “These new varieties resist mildew diseases better, their grapes ripen quicker, they are more adapted to the Dutch climate,” says winemaker Job Huisman.

Here is a list of the most popular French American hybride grape varieties planted in the Netherlands. In addition, mainly in the Limburg area, winegrowers still cultivate the traditional vitis vinifera grape varieties (e.g. Riesling, Pinot Gris, Rivaner).

Leon Millot: Light, fruity Beaujolais-type wine.
Maréchal Foch: Light fruity Beaujolais-type wine.
Rubens: Riesling-type wine.
Melody: Pinot Blanc-type wine.
Rayon d'Or: Riesling-type wine.
Cabernet Cortis: Cabernet Sauvignon-type wine
Regent: Crossing between [(Silvaner and Muller Thurgau) x Chambourcin]. Red wine.
Solaris: A Merzling x (Saperavi Severny x Muscat Ottonel) cross. Chardonnay-type wine.
Johanniter: Riesling-type wine.


At 22 liters, per capita wine consumption is about at the level of Germany and half of France. Practically all of it is imported. 30 years ago, the wine market was dominated by French wine, with a market share of over 70 percent. The French wine consumption has dropped to 30 percent, but still is #1. South Africa is #2, with 22%. Chile is doing well, with a share of 9 percent now, slightly ahead of Germany which is at 8 percent and on a downward trend.

The Future of Dutch Winemaking

“Fifteen years ago when I tasted Dutch wine, it was simply undrinkable,” says Nicolaas Klei, a Dutch wine specialist who has written several books on the subject. Klei, though, remains sceptical about the quality of Dutch-made wines. “Actually, I would say it’s not bad to drink … in the best case,” but he argues that new varieties cannot rival the classics. “We must be realistic, there will never be a great wine made in The Netherlands.”

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