Better Dutch wines through climate change?

“The interesting thing about our climate is that it is able to deliver four seasons in one week”

Simon Carmiggelt, writer-
Apostelhoeve, Limburg (NL)

Climate change and Dutch wines

When looking at the statistics we really notice it in the Netherlands. On average the temperature has risen and in the summer we often have a hot – to extremely hot period. “Well that’s nice,” someone told me. “Then we will soon have Burgundy quality wines in the Netherlands”. A nice thought, but is that going to happen?

When we talk about vineyards and winemaking, we always talk about “terroir”. That is a broader concept than just soil. I will discuss a number of aspects and see whether the Netherlands, with climate change in mind,  is suitable for the leap towards super-top wines.

The terroir

Vines need a good structure of the soil. They must be able to anchor themselves well and the soil must have good drainage. Strangely enough, you get the best wines from vines that have to do their best to root deeply in search of water and nutrition. The soil must not be too rich. With this in mind, a number of vineyards in the Netherlands can already be ruled out. If a vineyard is on clay soil, the soil is far too rich in organic nutrients. Certain minerals that we find in rocky ground are almost completely missing here. Vineyards on sandy soil then? The drainage is probably better here. But here too we lack the necessary minerals, but also organic nutrients. Moreover, the groundwater level is so high in our flat land that the vines cannot go into depth and the roots soon have to bend horizontally so as not to rot due to the excess of moisture. An average rise in temperature due to climate change will help with the ripening of the grapes with making choices for grape varieties, but we will probably never achieve “Burgundy quality” here.

The Dutch mountains

So are hills (“The Dutch mountains”) the answer? Do we have them in the Netherlands? Certainly.

I know Dutch vineyards that are located on hills (Montferland, Groesbeek, Limburg) that already make beautiful wines. And that is not without reason. The hilly locations give an optimal exposition in relation to the sun. This is very important for vines and certainly vineyards that are located in northern countries with an average cooler climate and/or shorter summer. The best vineyards in Burgundy (Grand Cru and Premier Cru) have that same optimal exposition. As an example of the importance of an optimal exposition can we can look at the slanting position of our solar panels in the Netherlands. This gives more output. It works just like that with vines.

The best winearea of the Netherlands

Our hope for future Dutch Burgundy quality wines is therefore based on hilly areas with fine, rocky soils with good drainage. Rich in minerals and preferably with an organic layer. Let’s all scan the Dutch geological map. If I had to pick a place, I would go for Limburg with its calcareous hills interspersed with hard rock, sand, and flint.

But do not forget the professional skills and knowledge of the winemaker. You can have such a beautiful vineyard. But you must know what to do with the grapes. This is partly an explanation for the increasing quality of Dutch wines over the past decade. Let’s hope that this will only increase and that climate change will help positively.


Wine from volcanic soils

“Winemaking is like dancing around the volcano”

The Etna with its vinyards

Wine from volcanic soils

Nowadays we see more and more wines with a label that states: “wine from volcanic soils”. An interesting question for us as wine lovers is whether that matters in terms of taste. And if so, how can you really taste that the wine comes from a vineyard with volcanic soil? Last week I visited a lecture organized by Pallas Wines where winemakers were present who actually have their vines on volcanic soils. Wine companies Bodega Volcanes (Chile), Le Masciare (Italy), Franz Keller (Germany) and Tornatore (Etna, Sicily) gave a presentation. All these wineries have vineyards on volcanic soils. They should, therefore, be able to give answers to my questions.

Federica Campo from Tornatore lecturing

The influence of volcanic soils on wine

At this moment the influence of volcanic soils on wine is difficult to prove scientifically. Scientific research has not yet been carried out on a large scale in a laboratory. This is expensive and time-consuming because all other research-disrupting elements (such as location, treatment in the vineyard, the influence of the winemaker, etc.) must be excluded. The soil is only one part of the terroir and winemaking process as a whole. So there are no laboratory results yet that demonstrate that wines from volcanic soils have more minerals than wines from other soils. So, for the time being, we’ll have to deal with subjective data and rely on our taste.

What can we taste in wines from volcanic soils?

But if we don’t have scientific evidence, what can we taste in wines from volcanic soils? John Szabo who has just released his book “Volcanic Wines” summarizes it as: “Salt, Grit & Power”. Freely translated: A salty impression, salivating acids and powerful wines. With a salty impression, you should not think about taking a spoonful of salt, but rather the subtle feeling that you are tasting something salty in the background. The winemakers added during the lecture, in addition to the characteristics mentioned by John Szabo, that their wines are rather more tasty than fruity. And that is indeed true when we taste their wines. We also conclude at the tasting that all wines have a hint of smoke or flint in the scent. In short, if you taste or smell some of these characteristics in your wine, you have a good chance that the wine comes from volcanic soil. And the other way around: if you are a fan of taste profile given above, then it is a good choice to go for a wine of volcanic soil.

The chance you’ll find wines from volcanic soils

By the way, the chance is bigger than you think to find such a wine. If we are talking about wines from volcanic soil, then we should refer to soils from the beginning of the earth’s existence. The still-active volcanoes are clearly visible. But remember that, to name but a few counties and areas, Hungary, Italy (Campania), Alsace, Canary Islands, Germany (Baden, Moselle), Greece (Santorini), Chile, volcanoes have once been active there and their traces in the soil have left its footprint. And that is why we can now enjoy the delicious wines that are produced here.

Try such a volcanic wine and have fun tasting.

Fortified wines: Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise

“How SWEET it is to be loved by you”

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
Fortified wine
Sweet wine

Some wine lovers will probably shiver only by the thought of sweet wine. Nevertheless, my recommendation is occasionally stepping out of your comfort zone and taste something else.
The fortified wines made from the Muscat perhaps?

Different varieties

There are various Muscat grape varieties that all are called Muscat. There are, however, common characteristics. They often have a low to medium acidity. But also lavishly perfumed aromas with scents of roses, blossoms or grapes.

Warm climates

The Muscat grapes all grow in warm to hot climates. This allows them to build up a lot of sugars and those wonderful aromas. It is important that there are cooling factors in the vineyards so that the acids can also develop well. The presence of sea breeze, altitude in the hills, the difference in day/night temperature. These are factors that you should think of.

Styles of fortified Muscat wines

The fortified Muscat wines are made in 2 styles.
1. Young and youthful wines.
2. Developed and matured wines
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is an example of a young and youthful style. The ripe grapes are crushed to separate the juice from the skins. Sometimes short skin contact is allowed to get stronger aromas. The fermentation takes place, as with most white wines, at low temperatures. To get a sweet wine, not all sugars have to be converted into alcohol. To achieve this, a distillate of 96% is added. The alcohol causes the yeast cells to die and the fermentation to stop. This leaves a lot of residual sugars. And as a result a sweet wine with a fantastic aroma.
Matured style
To try the second style you should try a Muscat from Rutherglen (Australia). Clearly different in color: amber to light brown. This shows that the wine has developed oxidatively for a long time. Sometimes it takes decades. Sometimes these grapes are dried to get an overwhelming sweet wine. The fermentation of this wine takes place, in contrast to the first-mentioned style, on the skins. This also gives more expressive characteristics of the grape. With this style too, fermentation is stopped during fermentation. The long aging period in old oak barrels, sometimes under warm conditions, makes the wine taste really different from the young style.

Have fun tasting.


“Knowing the grape is to love the wine”

The Chardonnay grape and wine. After the harvest the winemaker makes his choices.

Chardonnay; the grape and the wine

When choosing a wine it is always nice to know the most important characteristics of a wine grape. That way you know what you can expect in terms of taste. As with any wine, various factors determine the taste that the wine ultimately receives. The grape variety, the soil, the climate, the choices and skills of the winegrower.
Nonetheless, I can give a number of characteristics.

Chardonnay, a versatile grape

The Chardonnay is a rewarding, versatile wine grape. It can be grown successfully in many climates. From cool- to warm climates. That is why it is a popular grape. It can also be used as a monocépage or in a blend. In addition, it can be used to make wine with or without maturing on wood. Because the Chardonnay is so popular amongst winemakers and therefore the wine available everywhere, there are people who absolutely no longer want Chardonnay, calling “ABC” (Anything But Chardonnay). However, this is just trying to be trendy and has nothing to do with quality.

Chardonnay grape and Chardonnay wine
The Chardonnay grape

Chardonnay, an early maturing grape

The Chardonnay matures early. This means that it is sometimes 2 weeks earlier than other wine grapes in the same vineyard. That can be an important factor for the winemaker to choose this grape. Certainly in cooler areas. It may be precisely the time that can determine if the harvest can be done on time before stormy autumn weather spoils it.

Characteristics of the Chardonnay wine

Depending on the climate one can expect 1 or more of these characteristics:

Cooler climate: Warmer climate :
Higher acidity Medium acidity
Medium body More body
Medium alcohol Higher in alcohol
Aromas more towards citrus, green apple Same aromas completed with stonefruits and tropical fruits
Mineral. FlintWithout wood: idem

With wood:
butter, popcorn, toast, vanilla, honey,

The Chardonnay style without wood often comes from Chablis en Mâconnais( France) and West-Australia

Countries where good Chardonnay wines are being made

France ( Bourgogne, Chablis, Champagne, Loire, Languedoc, Ardèche, Jura, Savoie)
US ( California, New York State, Oregon, Washington)
Australia ( Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Margaret River)
Chili ( Casablanca Valley, Central Valley)
South-Africa ( Walker Bay)
Argentina ( Mendoza)
New-Zealand ( Marlborough)


The Chardonnay is also used to make sparkling wines. Even in a Champagne as a monocépage or in blends. Often we see “Blanc de Blancs” at the label of a monocépage sparkling Chardonnay wine as a reference to the Chardonnay grapes.

Corks, screwcaps and sustainability.

-“A cork isn’t useful unless you have a place to put it.” –

Different kinds of closures of wine bottles

Wine bottles have different closures. Corks made of natural cork, imitation corks made out of of plastics, screwcaps, glass / plastic caps. What is the best way to seal a bottle of wine? In fact that’s an easy question. They are all made to seal a winebottle. And if the cap closes properly it is a good cap, isn’t it?

Choice of the winemaker

It depends on the winemaker which one he chooses. Cork is the most expensive choice for the winemaker. This is a natural product of which the price depends on its scarcity.
There is only a limited number of countries where cork oaks grow. In addition, cork can only be harvested once every 9 years. A vintner will therefore only choose cork if he is convinced that this is a good choice for his wines.
One of the characteristics of cork is that it can breathe. Only sealed with a cork wine the bottle can develop. Of course, it has to be a wine that was intended to mature on the bottle. Sometimes cork is chosen for marketing purposes. Customers often think that there always should be a proper natural cork on a wine bottle.

Look at it differently

You can also look at it differently. If there is a screwcap or a plastic cork on the bottle, then this is either a simple (read: cheap, unpretentious) wine or a wine that is intended to drink young (between 1-2 years after purchase). A cork is not necessary at all for these types of wines.
There have been experiments developing a screwcap that also has the ability to breathe. But the real breakthrough is not there yet.