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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *