Netherlands

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Netherlands, north European country more often referred to as Holland, whose inhabitants are known as the Dutch. In the 17th century particularly, they played a dominant role in the world’s wine and spirit trade (see dutch wine trade), and played a key role in draining the médoc lowlands bordering the Gironde. For a long time, Holland was the world’s largest importer of sherry—until 1997, when it was surpassed by the British Isles.

The country also has its own small, indigenous wine industry with an impressive history, despite the coolness of the climate. There are records of wine-producing vines growing in Limburg in southern Holland in 1324 and vine-growing around Maastricht ceased only in the early years of the 19th century, discouraged by a series of cold summers and the economic turbulence of the Napoleonic era. It was not until 1967 that the Netherlands became a wine producer once more when Frits Bosch created his Slavante vineyard of just 800 sq m. In 2014 there were about 180 active vine-growers, with an estimated total of 240 ha/590 acres of vines planted and there are already 12 PGIs: Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, and Zuid-Holland. The largest producers in the southern part of the country, around Maastricht, are medal winners Apostelhoeve, Hoeve Neekum, and Wijngoed Fromberg in Ubachsberg. The small village of Vijlen houses the biggest vineyard so far, St. Martinus, with 11 ha. Zeeland, in the sunny south west, is home to one of the best Dutch producers: Kleine Schorre. In the southern part of the country mainly vinifera varieties such as Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris are grown for white wines while Pinot Noir produces light reds. Wine-growing in more northerly and eastern parts of the country has grown considerably since the introduction of new disease-resistant varieties such as Regent and Rondo for reds and Johanniter, Merzling, and Solaris for white wines. Notable producers here are Betuws Wijndomein at Erichem, Wijnhoeve De Colonjes at Groesbeek, and Wijngaard Hof van Twente, Bentelo. One of the most dynamic producers in the east is the Achterhoekse Wijnbouwers co-operative, whose wines have achieved some international recognition. Further growth is expected because wine is a more profitable crop than most, and offers tourism possibilities.