Callie Cook is one of five people who entered Dutch articles in our wine writing competition. See this guide to all the entries in our travel writing competition that have been published so far. The last pair will be published on Friday.
‘Wine? ... In the Netherlands!?’ Is the puzzled response I’ve been hearing recently after telling people, including some true wine aficionados, that I spent time volunteering on a vineyard in Holland. Despite the understandable scepticism, the Netherlands is indeed home to several vineyards and wineries and is a region that’s slowly beginning to gain recognition. Limburg is a small pocket of land tucked between Germany and Belgium hosting a cool climate suitable for grape growing. A plethora of wines ranging from Muscat to Léon Millot are made in the area and are well worth exploring. A wine journey through Limburg necessarily involves visiting the bucolic vineyards as well as posh wine bars. Get off the beaten track and discover some hidden gems. The Netherlands is a region that should not be overlooked!
As a freshly legal drinker (still not old enough to drink back home in the States) my understanding of wine is impressionable and polymorphic, untainted by a purist’s mindset. To shape an eclectic view of the world of wine I’ve spent the last six months travelling to various vineyards across the globe. So far my wine journey has led me to some truly remarkable places including Italy, Turkey, Netherlands, UK and France. I plan to continue travelling for another 15 to 21 months although my journey in wine will be lifelong! In addition to the practical experience I’m gaining, I’m taking WSET courses to solidify my knowledge. I have tried to fully acclimate to the wine scene of each place I’ve travelled to though I am often too limited by resources and time to truly become an expert. So, beyond my discoveries, I seek out information from locals and the internet for advice. With that, I present you with my provisional recommendations for wine lovers in Limburg.
Vineyards and wineries
Domein Holset Situated in the southernmost region of the Netherlands, this vineyard overlooks three countries at once with Germany and Belgium just a stone's throw away. Since 2009 Domein Holset has been producing sparkling wines made by the traditional method. With a combination of classic varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the vineyard also experiments with regionally expressive varieties including a Johanniter and Souvignier Gris. Domein Holset operates a vineyard with daily tours in Dutch as well as a tasting room for an opportunity to try their bubbles.
St Martinus A ten-minute drive down the road from Domein Holset is the largest wine producer in Holland, St Martinus. Partnered with a few local vineyards (including Domein Holset), their winery is housed in a truly massive production facility. St Martinus utilises modern wine-producing technology using machines such as the Buchlin Vaslin Delta R2 Vistalys. Working with artificially intelligent systems provides analytical data to better time vineyard practices and determine the quality of grapes long before they’re produced. St Martinus’s quality estate wines reflect respect for maintaining tradition while pushing the industry forward through innovation. A trip to St Martinus would not be complete without a guided tour through their 11-hectare vineyard and tasting room.
Rubaiyat In Doenrade, Rubaiyat utilizes a lyre-trellised system in their vineyard. Despite the aesthetic benefits that the lyre system often provides, it also has many advantages to the grower including maximising sunlight potential. Some considerable drawbacks such as increased vineyard maintenance have made the system a difficult and unpopular option in recent years however. Visiting Rubaiyat is an opportunity to see the increasingly rare lyre system, one of very few in all of Holland. Rubaiyat grows seven grape varieties on three hectares. Their wines can be tried in their fully-stocked tasting room.
Limburg’s capital and largest city, Maastricht, is home to notable wine bars. The wine scene in the Netherlands is ever-evolving to accommodate the influx of local vineyards and wine imports steadily increasing in the country.
Thiessen Celebrating its 300th year of operation, Thiessen offers a holistic wine experience sure to impress all, from neophytes to connoisseurs. With an emphasis on imported wine, the world is truly at your fingertips… and in your glass! Even one visit may not be enough considering all that is on offer: a cellar room, winery, bottling site, daily tours, garden areas, and a tasting room featuring a self-serve enomatic machine dispensing 16 different wines. Oh my! Thiessen’s ability to seamlessly fuse cross-modal concepts creates a truly unique tasting opportunity.
Meesters in wijn This centrally-located wine bar is only a block away from Stadspark. Meester’s has an extensive wine list that has the potential to evoke a state of Nirvana for oenophiles. Ranging from Cerro Gallina Bobal to Grüner Veltliner Eiswein, they even offer a 1980 Château Pétrus served by the glass or bottle. On the menu each wine is accompanied by a short analysis of aromas, tasting notes, and maps indicating the place of origin. Beyond that, Meester’s knowledgeable staff help create an approachable atmosphere for all.
Vino and friends Set in a masterfully-designed space, this restaurant combines Italian cuisine with internationally selected wines. With over 350 wines to choose from, this is one destination to fit the needs of many. In partnership with the sommelier, customers can sample and learn about different Italian wines. Personally, I appreciate the variety of organic wines offered. With ever-changing food specials and wines of the month, Vino and friends is a lively spot that is well worth a visit.