The Dutch make cheese, we know…but wine? It’s true that grapes grow almost anywhere, even on windswept reclaimed mudflats and low islands, but turning them into wine must be a challenge. Jantiene and Douwe Broersma, a proud Dutch couple, are up to the challenge. They are the proud owners of De Frysling, the most northerly vineyard in the Netherlands. It is situated on the same latitude as the southern islands of Alaska - just outside the town of Twijzel in the province of Friesland.
”De Frysling is a combination of the name of the province and Riesling,” explains Douwe Broersma (Riesling is the most famous of the traditional German cultivars). The cultivars grown on De Frysling - Johanniter, Souvignier Gris, Cabernet Cortis and Pinotin - are also unusual, despite having some familiar rings. They are new varieties created largely in southern Germany, by crossing with the more traditional cultivars. Broersma has been a winegrower since 2009. “I wanted to work outside…in nature,” he says.
”I certainly didn’t want to go back into an office.” The couple today have 5,000 vines on 1.5 hectares of sandy soil. Last year they produced more than 1,000 bottles, including the first bubbly - De Frysling.
Many Dutch winegrowers - there are more than 180 vineyards in the Netherlands - have come to winemaking from other professions. Some had been farmers, others pilots or owners of campsites. As in most countries where wine is grown, they provide opportunities for the tasting of their wines and a tour of their wineries.
Broersma recommends serving the dry Johanniter varietal with fish or seafood, while the Pinotin rose goes well, lightly chilled, with pork, lamb and cheese. The fruity red Regent is drunk with red meat and game.
Johan van de Velde is another person who has switched to wineries. ”My father grew potatoes, onions and turnips, but we could not expand as our farm was too
small,” he says. Today he runs De Kleine Schorre on the island of Schouwen-Duiveland, in Zeeland. He got the tip from a neighbour, who noted that the south-western province enjoyed plenty of sunshine and a soil rich in calcium - from millennia of dead shellfish.
Van de Velde spent three years learning winegrowing on the Cep D’or estate on the Moselle, where the river passes Luxembourg, before he and his wife Paula planted their first vines in 2001. Now their wines - made from the cultivars Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Rivaner - are poured out high above the clouds by the KLM cabin crew.
Their fresh-tasting and gentle Auxerrois-Pinot Gris was served up to President Barack Obama and other world leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit held in The Hague in March.