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The Netherlands as a wine country

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

Time for a bit of chauvinism, because what a good Dutch wine we have! From fresh white, fruity rosé to powerful red; enough to choose. And not only from South Limburg, because you will find a vineyard in (almost) every province. In this blog we stay close to home and tell you everything about the Netherlands as a wine country.

From Romans to Limburgers

Anyone driving through Limburg almost stumbles over the vineyards. Viticulture is back! The first viticulture already took place in Roman times. They liked a sip, and found the hills of Limburg ideal for viticulture. The first official mention of viticulture on Dutch soil dates back to 968, as the property of Queen Gerberga van Saksen around Maastricht. In the Middle Ages, the wine region expanded further across the Netherlands, but the rise of beer threw a spanner in the works. Another Little Ice Age came over that, plus the phylloxera. This together ensured that viticulture almost completely disappeared.

Fortunately, viticulure restarted since the 1970s, thanks to the Apostelhoeve. They founded another vineyard on the Louwberg, which was the starting signal for many other pioneers. Now the Netherlands has about 165 commercial vineyards with more than 275 hectares of vines. Seems like a lot, but for comparison: in Bordeaux you will find 120,000 hectares of vineyards. Fun fact: you can find most winegrowers in Gelderland! Yet you will still find most of the area of ​​vineyards in Limburg.

Hoeve Nekum in the Jeker valley near Maastricht. This vineyard belongs to BOB Mergelland.

Koud kikkerlandje

Actually, the Netherlands is too cold for viticulture. The average annual temperature is at most 10°C. Ideal is about 16-17°C. Geographically, the Netherlands is also just above the 'sweet spot' zone between latitude 30 and 50 degrees .As a result, the growing season in the Netherlands is often too short. Late spring, early fall. Add night frost and a lot of rainfall to that, just when the grapes start their final spurt.

The grapes therefore produce less sugars and remain slightly more acidic. 'Cold climate' wines are therefore somewhat lighter and fresher than those from warmer areas. It does provide a real Dutch style that can even differ between provinces due to the influence of hills, forests, lakes and rivers. Makes it extra fun to visit all Dutch vineyards!


You will increasingly find the term BOB or BGA on Dutch wine labels. In other words Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication. These are 2 appellations that should ensure that the quality and value of Dutch wine increases. What's the difference between the 2?

BGA is a province designation, like BGA Zeeland.With a BGA label you have wine of which at least one of the steps of production, processing or preparation took place in the BGA area. At least 85% of the grapes must also come from the BGA.

Alle huidige BOB's op een rijtje

BOB is stricter and also regional. The wine must be produced, processed and prepared within the BOB according to a recognized and controlled method. All grapes used must come from the BOB. There are now 7 BOBs: Maasvallei, Mergelland, Oolde, Vijlen, Ambt Delden, Achterhoek Winterswijk and Rivierenland as the gatekeeper. A select list that includes only a few vineyards. The most famous vineyards such as the Apostelhoeve and Sint Martinus do fall under a BOB. Fortunately, there is a lot of movement in the applications. Could just be that 3 BOBs will be added in 2023!

Drink hybrid

The most planted grapes in the Netherlands have quite unknown names. The Netherlands deals in new (hybrid) grape varieties, i.e. crossings. This makes them better able to withstand the cold, humidity and mould. Yet there are also plenty of 'old-fashioned' grapes that are doing well in the Netherlands. Think of the Auxerrois and Pinot noir.

Vitis Vinifera ' Regent ', with almost purple grapes

You will also find a lot of Solaris, which produces beautiful fresh wines with aromas of peach and elderflower. In a warm year you can also make dessert wine. Johanniter is also doing well. A cross between Riesling and 3 hybrid varieties. The wines are full and fruity like Riesling and Pinot gris .You will also find a lot of Regent, a blue grape. Gives dry wines with quite a bit of tannin that seem almost Mediterranean. Lots of cherry and blackcurrant in the taste.

3 hoorays for stainless steel

Nowadays you will mainly find white wines in the Netherlands, simply because of the climate. The temperature is simply better for fresh white wines. That fresh character is also strongly emphasized by the aging in stainless steel, which is the standard in the Netherlands. That makes Dutch wine ideal with Dutch dishes such as mussels, asparagus, fish dishes and drinks.

Naturally, winegrowers do experiment with wood aging. Think of the Pinot Gris Barrique of the Apostelhoeve or the Bergdorpje of Sint Martinus. Yet they are in the minority, purely because we like to drink crisp white!

In short

We can be very proud of our winegrowers! There is a lot of choice, the quality is getting better and it remains special to try wine from our own soil. Buy them in the wine shop, or visit the wine growers. A tour and tasting is the best way to learn more about Dutch viticulture. Need tips? In our blog with book tips we have included a book with Dutch wine routes.

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