In Belgium, around 2000 hectolitres of wine are produced every year. In volume terms it does not represent anything internationally, but the development of Belgian viticulture has been extremely interesting in recent years. We checked this in a fascinating Wineproof tasting session.
Here too, and especially in the Meuse Valley, the Romans brought vines with them and in that period the region around Maastricht, and actually the entire Meuse Valley, was a very large wine region. Centuries later, Charlemagne brought renewed attention to viticulture through the monasteries, but in the 16th and 17th centuries the climate became much colder and viticulture disappeared. Napoleon gave the order to destroy all the vines. In recent years, however, viticulture has been on the rise in Belgium. What was a hobby 30 years ago is now becoming professional winegrowing.
Belgium, and especially Flanders, literally lies at the climatological border of wine. Together with the South of England and the North of Germany, they form the northernmost wine region of Europe. Growing wine grapes here is a constant struggle to achieve optimal ripeness. Therefore, vineyards are best located on southern slopes. Not in the valley, where it is too cool and not at the top, where the wind is too strong. And on flat terrain protection by hedges or trees is therefore necessary. Very severe frost in winter causes damage to young vines. Night frost in spring is disastrous for young shoots.
Approximately 90% of Belgian wines are white wines, with approximately 15 varieties of grapes allowed for white and red. The most important are müller-thurgau, chardonnay and pinot noir but also German hybrids such as dornfelder, optima and kerner are widespread. Pinot blanc and pinot gris are also more common grape varieties. Local grapes such as Leopold III, maréchal Joffre and Loonse vroege are not allowed for appelation wines.
In Flanders, there are three official appellations, Controlled Designations of Origin (PDOs), based on the European model, in addition to a few other recognitions for regional local wine or table wine. The GOB Côtes de Sambre-et-Meuse is the only protected apple in Wallonia.
Recognised in 1997, the Hageland PDO is the oldest designation of origin. It is located in the areas of Aarschot, Tienen and Leuven and has a sandy loam and ironstone subsoil. We taste the müler thurgau of Kluisberg with its scents of flowers and soft ripe fruit and the ripe slightly sweet taste. A seductive white aperitif wine according to us. The red merlot and dornfelder of the Hagelander domain of Rik Daems is full, fruity and contains the typical characteristics of both grapes combined under a thin layer of vanilla.
A few years ago, in the region of Hasselt, Sint-Truiden, Herk-de-Stad, Herstappe and up to the Dutch border, the GOB Haspengouw was recognized. Here one sits on soils of loam and marl with lime in the subsoil. From this area we taste the already very known sparkling wine Schorpion Zwart. In addition to the chardonnay, the pinot noir gives the delicious fruity touch to these elegant bubbles.
In 2005 the GOB Heuvelland was approved and it is located on the southern slopes of Monteberg, Kemmelberg, Baneberg and Vidaigneberg in the region of Poperinge and surroundings to the French border. From this region we get the new Bacquaert brut from Entre-Deux-Monts in the glass with the typical creaminess of the chardonnay.
The GOB Côtes de Sambre-et-Meuse is located in what is called the “basin” of the Meuse and the Sambre and extends over a hundred municipalities. The best vineyards are those on the slopes next to the riverbanks. The soil consists of a shallow clay or loam layer alternated with limestone, sand and slate. The château Bon Baron is represented on our tasting table with 2 wines. The chardonnay is very much to the taste of our tasting panel and offers fragrances of ripe apricot, pears, honey with some vanilla and butter. The taste is full, round and juicy. In red, we taste the Acolon, the cross between dornfelder and lemberger that Belgium wants to use more and more on the wine scene. It is deep red, spicy, powerful with full scents and flavors of red and black fruit. The acids are striking and can be explained by the relatively cold climate in which these grapes have to ripen.
Local wines are bottled in Flanders as Flemish Local wines. The Pinot Gris of Aldeneyck on the Maas in Limburg is a wonderful example of this. This rich and ripe white wine with hints of yellow apple also has a certain spiciness and minerality. For Wallonia, the local wines are bottled under the name Vin de pays des Jardins de Wallonie.
Finally, another rarity is the Nobel-sweet of the De Kluizen domain. As the only domain in our country one makes here a sweet wine based on noble rot. The typical scents of honey, marzipan, raisins and ripe exotic fruit precede a mouthfeel that stands out because of the beautiful balance between sweet and sour. Fresh sweet temptation to end this tasting with the conclusion that Belgium is earning its place in the wine scene.