Netherlands: Wine harvest season in southern Limburg

Netherlands: Wine harvest season in southern Limburg

Discover some good Dutch wines


Wine production in Limburg

No doubt the best time to visit any wine region is during harvest season. Not many people will think of The Netherlands as your typical wine country but “the times they are a changin”. This Fall we visited the most southern region of The Netherlands, Zuid-Limburg and witnessed the last day of harvest 2019 in the vineyards of Wijngaard St. Martinus.

Vineyards of Wijngaard St. Martinus in Vijlen

Because of the relatively high concentration of vineyards, Zuid-Limburg is one of the premier wine regions to visit in the Netherlands. It is of course quite a small country and consequently the vineyards are also in relatively short distance of each other. The presence of so many wineries has to do with the landscape and soil in the south of Limburg that differs from the rest of the country.

Last day of harvest at Wijngaard St. Martinus in Vijlen

Soiltypes in Southern-Limburg

The landscape of this southern part of The Netherlands consists of rolling hills, valleys and vineyards. Just what you picture when you think of visiting a wine destination, but probably never expected to find in The Netherlands. The soil is in general rich in calcium and loess (PDO Mergelland) but there is also an area (PDO Vijlen) which is composed of a combination of flint and loess (see picture underneath).

The rolling hills of southern Limburg

The area around Maastricht is rich in calcium and has a soil structure that is composed of a layer of loess with marl underneath. Mergelland PDO  (Marl country) received the quality status of a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 2018. The oldest commercial, and probably the most well known Mergelland winery is Wijngaard Apostelhoeve, located just outside Maastricht. Another quality producer is winemaker Jules Nijst of Domein De Wijngaardsberg.

Wine village Vijlen PDO

As we were already quite familiar with the Mergelland wines, we decided to pay a visit to the gently rolling hills around ‘mountain village’ Vijlen this time. Mountains in The Netherlands? Well, the Dutch certainly consider 280 meters altitude a serious mountain. The unique composition of the soil and the higher altitude of this geographical area were reasons to also reward the wines from this area with a PDO status in 2018.

Collecting the grapes on the last day of harvest at Wijngaard St. Martinus

The high altitude, and the fact that this area of 419 ha. is surrounded by hills, has a positive effect on the grapes. Night time temperatures are in general a little higher and the mist sinks into the valleys. The location of the vineyards is also rather sheltered by the Eifel and the Ardennes which ensure that there are hardly any heavy hail or rain showers here.

Grape picking at WIjngaard St. Martinus

Wijngaard St. Martinus

The majority of the vines in Vijlen PDO belong to winemaker Stan Beurskens of Wijngaard St. Martinus. This winery has 24 hectares of vineyards and that makes it also the largest winery in The Netherlands. Besides some traditional grape varieties like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, Stan also likes to work with new varieties like Cabernet Cortis, Pinotin, Johanniter, Solaris and Souvignier Gris to name a few. Visiting this winery and its impressive underground cellar is a must when in southern Limburg. 

Souvignier Gris and Pinot Noir grape varieties at Wijngaard St. Martinus

Francisca Brut, Traditional Method Rosé wine of Wijngaard St. Martinus

Domein Holset

Another winery in Vijlen PDO is Domein Holset that also uses a combination of traditional and new grape varieties, but this estate made the choice to only produce quality traditional method sparkling wines.

Domein Holset

The hamlet of Holset contains just a few houses and a church and is quite a charming place. Looking for a place to stay overnight, Domein Holset also offers a Bed & Breakfast in a 19th century farmhouse with seven rooms.

View over the vineyards of Domein Holset

The life is quiet here, but cities like Maastricht and Aachen, which is just over the border with Germany, are really close by. There is something for everyone here.

Traditional Method sparkling wines of Domein Holset

And if you like to know more about Dutch wines in general check out Discover Dutch Wine, an excellent E-book that tells the story of some of the best Dutch winemakers.

Author: Johan de Ligt