Twente wines would like a European quality mark. An application for this was submitted to the European Commission last month. The Twente wine producers want to be able to place a quality mark on the wines with this protected status. It also means, if the application is approved, that only wines from Twente may be sold under the specific name Twente wines. The Drenthe wine growers, who are mainly located in the southwestern part of the province, do not see the usefulness of European recognition. “Our wines already have a protected status and tourists love that Drenthe is on the label of the bottle.”
‘Drenthe wine does not need a wreath’, the winegrowers seem to want to say. “We have sometimes discussed such a quality mark,” says Peter Pels of Wijngoed Havelte (1.1 hectares and 2,500 plants), “but what is good wine?” We are sold out every year and that is a good indicator that the wine is good,” argues the Drenthe winegrower, who has also won prestigious awards for his wines in the recent past, but also received the highest honor in the Lekker restaurant guide.
Pels is therefore not keen on further advertising his noble grape juice. “The more advertising, the more people I ultimately have to disappoint. He calls the Twente application to the European Commission a ‘nice initiative’. “But why should we have to put all this on ourselves,” he wonders.
In Tiendeveen, Irene Verkerk from Wij’n Gaard thinks the same way. “For a small vineyard like ours (1.5 hectares with 4,800 vines) it is too big a process to make such an application. Our labels already contain the Protected Geographical Designation (PGI). So what does it add? Tourists love that Drenthe is on the label.” Marjan van Doeveren from the Runa vineyard in Ruinerwold (0.9 hectares and 3000 vines) agrees. In Twente, she explains, it concerns an application for the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), where one of the conditions is that the wine must also be made in Twente. “Irene,” Van Doeveren nods in the direction of Verkerk, “is the only one who meets that condition, the other winegrowers in Drenthe outsource this process outside the province. Another condition is that the wine may not be imitated. Marjan spontaneously laughs. “How can you imitate wine and why would you do that?”
Netherlands wine country
As far as Verkerk and Van Doeveren are concerned, the Netherlands could eventually become a wine country again. It did have that reputation in the distant past, but Napoleon Bonaparte put an end to it. “All the grape plants here were cleared. Napoleon only wanted grapes from France. The plague of the grape aphid around 1900 was the final blow to Dutch viticulture. Around the beginning of the 1970s, a lot changed for the better for wine growing in the Netherlands. At that time, some entrepreneurs started planting new vineyards, mainly in Limburg and North Brabant. Since then, a steady growth of wine growing in the Netherlands has been observed.”
Peter Pels is also optimistic about the opportunities for wine growing in our country. “Here in Drenthe we are of course on primeval soil, although we may miss those minerals that are found in wine countries such as France and Italy. Every climate and soil have their typical properties, but we have the primeval soil and you can taste it.”
‘Disadvantage of new climate’
According to Pels, Dutch viticulture has made significant progress in the past 20 years. “Although I must admit that the wine at that time was also difficult to digest.” According to Pels, climate change has also helped to improve quality and quantity. “That change started in 2018 when the sun started shining in April and it only started raining at the end of September. On average, about 4,000 bottles are sent out every year, but in 2018 there were 5,500.” About 60 percent is purchased by private individuals. Wijngoed Havelte also supplies restaurants and shops with regional products.
The Havelter winegrower calls the increase in the number of night frosts a disadvantage of the ‘new’ climate. “We now have more night frosts than before. With a new irrigation system, Pels now adequately protects the grapes against the freezing cold. “The future for Dutch wine growing is good. More and more are being added. For ranchers facing the nitrogen problem, starting a vineyard could be a challenge. I spoke to someone who actually started doing this when things were going badly for the cattle farmers around 2003.”
Pels himself started cautiously in 2005 after he and his wife had settled on the farm on the Slagdijk two years earlier. Pels initially worked in the catering industry and then worked as a personnel advisor for some time. He took a course in growing wine grapes to gain knowledge about the craft. At the same time, he planted 20 plants (10 white and 10 red) in the ground behind the now renovated farm on the Slagdijk.
Ruinerwold new shoot
A new branch on the vine is the Drenthe vineyard in Ruinerwold. The Drenthe Wine Estate is a project of Randy Kroek and his son Ronan. In May of last year, 2000 grape vines were planted. The goal is the sustainable cultivation of grapes from which father and son want to make sparkling white wine in the future. Kroek says he has always had a passion for wine and viticulture. He also purchased and sold wines via the Internet. “Actually,” he said this week from a winter sports resort, “it is a hobby that has gotten out of hand.” Behind his holiday park De Toffe Peer there was still a piece of unused agricultural land. Kroek and his son started discussing a possible use of this land as a vineyard. “We enjoyed making something out of nothing.”
When starting the vineyard, he is advised by Peter Pels from Havelte. “He is our source of information, our support and refuge,” says Kroek, who hopes to be productive in 2027. He doesn’t know yet whether they will also make the wine themselves in Ruinerwold. “We are not working on that yet.”
Van Doeveren and Verkerk also see that there is interest in running a vineyard. “But we are not yet getting the youth on board,” says Van Doeveren. “The interest is there until they discover that a vineyard also entails a lot of costs and a lot of work.” And Verkerk: “A vineyard is tough, but on the other hand it is also fun. Van Doeveren says she takes care of the pruning work on her own every year. “That will take me three weeks.” Peter Pels works about 15 hours every day at the Havelter winery during the high season. And Van Doeveren adds to this the mess of regulations, whether they come from the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, the tax authorities or the RVO (Netherlands Enterprise Agency). And then customs also comes by regularly…”
Pels is full of praise for the quality of Dutch wines, although in the recent past that level has often been discussed with a certain disdain. “People are starting to notice that we also deliver quality,” he says, proudly referring to the gold awards for wine from Havelte. “That prejudice that Dutch wines are undrinkable must be removed. It is simply not true,” says Pels decisively.
Van Doeveren says he has experienced that, due to the unfamiliarity with Dutch wines, companies in the catering sector do not dare to put these wines on the wine list. “And unknown makes you unloved,” she sighs. She still delivers to a restaurant in Drenthe. Verkerk also sees her wines on the shelves of shops that sell regional products. “Dutch wine should be put back on the (wine) map,” is the conviction of the Drenthe wine growers.
Staying in the vineyard
At the four vineyards in Southwest Drenthe it is also possible to spend a night in the Bed & Breakfast facility. There are also guided tours and tastings at these vineyards on the activities program.
At the Havelte wine estate it is also possible to hold meetings in the converted haystack. Turned the former winery into a Bed & Breakfast apartment at the Runa wine estate in Ruinen. There is also a meeting location at the youngest Drenthe vineyard in Ruinerwold. In addition, from the middle of this year the winery will also be a wedding location ‘with the singing birds and a passing stork in the background saying ‘I do’. Finally, you can also spend the night (arrangements) at the wine farm in Tiendeveen.