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Harvest 2017: granny breasts and relief

All grapes have been harvested at Pietershof. Pinot Noir and Riesling actually could have benefited from a bit more time hanging time, but extensive rain prediction forced earlier harvesting. There was a window of sunshine for a couple of days at the end of September and the beginning of October, so the usual suspects were gathered to help out.

Picking grapes in a group always creates a great sense of unity and satisfaction, certainly helped by plenty of sun and a lovely lunch, including Pietershof wine.

Harvesting is not just a matter of cutting bunches. Want to know more about the phenomenon called granny breasts and what happens when all the pickers are gone?

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Biodynamics at Alois Lageder: voodoo or future?

Mention Rudolf Steiner’s name in a group of scientists and be prepared for a load of criticism. The Austrian born intellectual linked the spiritual world with science and was active in many fields, such as medicine, architecture, education and agriculture. His thoughts and ideas were quite provoking at the beginning of the 20th century, and even in today’s world they are viewed by some as absolute nonsense. For every research paper in favour of Steiner’s thinking, there are multiple scientific papers that prove the opposite. If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t exist?

Looking at his widespread applied theories today, you could say he was ahead of his time. His biodynamic approach to agriculture has been implemented all over the world, also in viticulture. Romanée-Conti, Nicolas Joly, LeRoy, Alvaro Palacios, Weinbach, Ostertag, Zind-Humbrecht, Pontet-Canet, Felton Road, Artadi, Grgich. All world renowned domaines that work biodynamically according to Steiner’s philosophy.

So, there must be something that works for them. But what? Together with a group of Dutch winetraders, I spent a day with Clemens Lageder at another iconic domaine that works biodynamically, Alois Lageder in Italy’s Alto Adige to find out more. (by the way, the accent is on the 2nd syllable: LaGEder)

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Harvest 2016 Pietershof

Countdown to harvest in the North

It’s been quite a while since my last update on Pietershof. Let me get you up to speed while rushing through the past summer months.

Remember the devastating spring frost? While winegrowers in other parts of Europe have forecasted less harvest (the estimate ranges from 20% to a staggering 70% in parts of Bordeaux), at Pietershof they seem to have come out of the frost in pretty good shape with most likely no significant crop loss.

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Can craft beer age?

And there I was, wine aficionado surrounded by craft beer lovers on a hot spring evening at Café Servaas. The occasion? A craft beer tasting on the evolution of beer through ageing.

Hosted by Bas Schampers from the Bourgondische Bierkelder, a Certified Diploma Beer Sommelier which is apparently an internationally recognized title requiring study abroad in beer nation Austria.

It turned out to be an interesting evening.

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Orange wine: let it grow on you

Gems, fruit, chemical elements and even a fish are used to describe the colour of wine. I still have to taste the wacky Spanish blue wine adventure, but something tells me I probably never will. There’s a whole category of wines out there that so far hasn’t reached a bigger audience: orange wines.

Granted, it looks like morning pee after a heavy night on the town, but this so deserves to be enjoyed, taking you off the beaten track. Here’s why it got me all excited…

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The Italian definition of terroir

Prior to this year’s WSET Diploma Course BeNeLux graduation in Rotterdam restaurant Fitzgerald, WineWise invited Jancis Robinson’s Walter Speller to lecture on Italy: the Italian definition of terroir. Three hours of theory and tasting with one of the most renowned Italian wine experts.

Italy is such an intriguing country when it comes to wine (ok, obviously not only in wine). Each of the twenty winemaking regions are different in soil, climate and therefore in style. Diversity is key and the numerous indigenous grapes certainly contribute to a widespread palette of wines of which we were about to sample a few.

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The North – Winter at Pietershof

Never a dull moment as a winemaker. You might think that after harvesting and fermenting, the wine needs rest to settle in the cellar and perhaps further develop. The cue for any vintner to finally enjoy some well-deserved rest, like the beach café owner that takes off to the far-away sun in winter?

Alas, the winter months must be used to do some essential pruning when the vines are dormant. The vine is basically a liane and produces an incredible amount of unproductive wood if left alone. Even with proper pruning throughout the year, you’re still left with a myriad of canes that need to be trimmed down drastically.

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The North – Pietershof Belgium

This is the first entry in a series of posts following award winning Domein Pietershof in Belgium throughout 2017, from winter to harvest and beyond, describing the challenges of making wine in Northern Europe. What does it take to fill bottles with wine after a year of hard work, hopes and despairs?

The entry on Belgium in Jancis Robinson’s latest The Oxford Companion to Wine has the same length as French oenologist Michel Rolland. A whole country, historically known for importing large amounts of Bordeaux wine, equally important to the man who convinced numerous Bordeaux estates into producing overripe, deep-coloured red wine?

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