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?
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)
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.
I bet a lot of wine growers throughout northern Europe didn’t get much sleep last Wednesday night, 19 April. The reason? Severe spring frost. This is the time when the vines start budding, making the fragile buds vulnerable to below zero temperatures.
Frost will always be a hazard in cool climates, but this time devastating temperatures of up to -10 were measured at soil level here in the South of Holland. This could potentially wipe out a complete vintage. What to do? Prey and hope for the best or go McGyver style through the vineyard, trying to combat the cold?
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.
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?
Whenever we go on a family holiday, I encourage my daughters to join me in a winery visit. Given their age, 10 & 5, obviously not to enrich their palates but to get a sense of place and feel the enthusiasm and proudness with which owners often speak about their land and products. For this reason, I always try to hook up with small-scale family owned wineries.
Last summer, the centre of Italy was our destination, so plenty of options to choose from. Tuscany would have been the obvious choice as Italy’s cultural heart and Sangiovese heartland, but the thought of queueing tourists on the autostrada Chiantigiana made us decide to turn left and head for le Marche. This region in the eastern side of Italy is still rather unknown, probably because of its famous neighbours Tuscany and Umbria. The Marche region has beautiful beaches, endless rolling hills and loads of history. It’s one of those holiday dilemma’s: once you find a lovely spot you would like to share it with the world, but at the same time wanting to keep it to yourself to leave it unspoilt.