Wijngaard Wageningse Berg
In 1998 we started a biological vineyard in Wageningen. Now it measures 2 ha. We use new mildew-resistant grape varieties, so chemicals can be avoided.
Experiments with mildew-resistent grape varieties
Since 1991 we tested more than 70 grape varieties in a small experimental vineyard in Wageningen. The main criteria to meet were:
ˇ resistance or tolerance against downy mildew (Plasmapora viticola) and powdery mildew
ˇ not succeptible to other diseases like bunch rot (Botrytis cinerea)
ˇ early ripening
ˇ good wine quality
Mildew-resistance was obtained decennia ago by crossing the European Vitis vinifera with wild American grape varieties. However the older resistant varieties gave poor or mediocre wine quality. But recently better varieties were obtained by complex back crossings. Until now the variety Regent obtains the best scores: even under the cool Dutch climate conditions it gives a dark coloured, full bodied red wine, rich in tannins. Its is breeded at Siebeldingen (Pfalz, Germany) and released in 1996. Some other good (and even newer) varieties for cool climates are Rondo, Salomé (both blue) and the whites varieties Merzling, Johanniter, Palatina, Birstaler muskat and Solaris. Johanniter gives a very good white wine and Solaris ripens even in Denmark and in southern Sweden. Early ripening is an extra charactaristic that the new grape varieties inherited from the American varieties. As a consequence the winegrowing boundary recently shifted northwards for about 300 km.
New varieties offer new opportunities
Combining this experience with recent new developments in biologic viticulure and also the increasing consumer interest in biologically and locally produced food, we decided to start a vineyard on commercial scale (now surface 2 ha). During the spring of 1998 and 2000 we planted on the estate "De Dorskamp" on the Wageningse Berg 5000 vines of Regent, 500 Merzling and a few hunderd vines of other varieties for testing. Furthermore one row with more than 70 varieties was planted for demonstration purposes.
Organic manure is used and the soil is covered with grass, clover and wild flowers. The green soilcover has the following advantages:
ˇ extra humus and nitrogen in the soil
ˇ stimulation of the soil life
ˇ better soil aeration and higher water capacity
ˇ attractive for beneficial insects (predatory mites, parasitic wasps, ladybirds, hover flies,
etc.) that keep harmful insects on an acceptable low level.
The absence of chemical spraying (no fungicides against mildew and no herbicides against weeds) enables the development of stable insect and soil life populations.The adverse effects of mowing on the beneficial insects is reduced by mowing alternate rows.
The vines are trained on trellis (wires on posts) using the Guyot system. Parallel wires are used to catch the shoots. The distance between the vines is 2.00 m (between rows) by 1.20 m (within rows). Chestnut wood and Plato wood is used for the posts. Plato is a new process for wood preserving. A water sprinkle systems is used to avoid frost damage of the young shoots during the spring. As we aim on a high wine quality the crop size will be substantially reduced, by removing grape clusters during the summer. We aim on a yield of 30 hectolitre per hectare.
The years before 2000 gave small harvests of the older vines in our experimental vineyard. Our Regent wines of 1997 and 1999 were elected as the best Dutch red wine. Our first commercial harvest was in October 2000. It's volume was 1000 litres, as in the third year after planting the vines must be only partly loaded to insure a good wine quality and to prevent plant exhausting. From 2003 our second hectare came in production, resulting in larger volumes. In October 2003 we harvested 4500 liters of wine and next years we expect 5000 to 6000 liters.
We produce two types of red wine: 3-4 days skin contact gives a fruity wine with a low tannin content, 7-8 days skin contact gives a tannin-rich wine. After the alcoholic fer- mentation the red wines undergo a malolactic fermentation. The tannin-rich red wine ripens in oak barrels. Since 2003 we also produce some white wine, rosé and grappa.
The wine of the first three harvests was completely sold out in advance by the "wijnabonnement": interested consumers paid in advance for five harvests and thus cofinanced the large investments required in the vineyard and wine cellar. Due to the increasing wine volume from 2003, we now seek new clients for the "wijnabonnement" and from June 2004 there probably also will be some single bottles left for sale.
We proceed with testing new varieties that combine mildew-resistance and early ripening. These were crossed in Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria and USA. Some of these are very promising with even a better wine quality than the present varieties (for instant Cabernet Cortis, a crossing between Solaris and Cabernet Sauvignon). These varieties will be used for a further extension of our vineyard.
Winegrowing in the Netherlands
Until 1997 viticulture was a negligible sector in the Netherlands: at that moment there were only 7 commercial vineyards larger than 1 ha (see left map below), all with the late ripening classical grape varieties that need a chemical spraying program against mildew. The new mildew-resistant varieties enable a much more natural wine production, even in the nothern part of the Netherlands and may help to create a small but vital viticulture sector in the Netherlands, moreover an new agricultural sector with a positive image. In 2003 our country counted already 30 commercial vineyards but before 2010 this number will exceed 100.
Our vineyard and winecellar can be visited by groups (at least 15 persons) after an appointment by telephone or email. If you want to visit our vineyard individually you are very welcome during the "Open Dagen" on the 19th and 20th of June 2004 and on 3rd October 2004 from 11.00 till 16.00.
Wijngaard Wageningse Berg
Jan and Els Oude Voshaar
NL-6706 CG Wageningen
Telephone : 317 - 420241
Fax : 0317 - 460138