Wine Tastings & Tours

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Friday, 5 July 2013

Going (Double) Dutch

Let's face it, when we think of the Netherlands we think of the above: windmills.  Maybe wooden clogs, hallucinogenic drugs sold in coffee shops, cheese... but wine?  Yet the Wine Anarchist recently had some family business to attend to and never one to miss an opportunity to get his taste buds around something different he discovered the wines of his own homeland.  Not only that, he found a village just 15km from where he was staying and where he scattered the ashes of his recently deceased Conspiracy Cousin, that proudly declared itself a wine village.  So naturally he had to investigate further and a casual Sunday afternoon drive took him to the gates of the Colonjes vineyard in the town of Groesbeek, just south of Nijmegen within spitting distance of the German border (unfortunately their website is in Dutch only).

Back in 2000 or so Freek Verhoeven was retiring from his job as head nurse of a hospital and was looking for a hobby.  He bought himself a plot of land and planted vines, as you do.  He was also an amateur athlete and very competitive.  When his first wine managed to get a bronze medal, his competitive nature really came to the fore and he decided to try harder until he got at least a gold medal.  He expanded the vineyard holding to 13.5 ha, installed a modern winery and drafted in the help of his brother Cees.  The results are impressive and gold medals have meanwhile been awarded including at various international competitions.

As Freek (incidentally it's pronounced Frake rather than Freak) is thinking of retiring for a second time he is slowly putting young enologist Adam Dijkstra in charge to continue the project, the latter took out some time to chat to the Wine Anarchist and his family about the vineyards and give them a small tasting.

In total there are 3 plots under vine around the village of Groesbeek, all farmed organically, one directly adjacent to the winery, De Colonjes, which is on slight south slope (yes there are some slopes even in the Netherlands!) on Loess soil,

and the other ones the Knapheide Weg and 't Hof respectively.  The grape varieties are all hybrid varieties and amazingly reds are a bit of specialty of this winery, but they do also produce some excellent rosé, both still and sparkling and some very respectable whites.

On talking with Adam, the Wine Anarchist found a lot in common with him.  They both share an interest not only in organic production methods but also in permaculture and Adam lamented the fact that vine growing is by definition more or less only possible in mono-cultures.  However to counteract this somewhat at Colonjes they interplant the rows of vines with a mixture of some 25 different wild plants including edible ones and ones that fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil and accumulate nutrients from subsoil levels.  The fact that they use many disease resistant hybrid varieties also eliminates the need for harmful chemicals used in the vineyard.

Tasting the wines the WA was very impressed.  He took a whole sample case with him to re-taste some in the comfort of his or someone else's home during his travels.  He had previously tasted English wines extensively and found that many of them stood out for their aromatic qualities, but this winery's choice of grape varieties was leaning more towards crisp fresh wines.  Here are some of his tasting notes:

Cabernet Blanc 2012: Unfortunately this wine was sold out, except for a few bottles for tasting purposes, as this was definitely the best of the whites.  Pale coloured, the nose displayed some floral, peach blossom notes with hints of freshly mown hay.  The palate had distinct minerally notes, the acidity was well balanced and had some lovely fresh, clean fruit notes.  Very pleasant if a little on the short side.  The Cabernet Blanc grape is a hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon, plus some other hybrid that according to some may have some Riesling parentage in there somewhere, and indeed it is quite Riesling-like.

Knapse Witte 2012: This is a blend of Helios (a hybrid with Muller Thurgau in its parentage) and Riesel (which also has some Riesling in its ancestry).  The armas display a distinct minerality as well as lemony and herbal characters, such as lemon balm and mint.  The acidity is very marked on this wine and the lemon and mineral notes continue on the palate on a medium finish  The high acidity make this really a food wine, paired with some Dover sole for example.

Johanniter 2011: The Johanniter grape is a hybrid of Riesling combined with some Pinot Gris and Gutedel in its veins.  A noble wine with greenish tinges still on the colour.  The extra year in bottle suits this wine well as it shows some delicate aromas of grapefruit and nice minerally notes.  The palate is flinty with juicy lime fruit and hints of fresh bread.  An elegant wine.

Cabernet Cortis 2009: Cabernet Cortis is crossed between Cabenet Sauvignon and Solaris, which in turn has Riesling and Pinot Gris in its ancestry.  This wine is surprisingly big not showing any signs of ageing yet.  A youthful deep ruby colour with purple fringes promise things to come.  An intense youthful aroma of tobacco, elderberries, blackberries and black pepper is followed by a rich, full palate with quite high acidity and a big tannic backbone with flavours of dark berries such as blackcurrants and vanilla oak notes on a long finish.  Interestingly the wine was aged for 18 months in new 450 litre German oak barrels, which are less invasive in taste compared to French oak.  An impressive wine, which will continue to evolve for at least 5 years in the opinion of the Wine Anarchist.

Regent 2011: This grape variety is a cross of Muller Thurgau, Silvaner and Chambourcin.  The Wine Anarchist forgot to take notes when tasting this wine, but from memory, this was a light coloured wine, light in body, with lovely cherry, raspberry and redcurrant characters combined with some vanilla oak notes and white pepper spice from 8 months ageing in French barriques.  Very pleasant indeed.

Recortis 2011:  A blend of Regent and Cabernet Cortis which was aged for 8 months in French and German oak, 30% of it new.  Again quite a serious red with intense spicy blackberry notes combining with herbal characters.  Medium bodied, the palate displays sweet, ripe fruit with an intense oaky spice and a mouthwatering juicy long finish balanced by a good tannic backbone.

Cuvée Colonjes: a blend of Regent, their very own Cabernet Colonjes and Cabernet Cortis.  This wine has a medium ruby colour with a pale rim.  The nose displays sweet herbal notes, as well as hints of smoky bacon and dark berries.  The palate is quite light with a touch of spice, blackberries and notes of oak,  It's a tad on the short side and a bit one-dimesnsional, however it makes for pleasant easy drinking.

Cuvée Fréderique Rosé 2012: This delightful rosé made from Regent and Cabernet Cortis grapes recently was awarded a gold medal at the Internationale Bioweinpreis in Germany.  The colour is a pale salmon, whilst the nose reveals delicate aromas of rose petals, raspberry and cream.  The palate is dry with a lively acidity yet a creamy texture with slightly flinty notes and some understated, delicate fruit.  Very elegant and good.

Belle de Colonjes NV: The Wine Anarchist was celebrating a happy event at the time so was not making notes again.  This Champagne method pink fizz is produced from the Pinotin grape, which presumably has some Pinot parentage.  It's light and fresh with lovely berry fruits and a good persistent mousse and a long finish.

The wines are priced between 10 and 20 Euros (the latter for the sparkling wine) and are available directly from the winery as well as number of shops across the Netherlands.  The winery is open to visitors at any time, although they are thinking of possibly introducing opening times.  English is spoken.  Tours for groups can be arranged in advance.  There are also a number of events making a visit worth it such as Open Days or the Groesbeek Wine Festival from the 28th-30th September this year.

Contact details are:

2de Colonjes 4
6562 DM Groesbeek
Tel: +31 (0)24-3973754