Last Sunday I visited the Hageland wine festival next doors. The "Houwaartseberg" is just around 10 km form my front door and is quite an historic place for Belgian wines.
Somewhere in the beginning of ’70s the south oriented slopes of this hill are at the cradle of the revival of Belgian wines. The hill -in fact it is a dinosaur 🦕 sandbank of once upon a time- is made out of loam and red( 🟥) iron-sandstone rocks. “Terra Rossa". Does it ring a bell? So yeah, why not go for terroir-driven red wines🍷🍷? At least that’s what the world loves from Pomerol and Coonawarra, no?
That’s why I halted with wine-partner-in-crime @VinoFred at the vineyard "Steenkuyl" of Patrick Nijs and his urban Winefaktorij project. We were personally guided by the winemaker and enjoyed his willingness to share his experienced knowledge, tons of little wine-stories and above all his passion for making terroir wines in symbiosis with nature.
So did you know that?
• In summer the temperature on the slope is 8° warmer than on the top of the hill. In winter the temperature is 3° warmer than down in the freezing valley... Just call this vineyard a sun trapped micro-climate 🌞.
• Patrick likes to search for the limits in life. So definitely that’s what he has to do in making wine as well 🤟🏻.
• He seeds more than 40 different herbs, flowers and plants 🍀☘️🌿🌸🌴 among his vines. None are chosen by accident. They provide nutrients, retain water, avoid erosion, control temperature and provide a perfect home for a zillion kind of good ground bacteria🦠🦠.
• You only need 30 seconds of stamping your feed and the earthworms will peeping their heads out of the ground 🐛🐛. Life in a vineyard is like an iceberg. You only see the top but the foundation is down under.
• He doesn’t like to plough, not even with a horse 🦄🦄.
• He spends 2000 hours a year just sitting on his buttocks… weeding weed (that’s what happens when you don’t like ploughs). Luckily he has a small fan base of helpers to keep the atmosphere positive 🤜🤛.
• He does co-plantation of Pinot Noir, Acolon, Dornfelder, Regent and Solaris. A nice way the manage some risks of a monoculture context. Vineyards just always are. By definition.
• He loves wasps because they clean up damaged grapes. Wasps are lazy and don’t attack the thick skins of healthy grapes.
• You need to provide water for the birds 🕊️ on warm summer days 🥵. Otherwise they’ll suck the water from your grapes (and don’t steal my precious Acolon! 🤬).
• The grape seeds of the aromatic Solaris were already mature and tasted like yummy yummy small nuts.
• He doesn’t do “green” but PINK harvesting. By removing the top bunches at optimal ripeness he makes refreshing rosé and PetNat wines. The remaining bunches are allowed to live a little longer and become even more sweeter and tastier before they end up in the reds… #thinkPink
And his wines? Well they are good. Really good even.
The ‘Chansaar 2018’ (Antwerp slang for lucky bastard) surprised with an inviting medium+ floral nose👃🏻 and a lot of mature red fruit aroma’s. The 👅 mouth feeling was well balanced, medium bodied, with a nice intensity of red fruit, and that little touch of pepper and refreshing gooseberry at the end made me smile. A good pairing partner for barbecued spare ribs I guess…
The Kontreir I (obstinate, against the grain in an Antwerp style) has a limited production of 456 bottles and is a wine you better forget!... Forget in your personal wine cellar of course. Today this purple coloured rebellion was young, vibrant but had a promising acidity, structure and length.
Keep an eye on this promising winemaker and his wines. We are looking forward to what’s coming next!