In a restaurant, it’s always good to taste the local wines along with the local food. In Italy, France, Spain and Austria, you would certainly expect to be able to do that. But in Belgium? Belgians like to consume local products, but they don’t have wine, do they?  Most people would be surprised to learn that they in fact do.

Jeanette, Piotr, Kasper and Emiel are doing just that in Profondeville in the Walloon region of Belgium. The Dutch family, who at that time didn’t speak much French, bought a property in 2000, intending to turn it into a chambres d’hôtes. The house came with a bit of wilderness in front. They had always dreamed of owning a vineyard in France, so decided to plant it with vines and soon produced their first wine. The guest house had not materialised, and with too much wine for their own consumption, they decided to set off and befriend the neighbours. One kind neighbour gave some to a restaurant to try, they liked it, and brought their team over to try some more, and so the first customer was born.

They only had 1ha hectare, but immediately planted it with seven different varieties, to produce wines to pair with different dishes. The couple, trained at the Academy of Gastronomy, liked this idea of ‘wine and dine’ and thought that other restaurants might be interested. Their ‘homemade’ wines were soon winning medals at international competitions, such as Concours Mondial.

The amateur winemakers now considered turning it into a real business, studied feverishly, carried out research and made a business plan. Naturally, they needed more than 1ha to make a go of it, but could find no land available to buy. One Sunday, woken up while still in their pyjamas, their chance came, 20ha was up for grabs – more than they wanted, but they managed to negotiate down to 15. Worried that they had bitten off more than they could chew, they went ahead and planted 14 different varieties.

Their research had shown them that Belgians drink 70% red wine, so the challenge was to find early-ripening varieties that thrive in cool climates. They have Pinot Noir and Acolon, but also Swiss varieties, such as Gamaret Garanoir. They have developed a network of winemaker friends around the world, who also try their wine and pass it on to friends. In blind tastings, many people think that their wines came from Austria or northern Italy, and are surprised to learn that it is Belgian, which they take as a compliment.

In the meantime, some of their wines have achieved AOC ‘Côte de Sambre et Meuse’ status, quite an achievement for the self-made winemakers.

The guest house may have fallen by the wayside, but they now have fulfilled their dream of having a vineyard, albeit in Belgium not France.