Is a Belgium Crémant as good as French Champagne? Is Champagne really the King of all sparkling wines? The Dutch are not interested in Belgian wines and Belgians are not interested in Dutch wine. Wine, an element of nationalism?
Piet Akkermans has been producing wine at Wijndomein Pietershof in Voeren, Belgium for the last 15 years. He admits that it was hard at the beginning, being Dutch, and at one point considered stopping as he found the work hard and lonely. He, in fact, handed it over to someone for a year, who did a bad job, which made him realise how much he loved it, that he had given up his beloved baby.
Piet produces 10,000 bottles a year of mostly white wine on his estate in the the Krindaal valley, which winds its way from De Plank to Sint Martens and Sint Pietersvoeren. The south-facing, sun-drenched slopes, with their large Silex stones, rich in fossils of sea urchins and other marine creatures, which soak up the heat in the day and radiate it back at night, create a unique microclimate, making viticulture possible in this unpredictable, cool climate.
The Belgian wine industry is growing, but there is no tradition here, it’s like inventing the wheel, says Piet. Belgian wine is a long way from conquering the world, it will take a lot of effort and determination.
When he first began, he experimented with various varieties, including five Alsatian varieties, in order to find to see their advantages and play around and create different blends. He now concentrates on Chardonnay, the Pinots, Auxerrois and Riesling on his 2ha estate. He produces award-winning wines with great purity and minerality. His 2011 Crémant de Crindael, a traditional method sparkling wine produced from Pinot Gris and Riesling won Gold with the highest points at a prestigious tasting of the Association of Flemish Sommeliers in Bruges in 2013.
Piet welcomes you at Pietershof to taste his wines, stay at the farmhouse style manor house, or go biking or walking around the vineyards before your tasting. He says that watching people enjoying his wine is as gratifying as winning that gold medal. He admits, though, that it appears to have rather irked the Belgians that a Dutchman won a gold medal for the best Belgian Crémant. There is no love lost between the Flemish and the Walloons, but it seems there is also no love lost between the Belgians and the Dutch. The Flemish dislike the Dutch, he says, believing they have no culture or sense of wine, barbarians. He seems to have proved them wrong here.