Monday, 30 January 2017

Rode of witte?

The worst three words in the Dutch language? As far as Dutch wine (wijn) is concerned, you may not be asked this question. When asking if they have any Dutch wine, they like to joke 'It's white!' Actually they like to screw up their faces when they say that and look down their noses at you the while.

This is quite unfair because in our experience Dutch wine is at least as good as English or Welsh wine and some of the best is actually Roodwijn. The strange thing is that Dutch Sparkling wine is conspicuous by its absence.

First of all, let's admit we know practically nothing about Dutch wine but then nor do the Dutch it seems. This may be because it is very difficult to get hold of. In contrast to our last trip to Amsterdam when we found a few interesting bottles at Gall and Gall supermarket near the Royal Palace (inluding a lovely Johanniter), there was none on a recent visit. In an attempt to buy a bottle or two we had contacted a vigneron called Jan van den Halm of Wijngaart Telgt in Ermelo to find out who stocked his wines in Amsterdam. He replied rather charmingly but wistfully

Our wine is only for sale in Ermelo, Putten and Harderwijk.
We don't have any selling point in Amsterdam or near Amsterdam area's.
If you want our wine, you have to come to Ermelo and you are welkom there.
If you want to come to Ermelo, please call me 06-22101964 for an day and time.
I you don't want to come, I wish you a nice stay in Amsterdam.
 - a pity as he makes wine from an interesting array of grapes including Johanniter, Cabernet Blanc and Regent.

Nice wine shop (Winkel) De Gouden Ton in Utrechtsstraat, Amsterdam.
One wine-merchant (De Gouden Ton) we found with a Dutch wine said he stocked it because he was friends with the producer. Another, specializing in Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy sent us away with an emphatic 'Certainly not!' adding that Dutch wine was 'white, sour and over-expensive.' We agree with Dr. Johnson on the subject of patriotism but this seemed an unnecessarily harsh verdict on local produce.

Also in Utrechtsstraat, next door to de Gouden Ton, Tromp (no relation).

Founded only about 13 years ago. One of a small chain

Gouda mountain.

This is not to say there are not good and interesting wines to be bought in Amsterdam. Some of the wonderful cheese shops also offer wine to be paired with any cheese you may buy

 We found these sweeties from Massandra in more than one place. We can't recall having seen these in the UK.

Tromp also stocked an interesting Verona 15.5% vino da meditazione by Bolla called Creso (Croesus), also a new one on us.

Image result for hemelse modder

One evening on a tip-off we went to the Hemelse Modder restaurant on Ouse Waal. An excellent recommendation. Hemelse Modder has been going since the 1980s but still looks fresh and new. It was founded by a group of like-minded friends who wanted to eat somewhere where the produce was organic and ecologically sound. Their wine list is small but really interesting, including as it did a Dutch Solaris.

This was a little sweeter than English Solaris adding to our hunch that when made at northerly latitudes it escapes Jancis Robinson's 'tooth-rottingly sweet' warning but the further south you go the sweeter it is likely to get. Solaris is now grown in Italy. You have been warned.

You could tell that Hemmelse Modder take their wine seriously with a Pignoletto rather than a Prosecco and a St. Magdalena on offer among others.

There is a place on Rokin (No. 60) called 'Cave Rokin' which stocks a few bottles from the Netherlands' oldest winery, Apostelhoeve including their Auxerrois, Mueller-Thurgau and Riesling.

By co-incidence there was the same bottle of white we had bought at the first merchant we had visited - the one who said he was a friend of the producer, a Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris blend.  This seems by the way to be an obvious and interesting combination. One we had met before and enjoyed in an English wine. The producer is De Kleine Schorre. Not fancying the Riesling or the Mueller-Thurgau of Apostelhoeve we bought de Kleine Schorre's Auxerrois on the basis that it was half a degree less alcoholic than that of Apostelhoeve.

Image result for wijngoed thorn

Also on sale was a real find, a Dornfelder from Thorn. We had enjoyed a glass of this with our delicious meal at Rijks, the Michelin starred restaurant at the Rijksmuseum and were determined to get a bottle to bring home and prove to people that Dutch wine is red as well as white.

Image result for Thorn wijngoed

Thorn's Dornfelder is as good if not better than any English or Welsh Dornfelder or even English or Welsh red wine in general. There are plenty of good German Dornfelders but this was just as good as the best of our acquaintance. Very highly recommended.

So that made a haul of 3 bottles with Schiphol duty free as our only hope for more. That was to be an exercise in futility compounded by a sting in the tail. A promising shop and bar called 'A taste of the Lowlands' or something had some bottles of Dutch wine (Apostelhoeve) behind the bar. Waiting patiently for  the barmaid to banter with two beery individuals while re-filling their tankards, we were told by a chap washing glasses that the joint was now closed. We said we only wanted to buy one of the bottles behind the bar but he just repeated not without a note of satisfaction that they were closed.

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