Holland (heartland of today's Netherlands) had a great influence on the spirits and wine trade in the late Middle Ages. From the end of the 16th century, Holland rose to become the leading maritime power far ahead of England, France, Portugal and Spain. Around 1650, it had the largest merchant fleet in the world with around 10,000 ships. They bought alcoholic beverages all over Europe and brought them with ships to their colonies in North America, East and West India, Ceylon, New Zealand and Tasmania. They were also the main suppliers of the European countries. The port of Rotterdam developed into a main transhipment centre for wine.
The Dutch were great masters of distillation and produced huge quantities of genever(grain wine) and brandewijn (brandy), which was used either pure or as an addition to wine and drinking water. The resulting shelf life was a prerequisite for the long voyages by ship. As a result, the sprit of wines such as Malaga, Madeira, Port and Sherry became popular. The triumph of cognac is also due to the Dutch, who inspired the winegrowers of the Charente to distil their wine. The English, who imported cognac in large quantities and set certain quality standards, contributed to its perfection. To increase the stock of popular wines, the blending of simple wines was excessive.
They also adapted quickly and flexibly to consumer wishes. When in England in the 16th century the demand for sack (sprinkled wines from Spain) and Süßweinenstieg, such wines were imported on a large scale from Spain, the Canary Islands, the Portuguese island of Madeira and the Greek island of Crete. Holland thus played a significant role in the development of certain types of wine and acquired extensive knowledge about storage, transport and trade. It is also worth mentioning that it was Dutchmen, due to their special knowledge of this technique, who drained the swamps in the French Médoc in the middle of the 17th century and created the basis for the rapid development of viticulture. There is evidence of viticulture dating back to 1324 in the southern province of Limburg.
At the end of the 1960s, viticulture was revived on a small scale. There are the country wine areas (PGI) Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland and Zuid-Holland, and the two quality wine areas (PDO) Maasvallei Limburg (together with Belgium) and Mergelland. The main varieties are Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Due to the low alcohol content, the wines must be enriched. The best known farm is Apostelhoeve near Maastricht. Maybe the winegrowing gains a little more importance due to the climate change. The demand for wine is covered by imports, mainly from Germany.
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