Outside the town of Eys in Dutch Limburg sits a vineyard that’s a little different. Plants grow wild amongst the rows as life flourishes above layers of limestone and löss.
The father-son team of Chris and Peter Pelzer are the brains and heart behind Domein Aldenborgh. Chris’s training as a microbiologist and Peter’s 20 years in the vineyard led them to develop a new viticultural method. They drew from ideas in organic and biodynamic agriculture to create Freesoil, a new standard for raw wines.
In the cellar, Domein Aldenborgh resembles other natural winemakers. All wines are spontaneously fermented, unfiltered, and unclarified. A pied de cuve to introduce local yeasts and ensure that wines are fully fermented with little residual sugar. Red wines age in steel tanks, while white wines age in old 1000L oak barrels where residual microbes promote malolactic fermentation. Wines are delicate and fruity with great balance, a direct expression of the grape and the vineyard.
In the vineyard above Eys, Chris and Peter focus on microbiological diversity and creating an ideal environment for carbon dioxide sequestration. They fiercely believe that a monoculture vineyard will never be as healthy as one that is ecologically diverse.
In order to promote this diversity, vines are never sprayed with chemical pesticides. Even the organic standard of copper is foregone. In a wet climate like South Limburg where rain is frequent, copper washes off vines and builds up in the soil. Copper’s natural antimicrobial properties can damage the soil’s microbial diversity, harming the health of the plants.
Instead, Chris and Peter apply a compost extract to the vines that’s teeming microbes, micronutrients, and natural plant hormones. By promoting microbial competition, vines are often able to fight their own diseases and preserve valuable nutrients in the grapes (and thus the wine).
Each year’s difference is expressed in Aldenborgh wines. Warm years produce darker red wines. Cool years make lighter ones. To preserve this natural beauty, Chris and Peter keep the natural ratio of skins to juice during maceration instead of making wines darker. They see themselves as conduits from vineyard to bottle, working symbiotically with the plants and the grapes that are grown.
Domein Aldenborgh wines are not only delicious but good to drink.