A trip to little Burgundy the end

Optimbulles

The last vineyard we visited on our trip through Borgloon was Optimbulles or formally known as Champinnot. Champinnot had to change their name as the association behind the French Champagne wine region took it to court as the name referred too much to “Champagne”. Luckily this didn’t stop them to make wine! Visiting this vineyard as last was the perfect ending of an incredible slightly sunny day on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful Borgloon fields! And I couldn’t imagine ending this day without a nice glass of wine 🙂

As the name Optimbulles (or the previous name) might make assume, this vineyard is especially specialized in bubbled wine aka sparkling wines (although they also have some mighty white wines). The wine I’ll always remember from this vineyard will definitely be the “Briljant” this wine made me so hungry!! It smelled exactly like one of my preferred bread kind Rye bread. I know I get hungry pretty fast, but due to the smell of a wine was a first 🙂 Don’t get me wrong all the other wines were also good, but this was just a unique smell I had never experienced before.

optimbulles (5)

Optimbulles (4)

Optimbulles (3)

Optimbulles (2)

Optimbulles (1)

Around the 90’s Guy Geunis, Theo Pasque and Rik Schreurs decided to make wine on their vineyard in Jesseren (at the border of Borgloon). Their focus (as I said before) is on sparkling wines made in/with the traditional grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and way of working. Something they cherish a lot at Optimbulles is that they don’t add extra sweeteners, they only “sugar” in them is the natural one. This is why their wines are referred to as Extra Brut or Brut Zero (No liqueur d’expédition has been added and has less than 6 grams of residual sugar per liter).  Optimbulles has 3 types of sparkling wine “Robijn”( 70% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir red and 10% Pinot Noir white –  so basically this is a rosé sparkling wine), “Trilogie” (mainly Chardonnay, filled up with Pinot Noir and a little bit of Pinot Meunier)and Briljant (that I mentioned above and is made of 100% Chardonnay). Besides the sparkling wines they also make white wine and something more remarkable, rosé wine made from a local grape called “Vroege Loonse” which is a clone from the Pinot Noir.

Their 3 wines

Vroege loonse

Every body listening to what Guy Geunis has to say

Another important thing to know about this vineyard is that until recently they only made sparkling wine using grapes, now they also make a kind of cider using the local apples (old types like “Boskoop”, “Ceuleman”, “Sterappel”) from their orchard…. again, some people who want to creative and that want to see what good can from the Belgian soil. I can only encourage that!! This product is better known as Apples & Pearls :-)… when tasting it, it obviously first of all tastes like apples, but it also reminded me a bit of wheat beer , but all tastes are well balanced!!  This actually goes for all their wines!!

Apples and pearls

One day I’ll be able to describe you the wines like a real wine expert! 😉

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a website from them, but in case you would want to know more I’ll give you their credentials: Lindesstraat 78, 3512 Hasselt –  0472 21 89 72 of 0478 20 57 79.

Ok, enough about Borgloon (for now)

A trip to little Burgundy the sequel

From all the tasting we did at clos d’opleeuw’s vineyard (that  you could read about in my previous blopost) a person becomes very hungry 🙂 luckily Kris Lismont is owner from a restaurant called “Mondevino”. Mondevino might not immediately ring a bell, but maybe restaurant “Ambrozijn” might sound more familiar. Restaurant Ambrozijn was the restaurant Kris Lismont had with his brother Johan, but earlier this year the brothers decided to go their own way. Johan will be focusing on teaching young cooks all tips and tricks. Kris on the other hand continued with the restaurant, but with a slightly different approach and concept where the focus will be mostly on wine, this resulted in Mondevino.

Mondevino logo

I got instant feeling of happiness when entering Mondevino, not only because of the nice selection of wines you immediately see (I saw some beauties I wouldn’t mind trying), but also because of the very warm welcome (aka Limburg hospitality) Kris Lismont and his wife give you!

Mondevino resto (1)

Mondevino resto (2)

Mondevino resto (3)

Mondevino resto (4)

Mondevino resto (5)

To make the lunch even more fun Kris decided to do a blind wine tasting. So with every course we were given 3 different glasses of wine from which we had to guess the country they were from and which was the best pairing with the dish. I know it might be they did it especially for us, but you should try it sometimes! Finding the country was obviously the most difficult, or at least it was for me 🙂 although sometimes the tastes seemed familiar, but I just couldn’t figure it out. At least everything after our glass of Champagne 🙂 Kris bought this bottle (Henri Giraud) during his trip to the Champagne region and wasn’t sure how it would be, I say it was good

Champagne 1

The first dish they served us was salmon with tepid potato slices and chive cream. The wines we got with it (first without knowing the kinds) were a 2012 Chateau Simon Graves Blanc (FR), 2009 Pinot Bianco (IT) and a 2012 El Hada (Verdejo – ES). It is strange that now that they gave us the choice one really starts drinking/tasting different. I mean normally you just drink whatever they give you and don’t really think if it really works together with the dish, but this time when having to choose between those 3 you start to think which taste goes best together… Me personally I don’t know the technical details behind it, but at some point you just feel/taste it that the combination is right! Cant’ explain it, it just is like that 🙂 I’m also glad my taste buds where nearly as good as the ones from the pros. I didn’t guess the countries, but I did guess which one was best with the dish and the winner was the Verdejo. (Everybody agreed on this one)

First course wines

First course salmon

The next round was the same, but with red wines in combination with some Lomo Duroc with Blackwell sauce. This dish needed some strong, but not too strong though. They did chose to go for the same countries as with the white wines, but again we only knew that afterwards. The wines we had were a 2009 Chateau Argadens  (FR), a 2010 Les Crestes (ES) and a 2011 Dolcetto d’Alba (IT). It was the Dolcetto d’Alba that fitted best with the Lomo Duroc… it didn’t overpower the taste of the food, but was still powerful enough… and it might be a coincidence that Dolcetto is one of my preferred wines.

Main course wine

Main course

We finished our meal with a Trifle of red fruit from the area, this time no wine as we still had to visit 2 more vineyards and the line has to be drawn somewhere right? 😉

dessert

To summarize this lunch experience, it was not only a delicious meal, but also very educational one. I will definitely be back, if only already for Kris’ enthusiasm!

Definitely a nice spot to stop during your trip(s) in the beautiful hills of Haspengouw!

Address: Tongersesteenweg 30, B-3840 Borgloon

Website: http://www.mondevino.be/

Phone n° : +32 (0) 12 74 72 31

Opening hours:

Wed – Fri: 10.30h – 23h

Sat: 17h – 23h

Sun: 11.30h – 17h

To be continued with more about my trip and visits to vineyards in Borgloon…

A trip to little Burgundy

It might seem that I’m exploring a lot of the eastern part of Belgium (Limburg) lately, but they just have so many great things to explore :-). This time my trip east brought me a little town called Borgloon, which is a little town right in the heart of the Belgian Fruit region also known as “Haspengouw” (beautiful for cycling in spring). The red wires during this daytrip were top Belgian wines and 2010 best Belgian sommelier Kris Lismont.

I know Belgium is not known as a wine country, but I can say for a fact that the amount of winemakers making good and even great wine that can easily compete against the famous wine countries is getting bigger by the day! Thanks to Kris Lismont we were fortunate enough to visit a 3 of them with all the same goal putting Belgian wines on the map.

The first vineyard on our agenda is maybe to me the maker of the best Belgian white wine. I’m talking about the lifework (since 2000) of Peter Colemont aka Clos d’Opleeuw a vineyard from only 1hectare. Peter only makes Chardonnay (1 year in best quality oak barrels) wine from 5 chardonnay grape varieties. I must correct myself he also has a few Pinot Noire vines but the wine he makes from these grapes is for private use only, or at least until Peter finds the quality good enough for actually sharing it with the world (I tried it and have to say although it is still young it had a typical Pinot Noire taste to it). Back to Clos d’Opleeuw’s signature products their Chardonnay that during lots of blind tastings of well-known white wines is mistaking for a Burgundy wine… so that’s how good it is! Before I start speaking of the wine, maybe I should first tell you more about the person behind the vineyard. Peter Colemont is besides a very friendly and modest person also someone who knows what he wants and is not ashamed to say he consults well-known winemakers and wine experts to make sure he’ll make a TOP product. Peter even worked for a while in some well know vineyards in the Burgundy Wine region to fine-tune his knowledge on how to make wine. When we asked him who gave him the passion for making wine, he said without hesitation Jean Bellefroid who was a pioneer in making Belgian wine.

Peter Colmont

There are multiple reasons this wine is this wonderful 1st of all because of the lime/loam soil in combination with the fact it goes downhill is perfect for the “drainage “of the water (and in Belgium there is a lot of rain 🙂 ). Just think of vines of Chateau Petrus, this also goes downhill. BTW when you see a mistletoe tree you immediately know the soil is lime/loam as this tree only grows on this type of soil.  Secondly because of the fact it is a “Clos”, which is the French word for “closure” or “enclosed”, so basically this means it is a vineyard with walls around it used to protect the grapes from theft as well as improving the mesoclimate. The mesoclimate will be creating the perfect circumstance and environment for growing the grapes (or any other fruit you would like to grow). This is a “technique” used in lots of French regions for making wine. The last and maybe most important reason is Peter himself as he works with so much devotion, care and passion! There is a saying that says “everything you do yourself is done better” well this is Peter’s motto as he does do it all himself, he literally crawls on hands and knees between all his vines to check and take care of every branch. He could use a machine, but this would cut away too much.

Clos d'opleeuw 1

CLos d'opleeuw 2

CLos wijngaard 1 Clos wijngaard 2

Clos wijngaard 3

Clos rijpingskamer

Peter’s passion and high quality product didn’t stay unnoticed as people like Jancis Robinson tasted the wine and started spreading the word ( article) and on top of that Clos d’opleeuw’s chardonnay can also be found on the wine list of the 3 Belgian 3 Michelin star awarded restaurants and Oud Sluis! Lots of people would start flying and start to feel full of themselves, but not Peter he keeps his 2 feet on the ground :-).

Clos groep goed aan het luisteren

I did already know Clos d’Opleeuw for a few years, but it was not until 2 months ago (it might be 3 months) that I tried my first glass thanks to Tom Ieven from restaurant Ardent :-). I also wasn’t sad when I could taste it again, but this time in company of the winemaker himself, we tried the 2010 and 2011. The 2007 would be Peter’s personal favorite, at this moment that is.

Clos 2010

Anyhow, to make a long story short(er) you should definitely try a glass (or bottle) of Clos d’Opleeuw when you have the chance!!! I know it might be difficult to find it as the production is not enormous (3000bottles a year)…  and therefore very quickly sold out but you won’t regret it if you get hold of it.

Stay tuned for more about the 2 other vineyards we visited and the lunch we had with of course wine as main topic….