Lots of winemakers in Belgium are people who just do it as a hobby and still have another job next to the winemaking. One of those examples would be Ghislain Houben from Wine Estate Hoenshof or better Professor Ghislain Houben as he is Professor in economics at the University of Hasselt.
When I think of a Professor, I think of someone who likes to try new things and experiment. I think this does describe what Ghislain Houben really well when you look at his vineyard. What started with having some animals and a few cherry trees has since 2002 grown into a vineyard with more than 5000 vines known as Wine estate Hoenshof. I was really surprised on the wide variety of different grapes (and wine as end product) Professor Houben has on his estate, from Chardonnay (with which he has won a price as best Belgian Chardonnay in 2011) to Cabernet to Dornfelder and he keeps trying new things 🙂
Although Wine Estate Hoenshof has won prices with his white wines, the future of the estate will be focusing on good quality red and dessert wines as the amount of vineyards producing this in Belgium is quite low. During our visit Professor Houben showed us a map with on it all the vineyards there were in Belgium around the 18th century (in red), I must say we were all amazed to see how many there were in these regions today the day it is not even 1/3 of amount you see on the map… funny enough most in the regions that are now also “well-know” for making wine.
What differentiates Wine estate Hoenshof from most vineyard is Belgium is the type of barrels that get used. Most vineyards will be using French oak aka winter oak, as for Hoenshof they decided to go for summer oak which originates from Austria/Hungary. The big difference between the two types of oak is the fact the summer oak has bigger pores.
With the big assortment of wines we couldn’t just leave without trying all (or most) of them 🙂 I know we are too good for this world, I think one day I’ll be naming a street after me 🙂 🙂
Anyhow, tasting we did. Normally I’m not really a dessert wine kind of person as they are usually too sweet and sticky. It has to be said that the dessert wines Hoenshof makes are anything but sticky or too sweet… they are soft, fruity and nice acids with a nice nose (they smell nice). I’m not sure which one was my favorite, but if I would have to pick it would be the 2012 Wurzer as it had the smell that reminded me of Mosel/Austrian wines that I like a lot and has a fruity taste with well-balanced acids. Again, I’m not a pro… I just know what I like.
Overall some nice wines not all grape combinations were my cup of tea, but that is a matter of personal taste… I do admire Professor Houben for his creativity and would recommend you to try them yourself and you judge which one is your favorite.
Stay tuned for the last part about my trip through Borgloon…