Rare is RAAR
Updated: Sep 8
The town of Maastricht is not just walkable but inviting. It is a short two hour train ride from Amsterdam on the southern border of the Netherlands. With both historic inner city and a vibrant more modern mixed in that spans both sides of the Meuse River. The Meuse runs from France through Belgium to the North Sea, so locally it is called Maas. You can stand on any of bridges and watch the river barge highway traffic non-stop heading to Belgium or northward. You can actually walk to Belgium along the river paths – it is that close. Maastricht’s cobblestone streets are punctuated with plenty of art and museums. As a university town it has high energy, plenty of outdoor cafes, wonderful small restaurants, and unique creative boutique shops. There is even an exceptional bookshop in an old church, Dominicanen.
Plenty of Roman history here and perhaps it is part of the reason this town has a relaxed southern European nature. Bistros, winding lanes, a marvelous open air market around the city hall and tons of tables under the trees for an aperitif near Onze Lieve Vrouweplein. The Gothic style church Sint Janskerk and the Romanesque Basilica of St Servattius houses significant collections of religious art too. I loved wondering this town.
Bike around like everyone else in town or walk across the Hoge Brug, a modern pedestrian bridge towards the quayside and the architectural gem of Ceramique both an exhibition hall and cultural center and Plein 1992 square; this project was developed by several architects, including the famous Cruz y Ortiz from Seville. Or just walk along the river path towards the Bonnefanten Museum of fine arts in a kiln looking building.
Having an aperitif at our Design Hotel where they were featuring a local sparkling called RAAR – being a believer in drink local… we ordered a bottle and were very pleasantly surprised. I did not know there were vineyards this far north. The barman told us that the owner had his shop around the corner. Thus I was on a mission.
Who knew that Maastricht is surrounded by beautiful nature and set in a hilly landscape? I am totally surprised to know that there were vineyards in the south of the Netherlands dating back to 968 in the Middle Ages. Viticulture was decimated in the Netherlands when it became colder after 1590 due to a climatic change. Today, they are back. In 1970’s several vineyards have sprung up and now almost 75 are registered.
We went immediately around the corner to meet winemaker and owner, Ralph Huydts. Of course, he invited us to have another glass of his bubbles. This is a refined Dutch sparkling wine made with the traditional method. He has both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Limburg on soil at 90 meter heights on the slope of the Raarberg. He is currently the only winemaker producing bubbly. Despite its relatively northern location in Europe, he is finding that his slopes are favorable and the possibility of global warming have kept his vines ripening perfectly.
From March to September Wijngaard Raarberg offers lunch and dinners in the vineyards for groups. Nothing better than a lunch or dinner in fantastic surroundings in the vineyards, happily raising a glass to friends in Maastricht. A RAAR bonus indeed!
Other Vineyards in the area to visit:
Wijngaard De Apostelhoeve - Susserweg 201, Maastricht
Hoeve Nekum - Nekummerweg 31, Maastricht