In 1994, Paul Vleminckx decided to explore uncharted territory: he set out to create Belgium’s first sparkling wine, produced following traditional Champagne methods. 25 years later, Chardonnay Meerdael is a local staple in restaurants and on supermarket shelves. “Once people taste our wine, they all want to buy it.”

“There’s been a real surge in Belgian wine-making. When I started, there were hardly any vineyards,” attests Vleminckx. “Some people think it’s because of climate change, but there are simply more grape varieties today that can withstand the cooler climate.”

Vleminckx now uses his experience to support new local wine makers through the non-profit organisation Wines of Belgium. “We educate winemakers and use our collective power to regulate the industry and promote our products.”

From pioneer to prize winner

Vleminckx’ decision to turn his passion into a career made him a trailblazer in Belgium – not always an easy path. “People were incredulous at first: they wouldn’t even sample our wine at market stalls,” he explains. “We really had to educate the public. But slowly our reputation started to grow, and today our sparkling wines have won many awards and are served at top-end local restaurants.”

Chardonnay Meerdael also offers vineyard tours for groups, which take around two hours and include insights into the production process as well as a tasting session. “We mostly give guided tours from May to September, when the weather is a little nicer. A lot of our sales come from these tours, because once people try our wine, they all want to buy it,” concludes Vleminckx.

Chardonnay Meerdael: Celebrating 25 years of Belgian sparkling wine | Discover Benelux

Chardonnay Meerdael is available in Delhaize supermarkets. To book a vineyard tour, visit www.chardonnaymeerdael.be.

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