Karel de Graaf has been in the wine business for more than 35 years. Besides being passionate about wine, he is co-founder and former editor of the prestigious wine magazine Perswijn, wine writer and wine lecturer at several courses; among others WSET at Winefield’s, the Wine Institute and the guidance of students for Magister Vini (the highest level in wine education in The Netherlands). You could say he is a wine specialist.
In the 1970s Karel started to get more interested in wine when he was a lecturer of Economics in Amsterdam. “When I was working as a teacher, my colleagues gave me a bottle of wine. On a Sunday afternoon I was checking students’ exams and decided to open this bottle of wine. I was so surprised by its flavours. This was a real bottle of wine, no rubbish.” The next day Karel decided to buy a book about wine called “De Complete Wijnliefhebber”. Slowly, Karel started to gain experience and expertise in wine.
During the 80s he visited Burgundy and immediately fell in love with its atmosphere and wine. Later he was asked to start the wine magazine Proefschrift with Ronald de Groot, with whom he also founded the magazine Perswijn.
In late 1991, Karel stopped at Perswijn and started with the sale of Burgundies. He decided to sell the wines directly from the producer exclusively to the (Dutch) wine market, not to trade to individuals and restaurants. The way he began was then – and still is – quite unique for the Dutch market: namely, as an agent. This means that he has no stocks and no bills, creating time to be in Burgundy six to seven times a year. “I want to have real contact with the wine farmers, talk to them and see them on their land. I didn’t want to be busy carrying boxes of wine to and from restaurants.” Therefore Karel tastes the wine and sells it in the Netherlands, but he never actually has anything to do with the shipping of the wine. “Yearly, I taste about 4.000 different wines at 50 different farms. It’s hard, but I like the contact with the wine farmers. I like talking to them and to see them work.”
When Karel is at home, he always has a cold bottle of sherry chilled. “Manzanilla, which is the driest Sherry there is, but sometimes I like to open a bottle of Burgundy or good brisk Bordeaux.” When discussing which country makes the finest wines, Karel says without a doubt: “France makes the best wines, France has the history and the expertise to make a good wine. Besides, the weather also plays a role in making a good wine. I prefer to taste Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from cool climates. Most of the wines of these grape varieties from hot climates I like less because of a lack of acidity and some types of aroma. I prefer to drink more of the traditional crafted wines… wines from Burgundy!”
Soon Karel de Graaf will become Officer of the prestigious Ordre du Mérite Agricole. This distinction is only awarded to individuals for having made an outstanding contribution to French agriculture. At the moment there are only about 5.000 people in the world who have received this award.