Talking Wine with Rámon Verkoeijen

Talking Wine with Rámon Verkoeijen

Our Talking Wine series has been expanded. From now on, we not only interview more people from the wine trade, but now also ask great wine lovers about this special product. We kick off with Rámon Verkoeijen. In daily life, Rámon works as a radio DJ at Dutch radio station 3FM and has been hosting the podcast De Beste Smaak van Nederland (The Best Taste of the Netherlands) with Jan Versteegh for a year now. He therefore likes to fill his free time with good food and fine wines. In this interview, you can read how his interest in wine started, he shares some delicious barbecue tips and, of course, we talk extensively about the connection between wine and music. You can read all this and more in the new Talking Wine With...


Rámon Verkoeijen

As the son of a butcher, you grew up with a love of good meat and good food. Was wine also at the heart of this upbringing, or was your love of wine born elsewhere?

We always had wine at home, but the type of wine didn't necessarily matter. So the love of wine wasn't very strong at the time. At home, we drank beer more often than wine. If we drank wine, we didn't care where it came from, what type of grapes it contained, and we certainly didn't care about the wine and food pairing. It was more like eating a tournedos with stroganoff sauce and drinking red wine with it. So we drank red wine, whatever kind of wine it was.

My love of wine didn't begin until I was 21, when I visited the Beluga in Maastricht, which then still belonged to Hans van Wolde. That evening, Matthijs Vranken was the sommelier; he also works at Brut172 (Hans van Wolde's new restaurant). I'm still very grateful to him, because that was the night I started to take an interest in wine. He had a very fine way of talking about wine. He must - like me on the radio - be able to explain certain things a hundred times without getting bored.

I always find it very important when someone can talk about something with passion. He did it very well and it was a good introduction for me to the world of wine and foodpairing all at once. I really wondered what was going on here. Why does this resonate with me so much?" I've always enjoyed food since I was a kid, but now I've had a bit of an epiphany about the uniqueness of wine. I had no idea what had struck me and I thought that was what I wanted to know more about. That same week, I went to the supermarket to buy some different wines. Then I started tasting them myself to see if I could spot the differences.

Were the people with you that evening also this enthousiastic?

Not as enthusiastic as me. I was with my girlfriend and she thought it was very good and tasty. But she didn't immediately feel the need to know more. But I'm a bit of a nerd in everything I like anyway. I want to do and know everything straight away. Most people around me thought it was a phase, that I was looking for new things and it would pass, but it's been about 15 years now and I still find it fun and interesting.

Have you managed to convince your friends and have they suddenly started tasting wines too?

Yes, without a doubt! And colleagues too, including Jan Versteegh. I sometimes get in touch with them: "Hey, taste this or have you ever tasted that?". It's a bit like you've discovered a world, and I give that to others too. My brother, for example, wasn't much into wine, but last year he spent a week in Alsace and asked me which cellars to visit and what to look out for.

It was autumn, when they eat a lot of sauerkraut, which goes very well with gewürztraminer, by the way. At first, I didn't like this grape variety, but I tried several, including Trimbach, a real classic. Then I let my brother taste a Gewürztraminer. He found it too sweet and couldn't really appreciate the wine. At that point, all I could think was that I'd been through that phase too and finally really enjoyed it. It's great fun to introduce people to new flavours. For example, I really like wine and food combinations and that can be very surprising. But I imagine you drink a lot of pure wine without eating anything with it?

Both, wine and food pairings can be very interesting, but with really great wines it doesn't really matter either. They're more than fantastic on their own.

Yes, they are. With some very special wines, you don't want to eat anything either. You have to spend the afternoon concentrating entirely on the wine. I always say that, otherwise, the wine isn't worth tasting.

As well as your work as a radio DJ, you also record a podcast called De Beste Smaak van Nederland (The Best Taste of the Netherlands) with Jan Versteegh. What do you think are the best places in the Netherlands to enjoy a good glass of wine?

Coincidentally, I was at Café Parlotte in Amsterdam the other day. They have a great wine list, with a large number of champagnes. You can come back six months later and discover lots of new things, because the menu is so varied. And I really like that! Or Sinck (also in Amsterdam), which is brand new and a bit more chic. Of course, there's also a good wine list! What I like about Parlotte is that you can go there for a good glass of wine in a relaxed atmosphere. Just like in Paris, it's a bistro where you can eat and drink very well. To get that in the Netherlands, you often have to be very extroverted and quickly find yourself in a Michelin-starred establishment.

You're also an ambassador for Big Green Egg. We saw a photo of you behind the Green Egg with a bottle of Dominio de Pingus. In your opinion, is this the ultimate barbecue wine?

Hahaha, no, definitely not. I have a list of all the best wines I'd like to try and this was on it. Sometimes you have to splurge, so I bought a bottle of Pingus. At first, I drank it without eating anything. I wanted to have some left over, because I thought to myself: what would this wine taste like with a dried rib of beef aged on the grill? I often use Argentine coals, but this time I chose the softest coals I had at home. This way, the meat doesn't get too much of a charcoal flavour. What's more, I only sprinkled a little sea salt over the ham. Even though it was a refined piece of meat, the wine was too subtle and too mild to go with it. In short, Pingus is one of those wines that should be drunk neat, without any further ado.

What's your favourite barbecue dish and what wine do you like to accompany it?

Pooh, the favourite dish of the Big Green Egg, that's difficult! I use the Big Green Egg for lots of different things. Sometimes I smoke mashed potatoes or roast Brussels sprouts. Recently, for example, I smoked some mussels and then pan-fried them briefly with herbs and wine. It's so simple, but so delicious! Then I drank a Pouilly-Fumé. I'd love to open two different bottles to see which one suits me best.

Another fun activity is drying and smoking fruit on the barbecue. Some time ago, I dried oranges and lemons in soft sugar for about 5 hours at 80-90 degrees. The result is a very intense flavour with a caramelised layer. Serve a prawn cocktail over the citrus fruit and you've got an exceptional dish. I then served a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine and music are both about senses. It is sometimes said that the taste of wine can be influenced by certain music and sounds. How do you think about this from your area of expertise?

When listening to music, you get a certain feeling. That feeling can remind you of certain moments. For example, when you hear a great track by Avicii, it can take you back to a great night. Then think about drinking a nice Barolo during that evening. Yes, at that combo I really short-circuit, it doesn't match. So in music, in a way, you want the same subtlety as in wine, not something like chaotic music and a very full-bodied, warm autumn wine. That just doesn't match. That's why I definitely try to take that kind of detail into account, because it can have an impact. The overall mood has to be right, and music plays a crucial role in that.

Usually we ask our interview candidates for a wine-food combination, but in this case we are curious to know what you think is a good wine-music combination?

Basically what we were just talking about; every moment has its atmosphere and certain music goes with it. It's the same with wine, of course. You have certain moments when you think 'I feel like this wine now, it fits the moment perfectly'. While tasting a new wine, I usually listen to music I'm not familiar with yet. With unfamiliar music, I am not distracted because I listen to a song very analytically. Otherwise, I start thinking about why do I like this? How was it mixed again? What layers do I hear? Then you're doing completely different things than wine tasting. I myself like quiet, warmly mixed music very much in combination with wine. And when I do listen to music that is familiar to me, it's my playlist of more classical music and melodies. In that list, you will find songs by Patrick Watson and Sufjan Stevens, for example. Even though I make my own dance programme, it's not the music I put on during an evening of wine drinking. 

On Friday nights, you used to present a show with electronic music from the mid-80s to the early 90s mixed with Italo-disco and UK House. Is this a representation of your personal taste in music?

Yes definitely! I also make this music myself and I also produce for other artists. This once started as a hobby, but then I came into contact with Wessel van Diepen and he said: "you should do this seriously, you have a real talent for this". For me, it's a bit in between pop and dance. Besides, I am very much into analogue stuff. I often recognise the synthesizers used in a song. Then I hear this is the Roland D50 and this is the Yamaha DX7. They all provide a certain, typical sound. You can compare this principle to wine. In time, winemakers and connoisseurs can also recognise the soil, terroir, type of wood and varieties. 

Nice comparison! Well-known wineries indeed have a specific piece of terroir, and from time to time new winemakers naturally enter the business. Despite a winemaker having a different approach or style, you will always keep that typical or a piece of recognition. After all, many are working with that same terroir.

Daft Punk is another great example. For their latest album Random Access Memories, they recorded the music with all different microphones. In the track Giorgio by Moroder, you can hear a monologue by Giorgio Moroder describing his musical career in a nutshell. In the song, they always use the microphone from the relevant period. Exactly for the reason we just mentioned: each microphone has its own sound and tones. One producer did say to them, "no one is going to hear these sound differences, only you yourselves". In addition, many people were critical of their way of mixing. After all, Daft Punk did not like very high tones and they eliminated just that. High notes can actually be compared to sugar. The more sweet you eat, the more bland all the non-sweet is. While those proportions are actually not right at all. Because if you are used to very sweet, you actually have a different frame of reference. Of course, it's the same with wine and winemakers. Everyone has their own benchmark and in doing so, winemakers themselves experience very well the influences of a different terroir or different winemaking techniques, just like Daft Punk with the microphones. 

To stay in the world of music and wine; the punk scene is known, among other things, for their love of natural wine. How do you feel about natural wine?

 For me, natural wine is very much a love-hate relationship. Just the other day I was in a restaurant in Amsterdam with only natural wine on the menu. The first three courses went reasonably well, only then the sommelier heard me comment, "now just have that Meursault or a classic. Then the evening will be fun." To which he replied, "you are too traditional, you should be open to new things". Anyway, these were just too many new wines in one evening. That's like new music, you try to market that by playing familiar songs around it to entice people. So yes, that evening was quite spicy.

 Nevertheless, I recently bought another box of 20 bottles of natural wine and drank a very nice vin nature from Alsace. Although I must say that I drank three bottles of that now and that is more than enough. If I had had a box it would have been too much. Natural wine continues to fascinate me and it does keep me busy. There are at least two or three moments a week when I think: ah, should I try another bottle?

Gaja - Barbaresco  2019


€ 399,95 (ex Vat) € 483,94 (in Vat) more info
Gaja - Darmagi Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Darmagi Cabernet Sauvignon

€ 214,00 (ex Vat) € 258,94 (in Vat) more info
Jadot - Grands Echezeaux 2017

Grands Echezeaux

€ 244,00 (ex Vat) € 295,24 (in Vat) more info
Gaja - Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Rennina   2018

Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Rennina

€ 159,00 (ex Vat) € 192,39 (in Vat) more info
Jadot - Vosne Romanee Beaux Monts 2018

Vosne Romanee Beaux Monts

€ 125,95 (ex Vat) € 152,40 (in Vat) more info
Jadot - Bonnes Mares 2019

Bonnes Mares

€ 345,00 (ex Vat) € 417,45 (in Vat) more info
Jadot - Chambertin 2019


€ 335,00 (ex Vat) € 405,35 (in Vat) more info
Gaja - Gaja IDDA Red 2020

Gaja IDDA Red

€ 32,95 (ex Vat) € 39,87 (in Vat) more info
Trimbach - Riesling Cru Mandelberg 2018

Riesling Cru Mandelberg

€ 39,95 (ex Vat) € 48,34 (in Vat) more info
Gaja - Barbaresco   2020


€ 199,00 (ex Vat) € 240,79 (in Vat) more info
Jadot - Clos de Vougeot 2018

Clos de Vougeot

€ 162,95 (ex Vat) € 197,17 (in Vat) more info
Jadot - Bonnes Mares 2020

Bonnes Mares

€ 385,00 (ex Vat) € 465,85 (in Vat) more info
Domaine de la Romanee Conti
Domaine de la Romanee Conti - Echezeaux  2019


on request more info
Chateau Petrus
Chateau Petrus - Chateau Petrus 2006

Chateau Petrus

€ 7.995,00 (ex Vat) € 9.673,95 (in Vat) more info
Domaine de la Romanee Conti
Domaine de la Romanee Conti - Richebourg 2015


€ 4.695,00 (ex Vat) € 5.680,95 (in Vat) more info
Trimbach - Gewurztraminer Grains Nobles 1989

Gewurztraminer Grains Nobles

€ 172,95 (ex Vat) € 209,27 (in Vat) more info
Domaine de la Romanee Conti
Domaine de la Romanee Conti - Corton 2017


€ 2.695,00 (ex Vat) € 3.260,95 (in Vat) more info
Pingus - PSI   2018


€ 31,95 (ex Vat) € 38,66 (in Vat) more info
Jadot - Musigny 2016


€ 769,00 (ex Vat) € 930,49 (in Vat) more info
Chateau Petrus
Chateau Petrus - Chateau Petrus 1983

Chateau Petrus

€ 2.195,00 (ex Vat) € 2.655,95 (in Vat) more info
Domaine Leflaive
Domaine Leflaive - Batard Montrachet 2013

Batard Montrachet

€ 995,00 (ex Vat) € 1.203,95 (in Vat) more info
Krug - Rose 26eme Edition NV

Rose 26eme Edition

€ 299,00 (ex Vat) € 361,79 (in Vat) more info
Domaine de la Romanee Conti
Domaine de la Romanee Conti - La Tache 2019

La Tache

€ 6.900,00 (ex Vat) € 8.349,00 (in Vat) more info
Jadot - Echezeaux 2020


€ 234,00 (ex Vat) € 283,14 (in Vat) more info

There is a lot to discover and taste in the world of wine. What region or wine (style) have you recently discovered that you wish you had known about earlier?

Yes, I had a moment like that recently with dessert wines, like a Sauternes. I didn't expect to ever like that. Now I like good Sauternes insanely, but it has to be balanced. Sherry I can also appreciate more and more. Recently I drank a PX and it was fantastic. Or a sweet Riesling and of course not to forget; the gewürztraminer we were just talking about!

We heard that your wine collection is around 500 bottles. Of those, what is the most special bottle and at what point does that bottle open?

By now, that number has risen to around 600 to 700 bottles. Basically, I know where everything is, but the other day I came across some champagne in a cupboard. Apparently there were still some bottles of Bollinger and Billecart-Salmon there. Since I wasn't expecting those bottles here, finding them really felt like a bonus. But getting back to your question, the most special bottle I think I happened to drink last week. That was a Krug 2004. That one opened on an ordinary Monday night. I used to be very much into saving special wine until a nice moment, but I don't do that anymore. Opening the wine makes the moment special. So if you just feel like drinking that bottle and you feel that from everything, that's the moment. It often happens that people save the bottle for that one occasion, then they are too late and the wine is over its peak. That really is such a waste!

Speaking of unique bottles, I still have a 2006 Krug lying around. After drinking that fantastic 2004, I am quite curious about the 2006 as well. I have also bought many Bourgognes that I am very curious about, but I have to wait at least another five years for them. I have to say that this is difficult...

 How do you keep all those 700 bottles?

My collection is scattered. At home I have two climate cabinets and both can hold around 180 bottles. I also have some special storage wines stored with an importer. There, the wines are stored under the right conditions and that's how I can be sure they're doing well.

Even though there are plenty of cellar treasures waiting for you - every wine lover has the elaborate desire to drink or own a certain wine. Which wine would this be for you?

Yes, that would mainly be the classics like Pétrus, Gaja, Rothschild... All those classics that everyone has been talking about for years, I would like to experience that too. And of course Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, that's really a milestone for me too. Although from me that may take a while yet. I'm still discovering so many wines and I think once you get to know a certain quality you don't pick up anything else so quickly. That's why you have to build it up a bit and don't start with the very best right away. This is also how I look at music and art. In time, you have tasted all the details and you can pick out all the elements. Then, when you taste a wine like that, only then are you completely open to it.

Your BNNVARA colleague Cesar Majorana and, for example, Antoin Peeters of RTL4 are also active in the wine world with tastings, a special wine account on Instagram or TikTok, in addition to their work in the media. Can we expect something similar from you soon?

These days, I spend half an hour answering messages on Instagram every day. Many people ask me for wine advice or wine-food combinations. This will only increase in the run-up to the holidays. But that's not a bad thing, because I enjoy spending time there and figuring things out. For now, I do that mainly through my own Instagram and a bit in our podcast of course.

To close with, we're curious about your perfect dinner party. Which (legendary) musicians, winemakers, chefs, etc. will be guests this evening? Who is cooking and what wine is being served?

It is on a balmy summer day and we are sitting outside with a beautifully set table and appropriate glassware. The chef who will be hosting the evening is then Paul Bocuse. He was a legendary chef from France and his restaurant L'Auberge Du Pont de Collonges near Lyon always had three stars. For me, he was the king of classic French cuisine.

That evening, we will drink iconic wines from France. We start with champagne and then bottles like Pétrus and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti open. During dinner, Patrick Watson is played and we end the evening with Daft Punk.

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