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Holland (the heartland of today's Netherlands) had great influence on the spirits and wine trade in the late Middle Ages. From the end of the 16th century, Holland rose to become the leading maritime power far ahead of England, France, Portugal and Spain. Around 1650, Holland had the largest merchant fleet in the world with around 10,000 ships. Alcoholic beverages were purchased all over Europe and transported by ships to the colonies in North America, the Dutch Indies (Indonesia), New Zealand and Tasmania. Likewise, the Dutch were the main suppliers to the European countries. The port of Rotterdam developed into a main transhipment centre for wine. The Dutch were great masters of distillation and produced huge quantities of genever (grain wine) and brandewijn (brandy), which was used either neat or as an addition to wine and drinking water. The resulting shelf life was a prerequisite for the long sea voyages.

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