Luxembourg’s green wines

The Moselle region of Luxembourg produces some fantastic wines – which we’ve been lucky enough to sample abundantly during our three day visit to the country this week. The tour was part of the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists (IFAJ) congress that is being hosted this week in Ostende, Belgium.

The wines of Luxembourg take many forms, but no matter what the colour of the drink, they’re all green as a result of a major shift in focus by wine growers, as we heard from our host and tour guide Stefaan, a senior member of Les Vins Moselles, a wine growing co-operative.

“Our wines now focus on quality more than quantity”, he told us as we stood on a hillside of vines. Each vine now has one to two arrows (that was his word – my non-technical interpretation is arms) instead of the five or six they used to have, he explained, and they are all tied up using natural, instead of plastic, materials (see photo below). A green cut – trimming of leaves – in August boosts the sugar content of the grapes by letting more sun reach the small fruits.

But most importantly, growers have drastically changed their crop protection practices, which Stefaan says was a challenge, but one well worthwhile.

“Wine growers are very traditional and it takes a long time make changes here,” he says.

After World War II, chemical crop protection products were plentiful and made life easy for growers, who sprayed their vines up to 25 times during a growing season. But those practices began to change when growers became aware of the longer term impacts on a vineyard’s environment.

Now, farmers rely on integrated pest management – using good bugs to fight the bad ones – as well as careful and constant vigilance over their vines so that when there is a problem, it can be treated quickly and in a targeted manner before it spreads further.

“Our farmers now get by with spraying only up to six times per season and only when we really need it,” Stefaan says. “We now have green growth, birds and good bugs in our vines again, which we didn’t have before.”

IFAJ 2010 photos on Flickr.

Note: My participation in IFAJ 2010 is partially supported by the IFAJ Alltech Young Leaders Award.

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