2019 is not a popular year among the Grand Duchy's winemakers: The vines suffered from frost in May and the heatwave in July – it looks like the 2019 grape harvest will be difficult. Despite the capricious weather and losses in terms of quantity, the Luxembourg's winemakers are expecting an excellent quality wine, thanks to their know-how. Serge Fischer, a research manager at the Luxembourg Wine Institute (Institut viti-vinicole - IVV), points at the efforts made to adapt to the effects of climate change to explain that the impact of the weather on the grape harvest remains limited.
The weather has been a recurrent topic of conversation this year. How do the winegrowers see the situation?
Winegrowers have suffered from the weather conditions this year. The vines were badly hit by late frosts in May. Then the drought seriously affected the recently planted vines. And finally the exceptional amount of sunshine during the July heatwave burned those grapes that didn't have any leaf protection. Happily, the remaining bunches developed exceptionally well and matured well.
Will the Grand Duchy's winegrowers have to adapt to climate change?
Climate change is having a serious effect on the wine-producing sector. It is above all the variations in the weather, which are becoming more extreme as a result of climate change, that make it necessary to adapt vine-growing. For example, vine professionals are beginning to plant grape varieties selected for being less susceptible to rotting.
Global warming nevertheless has one advantage for the wine-growing sector. It used to be quite normal to have years when the grapes didn't fully mature. It has to be said that this doesn't happen any more – the last 'bad year' was 1984.
So how does that affect the 2019 grape harvest?
The harvest will be difficult in those places that suffered from frost damage or sunscalding (sunburn). In areas that were frosted, the grapes have not developed evenly, and have therefore reached different stages of maturity: that sometimes means it is necessary to pick over the same vine twice. Sunscalding has resulted in the affected grapes wilting. Here again, it's necessary to be selective and only harvest the unaffected grapes.
Will this affect the quality of the wine?
As long as the grapes are sorted carefully, the difficult weather conditions won't have a negative effect on quality. The remaining grapes are of excellent quality.
Which are the most popular grape varieties in the Luxembourg Moselle area?
The most popular variety is still the Rivaner, which accounts for 23% of the 1,300 hectares of vines grown in the Moselle area. The proportion has nevertheless been falling in recent years, in favour of Burgundy varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Auxerrois), which are being used increasingly frequently for producing 'Crémant de Luxembourg' sparkling wine. Among these varieties, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris in particular are increasing in popularity. The area they cover has increased in the space of twenty years from 221 to 327 hectares.
When will our readers be able to try the first samples of the 2019 vintage?
The first wine will be available as 'primeur' wine in November for the Pinot Noir and Auxerrois varieties. The first time all the other varieties of the 2019 vintage will be available will be at the Grevenmacher wine fair in April. And don't forget the 'vin bourru' (Fiederwäissen – partly-fermented wine), available from winegrowers during the grape harvest.
(information compiled by the editorial team of the portal www.luxembourg.lu)