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    Belgium’s wineries predict a very good year for 2019

    A vineyard in Torgny in Luxembourg province, the southernmost place in Belgium © Jean-Pol Grandmont/Wikimedia

    Belgium’s wine producers are predicting a good year for 2019’s wine harvest, albeit not as good as last year, according to the trade association, reports the VRT.

    Last year’s warm summer saw a record production of two million litres of wine. This year also had a warm and dry summer, and production is expected to be 10% to 15% lower than 2018 – but that’s still a lot better than the average year for Belgian producers.

    At the same time, the quality is excellent, reports Lodewijk Waes, president of the Belgian Winemakers’ association, which represents 85% of the industry. In particular, the crop of sparkling wine.

    The happens thanks to the dry and warm weather we had until mid-September, which meant there were no fugal illnesses. And the sugars in the grapes were able to develop well. The early grape varieties were harvested at the beginning of September in perfect conditions, with sugar and acidity levels as close to perfect as can be.”

    Grape varieties for other red and white wines went on after that to mature further, and changeable weather from mid-September meant those grapes finished maturing in less than perfect conditions. Still, given the perfect weather earlier in the growing season, 2019 will turn to be a “better than average year,” Waes said.

    Another factor is the development both of the vines and in the experience and know-how of the producers in what is, after all, a relatively young industry.

    Belgian wine producers have also invested heavily in recent years in modern techniques,” Waes said. “That means for example double-walled barrels which can be cooled, or more modern pressing installations.”

    Despite healthy production figures, Belgian wine remains more expensive than wine from other countries, for two main reasons: the higher excise duty and wage costs in Belgium; and the fact that Belgium does not enjoy the consistently good weather found in producing countries like Italy and Spain, which allows their growers to maximise their output.

    Belgium now has about 380 hectares of land under vines, up from 40 hectares a decade ago, and has plans to increase to 1,000 hectares in the near future. The EU as a whole has about three million hectares of vineyards, dominated by Spain, France and Italy, accounting for 74.1% of the total (Source: Eurostat, 2015 figures). It produces mainly sparkling and white wine, with a smaller amount of red, while rosé makes up only a tiny share of the market.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times