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“Many wine producers are asking us for advice”

While Sonja Kanthak, wine-growing consultant at the IBLA (the Luxembourgian institute for organic agriculture) laments the fact that only a small portion of the Luxembourg wine-growing region has gone organic, she is pleased that increasing numbers of wine-growers are showing an interest in such methods.

This year has not been easy, either for organic or conventional wine-growers…

Sonja Kanthak: We had frost in May and sunburn in July… Although the harvest will not be huge, the surviving grapes are of a very good standard. This has only been possible due to a lot of hard work right up to the grape harvest.

The quality of wines from organic estates is well known in the Grand Duchy, so why in your opinion are these estates still in the minority?

That’s not an easy question to answer, especially since they receive more assistance here than elsewhere. This takes the form of advice and support including subsidies, but that’s not enough. Only 4% of Luxembourgian vineyards are organic compared to 7% in Germany and 8% in France. One thing for certain is that conversion is a highly personal decision that is worth taking plenty of time to think over.

What do you think is the key to further development of organic wine-growing?

The key is never the same for everyone as the various wine growers all have their own reasons. It is all about individual circumstances, which is something we need to respect and understand. Genuine consumer demand would be a good motivator. However, there is no doubt too little of it in Luxembourg to encourage people to take the plunge.

Are you disappointed by this as an IBLA consultant?

No, because a lot of winegrowers are asking us for advice. Quite a few estates are close to being organic without converting fully. It’s a matter of deciding what risks they do or do not wish to take. Wine-growers must ensure the survival of their businesses.

How many estates are in the process of converting at the moment?

Schmit-Fohl (in Ahn) is the only estate that has genuinely initiated the process (editor’s note: next year is the final year of its conversion – three years are required for certification). But once again, I can understand why wine-growers are taking their time. I actually advise them to start by testing out a parcel of land and gradually scaling up. It would be risky to go from 0 to 100% in a year, especially since this is not an easy wine-growing region like the South of France.

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