The elections of last October saw the socialist politician Romain Schneider returning to the post as Minister of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development. The man from Wiltz is back in the office he held from 2009 to 2013.
You were Minister of Viticulture previously, between 2009 and 2013; how does it feel being back here?
Romain Schneider: It’s a series of reunions, in effect! I have good memories of here. In 2009, I had everything to learn, which is no longer the case. Even if things have moved on, I am not starting from zero. I have a good basis to work from! That’s important, because the sector is facing up to new challenges. The growing demand from consumers for organic products is one of the most significant of these.
The aims of the government’s environmental protection programme are ambitious; how are you going to win over winegrowers when organic makes up only 4% of the area given over to vines?
But on the question of organic, the winegrowing sector is the one that has made the most progress! Insecticides are no longer used on the vines, glyphosate has been marginalised… While certified estates are not particularly numerous, practices have evolved a lot: winegrowers are making efforts, and that is not something which is just starting now. What’s more, I am pleased to see that young winegrowers are often very aware of these issues.
I am seeing a new push towards using oak barrels, which is interesting!
You often mention the three pillars of your policy: the environment, the economy and the social sphere. Can you expand on this?
Moving towards greater sustainability is inevitable, because consumers are demanding it. And winemaking is getting there – I have no doubts on that. The economy, naturally, is essential: the winemakers need to be able to sell their wines well, at a fair price, and achieve sufficient returns to ensure that their business can survive. In terms of the social sphere, while the producers should be able to realise an adequate income, it is similarly very important that they are able to benefit from a fulfilling social life. If we want young people to commit themselves to the sector, it is also necessary to give them a guarantee that they will have time for their family. We are working on initiatives that will improve their working conditions and their wider lives. The future law on making working time more flexible in agricultural enterprises, within well-defined limits, particularly depending on the seasons, can enable that.
The pursuit of improving quality remains a priority…
Of course! Intrinsically, the quality is there. Nobody can deny that. For example, I am seeing a new push towards using oak barrels, which is interesting! Thanks to the Wine Institute (Institut viti-vinicole, IVV), winegrowers can benefit from expertise and support which can enable them to progress even more rapidly. What’s more, we are going to make it even better: in the next five years, we will build a new laboratory with even more equipment for the IVV.