On 22 September, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg came to see how things were going with the grape harvest on the Moselle. Xavier Bettel, whose view of wine is inextricably linked with sharing, looks back on the role it played in his family.
This has been a very strange year with an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, which has not left winemakers unscathed…
Xavier Bettel: It has affected everyone and every sector. This is an indiscriminate crisis that has left no one truly unscathed. At the moment, I am meeting with various national economic actors. It’s important to listen to them in order to properly identify problems.
Fortunately, this year appears to be a very promising vintage in the vineyards.
Winemakers are telling me that the weather has resulted in a very high standard of quality, although many vines have been adversely affected by the sun. Quantities will therefore perhaps be slightly lower. However, this is something we have seen for a while in Luxembourg. There has been a paradigm shift. Thirty years ago, we were mass-producing medium-quality wine, which was often sold in one-litre bottles that were the cheapest in the supermarket. Nowadays, our winemakers are producing quality wines. There is no longer any reason for us to be ashamed of Luxembourgian wine. On the contrary, we can be very proud of it!
I delivered wine on an evening while I was a deputy and still studying
However, it still doesn’t have the reputation it deserves …
Its image both here and in the Grande Région is still good though! I know restaurants that serve it in Brussels. However, there are no doubt fewer of them in Paris, and efforts certainly need to be made to promote it. The fact is though that we produce limited quantities, with insufficient volumes to enter large markets.
Are you a wine enthusiast?
My problem is that I love absolutely all types of wine! I’m a big fan of Pinot Gris and barrique-matured wines, for instance, even though they are very different. In summer, I really enjoy slightly chilled Pinot Noir, although I must admit that I like it much more now than I did twenty years ago. I should point out that I only drink wine with friends. I can’t drink it on my own. Wine is a drink for sharing. Although I really enjoy drinking a good bottle, it’s equally satisfying to share it with my friends.
Do you keep a fine cellar?
I wouldn’t say a fine cellar… but you know my father ran a wine store in Luxembourg. I grew up with wine – it’s in my blood. I did wine tastings with my parents at the Fair (editor’s note – Luxexpo). When he died 21 years ago, I bought back quite a bit of stock from my mother, because we could no longer manage. We had to liquidate the company. I delivered wine on an evening while I was a deputy and still studying – I was taking additional classes in Luxembourgian law (editor’s note – required for pleading at the bar in Luxembourg). When I visit the Moselle and meet winegrowers, it strikes me that it’s also often a family affair for them.
The handover between generations occurs more smoothly at some times than others … although a new generation of passionate young male and female winemakers is currently emerging.
While it’s true that young people are taking over estates, this transition requires more encouragement. The average age in the profession is still quite high. It’s important to show young people that winemaking is a good trade that should not be abandoned. It’s also a question of responsibility. The land is something we share and each farmer and winegrower must respect it. We pass on the land we cultivate to future generations. The right balance must therefore be struck between production and preservation of this shared asset. It’s important to comply with environmental regulations. Whatever happens, we must avoid conflict and all seek to move in the right direction.
Are Luxembourgian wines served at the dinners you hold as head of the government?
Every time! A crémant is always offered as an aperitif and a white wine served with the starter. It then depends on what the main course is, but at the end of the meal, we often serve a sweeter wine … or a drëpp (editor’s note – an eau-de-vie)! I trust the team at Senningen Castle. When we host delegations, they take good care of everything! At home, I also serve guests Luxembourgian crémant and wine. I’m proud of it! (laughs)