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Josy Gloden président Vinsmoselle Moselle Luxembourg

Josy Gloden, in Charge in the Vines

The fourth generation of a family of winegrowers, three of which have played a major role in the history of Domaines Vinsmoselle, Josy Gloden does not want to be thought of only in terms of his status as heir. While he doesn’t reject his background, he does aim to mark out his own territory too. The chairman of Vinsmoselle is an entrepreneur who can stand on his own two feet.

Josy Gloden (45) is an important man for this region: since the start of summer 2017 he has been chairman of Domaines Vinsmoselle, the biggest wine producer – by far – in Luxembourg. The cooperative, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary two years ago, works 58% of the vineyards in Luxembourg and markets 250 different wines. The cooperative’s greatest success comes from having been brave enough to focus on sparkling wine production, as soon as the Crémant de Luxembourg appellation was introduced back in 1991. Today, the Poll-Fabaire crémant production centre in Wormeldange produces 1.2 million bottles per year, with ever increasing production even if it has been tapering off for a few years now.

Running the cooperative is a huge responsibility; however, the Gloden family can shoulder it, taking it fully in its stride. Josy’s father Vic was one of the co-founders of Vinsmoselle in 1966, and was even its first chairman for… 37 years, until 2003! His grandfather, who was also called Josy, co-founded the Wellenstein cooperative winery in 1930. It was when this cooperative joined together with its sister cooperatives in Grevenmacher, Stadtbredimus, Greiveldange, Wormeldange and Remerschen that Vinsmoselle was created.

I’m quite different from my father who was far calmer than me!

At every stage of cooperative viticulture in Luxembourg, a Gloden can be found at the top of the pyramid. However, although this has obviously not happened by accident, Josy Gloden doesn’t see himself as son and heir. “I don’t like talking about that too much… and I’m quite different from my father who was far calmer than me!” he admits. He has climbed up the ladder steadily, from when he joined the board of directors in 2003 to chairing the Technical Committee in 2005, when he had only just turned 30. “And as you know, in a cooperative, the chair doesn’t make all the decisions on their own. There’s no me – only us: the notion of working collectively is very important”.

What’s more as he points out, times have changed. “In my father’s day, things were easier: there wasn’t the competition that there is nowadays and customers behaved differently. Each family would choose its estate and then stick with it. But it just doesn’t work like that now.” And also it has to be said that up until the 1980s-1990s the Moselle wasn’t quite so bothered about its wine. Elbing and Rivaner flowed in abundance, while there was much less investment than today in grands crus which were scarce then. As long as the glasses were full, everything was fine.

When we create new wines such as, this is the culmination of the collective discussions I’ve been involved in.

As the cooperative’s chairman, Josy Gloden cannot revolutionize everything all at once. However, it doesn’t stop him from shifting his business to a different scale. “Before, this used to be a family business,” he says. “Now, it’s a proper business, no more no less, and you have to know how to run it.” Since Josy has been at the helm, the estate has been greatly extended becoming one of the largest in the country. Yet, however much of an entrepreneur he may be, that doesn’t mean that Josy has thrown away his work clothes. Leaving the vineyards behind is out of the question: “I enjoy everything: harvesting, pruning and so on – there’s always something different to do.” When the grapes are being picked, he can be found driving a tractor to deliver grapes to the cellar in Wellenstein.

If you ask him whether with his degree in viticulture and oenology from Geisenheim University (in Germany on the Rhine), he doesn’t mind handing the whole winemaking process over to the cellar master (Matthias Lambert in Wellenstein) and technical director (Bernd Karl), he replies with a definite no. “If I’m heavily involved with the Technical Committee, it’s precisely because I’m interested in the winemaking process,” he explains. “When we create new wines such as, for example, our oaked white wines, this is the culmination of the collective discussions I’ve been involved in.”

And as for whether he might feel tempted to leave the cooperative to become independent and have control over the whole process: “Never!” he instantly protests. No, you can’t turn your back completely on your DNA!

Josy Gloden président Vinsmoselle Moselle Luxembourg
Josy Gloden.
Organic Winegrowing? Not As Straightforward As It Seems…

In 1996, Josy Gloden spent almost six months at the Zind-Humbrecht wine estate, one of the leading estates in Alsace, which today is spearheading biodynamic winegrowing and produces wonderfully crafted wines. “I went on a training placement there before going to study in Geisenheim,” he recalls. If back then the estate had not yet gone organic, Josy Gloden can remember the attention to detail in the work carried out both in the vines and in the cellar. “I learnt an enormous amount from Olivier (Humbrecht),” he acknowledges. “What I did there helped me make sense of what I learnt afterwards.” A few years later in Australia, he was able to put this craftsmanship into perspective. “During a study trip, we visited a large estate with a barrel storeroom the size of three football pitches: it was crazy, just like a real factory!”

Yet despite this, our Bech-Kleinmacher winegrower has not converted to organic methods, even if he has adapted his wine-making practices to make them more environmentally-friendly. “On 98% of my vine plots I no longer use glyphosate,” he points out. “The only two that get a very small amount, do so because they’re on a slope and it’s dangerous to use a tractor there to weed mechanically. I also restrict the amount of fertiliser by using just the bare quantities needed. I live with my land and I think carefully about every action I take.”

Nevertheless, Josy cannot see himself switching over to organic any time soon. “Would it mean we could sell more and at a higher price? I’m not so sure. And it’s one thing to say that we should be farming with organic methods while sitting in the Ministry, but I have to earn my living with what I produce and I don’t want to risk the future of my business this way.”

All the same, Vinsmoselle is also slowly going over to organic. Since 2014 organic wines have been produced, to be sure they’ve been kept somewhat under wraps for lack of production volumes. And those producers who can supply organic grapes are offered a bonus by the cooperative. The revolution isn’t going to happen overnight, but perhaps it’s beginning to take root.

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