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Architecture, the treasure chest of Moselle wines

If the reputation of German wines from the Moselle needs nothing further to embellish it, that of their Luxembourgish – and even more so their French – neighbours is yet to achieve the same high standing. To remedy this state of affairs, the European Economic Interest Group (EEIG) Terroir Moselle, which brings together these three border areas, has decided to address the problem head-on by putting the emphasis on a common theme: architecture.

The Grande Région (the Greater Region comprising Luxembourg, Wallonia, Lorraine, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland) constitutes a rich territory of great complexity. Crossed by the Moselle, whose slopes bear vines in three countries from Toul to Koblenz, it is a land of ancestral wines. The presence of an ancient Imperial Roman capital, Trier, enabled viticulture to be introduced here two thousand years ago. Few places in the world can draw on such history.
Today, this trans-border area is a major economic player. If it is Luxembourg which is driving this activity, the entire territory benefits from this dynamism. Despite not having any dominant major city in it, the Grande Région nevertheless comprises some 11.5 million residents, a considerable market for regional producers, including 3,500 winemakers.

With wine tourism being on the increase practically everywhere in the world, Terroir Moselle decided to launch an Interreg project aimed at transnational promotion of the viticulture of the Moselle. Ségolène Charvet, who is the manager of the European Economic Interest Group, explains: “We thought about identifying a theme which has not yet been touched on by any of the three countries, and we hit on architecture, a unifying subject with plenty of potential.”

“You find buildings in schist and with half-timbering in Germany, whereas Luxembourg is noteworthy in particular for the contemporary buildings of the architect François Valentiny. In France, we find that the villages are often better-preserved than in Germany.”

The aim is to create a new offer to attract visitors, and primarily those already living in the Grande Région themselves, to discover this undervalued heritage. “We want to offer a showcase that will give a new image to the Moselle, beyond its boundaries,” she emphasises. It is a vast subject area, which involves highlighting buildings and structures associated with winemaking, and even whole villages, for their architectural qualities – ancient or modern.

What is on offer is incredibly extensive, and the initial challenge is to draw up an inventory of the existing heritage. Tourism actors in each country have been tasked with this initial step. “This first list is already picking out differences between countries,” comments Charvet: “You find buildings in schist and with half-timbering in Germany, whereas Luxembourg is noteworthy in particular for the contemporary buildings of the architect François Valentiny. In France, we find that the villages are often better-preserved than in Germany, and that they form notable groups of buildings, even if there is less winemaking activity there nowadays than in the past.” However, one common element unites the localities bordering the Moselle: “They are fairly densely-built villages, with houses built close together, because in the past these estates practised polyculture and needed to retain the maximum possible agricultural land,” explains Charvet.

This project is the most important one ever sponsored by the EEIG Terroir Moselle.

Once the list of points of interest has been documented, the ultimate selection will be made by the architectural colleges of the three countries: the Order of Independent Architects (Ordre des architectes indépendants) and the Luxembourg Center for Architecture for Luxembourg, the Council for Architecture, Urbanism and the Environment (Conseil d’architecture, d’urbanisme et de l’environnement) in France and the Chamber of Architects (Architektenkammer) in Germany. It will be included in a document which is intended to be “a gateway to a territory, the Moselle, which will be presented as a winemaking region in its own right”.

This project is the most important one ever sponsored by the EEIG Terroir Moselle. It will take three years, and should therefore be completed for September 2021. Its financial envelope is EUR 446,000, of which 60% is coming from Europe via the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and 40% from national co-financing (Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry for Economics, Transport, Agriculture and Viticulture, Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Finance, Saarland Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection, the Luxembourg Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Consumer Protection, and Grand Est Region).

The conundrum of wine sales in the Grande Région

In Europe, being a border region is often beneficial, but despite that it does not only generate advantages. While the free movement of goods and labour is guaranteed, strict rules still cover a certain number of products, including alcohol. For the winemakers of the Grande Région, it proves a real headache, because there is no harmony between the sets of rules in the three countries. Shipping a box of wine to customers living just on the other side of the border, or selling your wine at a festival organised outside its country of origin, and yet only a few kilometres from where it is cellared, calls for true dedication.

One vital arm of the Interreg project is precisely to facilitate the trade in regional wines beyond the territorial limits of the countries of the Grande Région. “While architecture is the angle chosen to develop a new wine tourism offer, the idea is to support the export of the production from these winemaking estates,” suggests Ségolène Charvet. Accordingly, the customs offices of the various countries are similarly project partners. Between now and 2021, Terroir Moselle will therefore produce a document which will clarify the obligations incumbent on winemakers when selling their wines beyond their borders.

As a secondary move, the Interreg project is hoping to help in bringing about a simplification in the procedures in this highly specific trans-border region. “And who knows, after that, if we can’t be proactive in making suggestions for other similar regions?” says a smiling Charvet.


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