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Wine tourism on the three borders

Although the Moselle crosses several national borders, isn’t it really just one region?  This is the key message of Via Mosel’, a brand-new tourist initiative focused on wine and architecture cooked up by Terroir Moselle.

It’s no news that the Moselle has experienced some turbulent times over the course of its history. The banks of this river that cuts through the heart of Europe have provided an arena for some tragic events. Even now, in this pandemic era, it is sad to note that the concept of borders is still a reality, even in Schengen. As such, the work of the Terroir Moselle European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG), which involves rallying Luxembourgish, German and French stakeholders around vineyards and wine, has taken on added significance!

This spring, Terroir Moselle is launching Via Mosel’, a new cross-border tourist initiative focused on the overlapping themes of architecture and wine. “Both wine estates based in old buildings in the heart of villages and modern cellars recently built in vineyards are eligible for the scheme. Whole villages have also joined us,” comments Ségolène Charvet, Managing Director of Terroir Moselle. Around sixty estates and forty villages in Germany, Luxembourg and France have already been approved by a panel of specialists from the three countries (notably including members of architectural associations). “The list is still open, so any new applications are welcome!” adds Ségolène Charvet.

After all, there’s plenty to say on the subject! The region’s winegrowing heritage dates back to the Romans, with vineyards lining virtually the entire course of the river from Toul to Koblenz. Nowadays, vine stocks cover a total of 10,000 hectares, even rivalling Alsace (15,000 hectares). Essentially, this economy supported by its five PDOs and AOCs is highly fragmented, as it comprises between 3,500 and 4,000 wineries, each with an average of 5 hectares of land. These small areas come with a multitude of dedicated buildings, a good argument in favour of the Via Mosel’ scheme! “Cellars are examples of architecture meeting a requirement,” comments project coordinator, Lia Backendorf. “Winemakers are aware that this connection is precious, as it charts their family history.”

The best way of protecting this heritage is to ensure the prosperity of the wine economy itself.

Via Mosel’ is aimed at promoting this constantly regenerating heritage, since “the best way of protecting this heritage is to ensure the prosperity of the wine economy itself,” adds Marc Weyer, President of Terroir Moselle, himself a winemaker in Luxembourg. “Revenue generated by wine is used to keep these buildings in a good state of repair, regardless of whether they are listed or indeed old. Our aim with Via Mosel’ is to provide a tool whose economic impact will enable estates to invest and ensure their infrastructure lasts.”

Although architecture is the scheme’s focus, the cellars are set in varied landscapes characterised by complex geology. The distinction between the hard, dark shale found in Germany and soft, light limestone in Luxembourg and France is reflected both in the countries’ wine and architecture. These two rock types at opposite ends of the colour chart have prompted different building styles.  

However, approaches to town planning are often similar in the three countries. Villages are often huddled together, with narrow houses packed cheek by jowl to leave as much space as possible for arable land. Only settlements that have traditionally served as major trading centres diverge from this purely agricultural approach. Traben-Trarbach in Germany is one prime example.

Via Mosel’ has published a map showing the locations of participating estates and villages. An interactive version is naturally available on the website (www.viamosel.com), along with all sorts of practical information and a calendar. Via Mosel’ can also be found on social media (Facebook, Instagram). Terroir Moselle uses these various platforms to provide visitors with all the details they need to decide what to visit. “Our target audience consists of individuals who are prepared to organise their own trips and choose the places they wish to explore,” adds Ségolène Charvet.

You don’t always have to go to the other side of the world to make the best discoveries. It’s sometimes possible to unearth some real gems on our doorsteps. We just need to give in to temptation!

But borders still apply to wine...

The location of the Moselle Valley straddling three borders is both a major asset and occasionally an endless source of problems! This is particularly true for those producing and selling alcoholic beverages, as these goods cannot be moved freely between countries. Wine exported by winemakers must be declared to the competent customs authorities, with rates of applicable excise duty varying from country to country and different procedures enforced depending on the destination country. This is even the case for bottles crossing the river to be uncorked on the other side.

Via Mosel’s other mission is to simplify this situation. “What would be the point of setting up a comprehensive wine tourism initiative without considering how visitors can get hold of their favourite wines, particularly from winemakers’ online stores, once they have returned home?” asks Ségolène Charvet, Managing Director of the Terroir Moselle European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG), which set up Via Mosel’. 

A Belgian, French, German and Luxembourgish customs task force has therefore been put together. This has led to the publication of a 30-page guide outlining procedures. Although it has done little to increase their appeal, it has at least now clarified them. Ideally, it will be possible to reach a stage where all parties are able to simplify procedures in a cross-border area that is yet to be defined. But on that particular subject, the ball is no longer in Terroir Moselle’s court.

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