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Monday 31 May 2021

A glass of Belgian wine, anyone?

When you think of wine-producing nations in Europe you probably think first of France, or Italy, then maybe Spain or Portugal, or perhaps Germany or Austria.

Very few wine lovers would know that beer-loving Belgium even has a wine industry - but the number of Belgian wine growers is increasing year after year and grew by a quarter in 2020 alone, the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT) reported.

No fewer than 198 wine growers were registered in 2020, said The Brussels Times.

Winemaking  has been booming in Belgium as more and more growers in the country join in, and Belgian wines have even won prizes in international competitions. The vineyards sometimes use outdoor heaters to keep the vines safe from frost (above).

Grape varieties include chardonnay, chasselas, pinot blanc, muller-thurgau, gamay, merlot and pinot noir. 

Europe has also awarded nine regions in Belgium special designation as protected wine regions.

“For our company, 2020 was the year of the start,” said Dirk Syx, general manager of the Den Nachtegael winery in Westhoek, on the French border next to Pas-de-Calais.

“Belgian wine growing is increasing in prestige and value year after year. The shift from craftsmanship to entrepreneurship is also in full swing. Who would have thought that together with all wine growers we would exceed 500 hectares? And the end is not yet in sight.”

The largest increase in the number of wine growers took place in the provinces of Limburg (37 wine growers compared to 27 in 2019) and Li├Ęge (21 wine growers compared to 9 in 2019).

Flanders has twice as many winegrowers as Wallonia with 68% of the total registrations, but Wallonia is beginning to catch up.

“Viticulture in our country is growing and flourishing,” said Flemish Minister of Agriculture Hilde Crevits.

“The wine growers seem to have the wind in their sails: they are growing strongly and there is a remarkable diversity.”

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