2019 was a great year for Belgian sparkling wine

2019 has been a vintage year for Belgian general and sparkling wine thatis produced here in particular. The high quality of the sparkling wine produced this year is all thanks to the weather conditions we have experienced during the course of the year. What’s more the not-for-profit group that represents Belgium’s wine producers says that the amount of wine produced this year in Belgium will also be higher than average.

Nevertheless, last year’s record of 2 million litres of wine produced in Belgium will not be matched this year.

The Chairman of the Belgian Wine Producers’ Federation Lodewijk Waes told VRT News that "I estimate that production levels will be 10% to 15% lower than it was last year." The Federation claims to represent 85% of Belgian wine producers. 

Optimal conditions

The quality of the wine produced this year has been high. This is especially the case with regard to sparkling wine, for which the grapes are harvested earlier in the year than is the case for other wines.

The reason given is the weather "This is because of the dry and warm weather that we had until mid-September. This meant that there were no diseases that cause mould to develop on the fruit. The sugars were also able to develop well. Early grape sorts were harvested at the start of September in optimal conditions and with as good as perfect sugar and acidity levels”, Mr Waes told VRT News.

The grapes for other “still” wines be they red or white had to ripen for a little longer and from mid-September the weather became more changeable this meant that the grapes were unable to reach their fully quality potential. However, Mr Waes says that the quality of this year’s still wines produced in Belgium was “better than in an average year” thanks to the good weather conditions earlier in the year. 

Older vines, more experienced growers

Generally speaking the quality of Belgian wine is improving as the vines become older and the producers gain more experience. "Belgian wine producers have invested heavily in modern technics in recent years. For example in double-walled barrels that can be cooled or in modern pressing machinery”, Mr Waes said.

Higher excise levels and the high cost of labour here are reason’s the Wine Producers’ Federation cites as the main reasons for the relatively high cost of purchasing a bottle of wine produced in Belgium. Furthermore, weather conditions are not always as favourable as they have been this year and this is not the case in traditional “wine countries” such as Spain and Italy. Belgian producers are also relatively small scale and the rule of economy of scale serves to drive up the price of wines produced here.

Nevertheless, wine production is a growth industry here in Belgium. Sparkling wine is the most frequently produced type of wine from Belgian vineyards, followed by white wine and then red wine. The Wine Producers Federation says that the area of land given over to vineyards in Belgium has grown from just 90 hectares a decade ago to 400 hectares now.