Nicolas Schmit (right), owner of the Schmit-Fohl winery, reckons that this year’s grape harvest will start around 7 September. Photo: Matic Zorman / Maison Moderne

Nicolas Schmit (right), owner of the Schmit-Fohl winery, reckons that this year’s grape harvest will start around 7 September. Photo: Matic Zorman / Maison Moderne

After a dry and sunny start to the summer, clouds and showers have now made their presence felt, suggesting that the grape harvest will start in early September, a little later than in 2022. However, the harvest should be good, provided the weather remains favourable over the next few days.

It’s finally time! After the long process of ripening the grapes, it’s nearly time for the grape harvest. “We expect to start harvesting around 7 September,” said Nicolas Schmit, winemaker and owner of the Schmit-Fohl winery. That means the harvest would take place a little later than last year.

However, vegetation is still about ten days ahead of the multiannual average between 1966 and 2022, according to Serge Fischer, head of the viticulture department at the Wine Institute (IVV), who also expects the first plots to be harvested at the beginning of September.

“We have the possibility of harvesting a very fine 2023 vintage,” Schmit said cautiously, aware that the weather must remain dry over the coming weeks to ensure a good harvest. The last week of August will be decisive, and no-one is safe from a weather setback.

Adapting to the weather

The weather, which has fluctuated constantly throughout the summer, affecting our mood and our motivation to work, runs the risk of “developing a species of fungus responsible for rot (Botrytis cinerea) at the very heart of the harvest,” pointed out Fischer.

Faced with this situation, Schmit makes sure that the grapes are sufficiently well aerated to avoid all forms of infection and disease.

Barring a miracle, the effects of global warming are unlikely to disappear. Winegrowers therefore need to find alternative solutions to adapt to future harvests, which will come earlier and earlier. Over the last 40 years, the harvest date in Luxembourg has been brought forward by a good week. “So we’re going to have to adapt to the ideal harvest dates for each grape variety and terroir, to preserve the style of our wine,” explained Schmit. Another consequence of global warming is that “the grapes are reaching a much higher level of ripeness than they did 10 or 15 years ago.”

To combat these problems, Fischer has recommended opting for strains that are more resistant to drought, as well as thinning out the leaves, sorting and grassing the vines before the harvest.

Recruitment, an additional difficulty

Another difficulty facing the sector is the difficulty of recruiting grape-pickers. It’s hard work that requires excellent physical condition, given that most of the vines are on slopes. Many of the grape-pickers come from the winegrowers’ families and from the Greater Region, but some are from Eastern Europe,  including Romania and Poland.

“Our employee who organises the team of pickers every year is of Polish origin. So most of the staff also come from Poland, and have done for 25 years now,” said Schmit. “We’re lucky enough to be able to use our grandparents’ winegrowers house to house our 12-strong team.”

It is important to remember that certain rules must be respected, stressed Fischer. Under the law of 20 December 2019, rooms rented out or made available for residential purposes must meet health, safety, habitability and hygiene criteria.

Originally published in French by and translated for Delano