Tom Hoffmann has run Bijouterie Hoffmann in Grevenmacher since 1996
On 6-8 September Grevenmacher will celebrate the 70th edition of its grape and wine festival. Locals Tom Hoffmann and his daughter--the 2015 wine queen, Roxann--discuss how the town is keeping up with traditions.
On the main street in the heart of Grevenmacher stands the Bijouterie Hoffmann, a family business run by Tom Hoffmann since 1996. Its roots date back to 1954 thanks to his father, Gusty, who was also a watchmaker by training.
Just in front of the shop is a fountain with a statue of two people carrying a grape harvest, a reminder of the importance of winegrowing in the region. This weekend, when Grevenmacher holds its 70th annual grape and wine festival, that fountain will be filled with ice to keep wine bottles chilled.
The Grevenmacher grape and wine festival is like “the national day of the Luxembourgish Moselle,” says Tom. “It’s indeed a reunion point, like the Schueberfouer. At the wine festival, you always met people from the whole region you hadn’t seen in awhile.”
Tom should know: having grown up in the Moselle town, he has fond recollections of the wine festival stemming from his youth.
The highlight of all the wine festivals was when his daughter Roxann won the title of wine queen in 2015. But the festival has played a part of both their lives. In Tom's early primary school years, for example, there was a man in town who put a special steel ring around the youngsters’ bicycles which, in turn, were decorated with paper flowers. Tom and his mates rode in the festival’s folkloric parade alongside the floats.
“If it was raining, the colours ran off the paper so if you had a white shirt on, there were colours dripping down by the end of it,” he recalls. “That’s something you remember your whole life.”
Later, as a member of the basketball club, Tom and his friends helped with float decorations or serving at the stands. “At that time, the whole parade was passing through the streets of the village. It was nice, there was a certain cosiness to it.”
Tom Hoffmann with his daughter Roxann who was crowned wine queen in Grevenmacher in 2015. Photo courtesy Bijouterie Hoffmann
But times have changed, Tom says. In addition to wine being served at the festival, now beer is also an option. The traditional ball is a thing of the past. The parade route has changed, in part due to the creation of the pedestrian zone in the centre of town.
Tom also recalls the days of “wine music”, Schunkelnand more traditional dancing.
Today, alongside the sounds of marching bands playing songs like “Kättche, Kättche”, there’s the thumping of disco and pop music. “That was not initially the idea of it,” Tom says. “It’s changing and getting more modern. There’s always a challenge to keep it traditional, but things are more difficult these days.”
But, he adds, “It’s a picture of our society.”
A wider trend
The struggle for tradition is also something Tom has seen in his business. Jewellery can now be made using 3D printing. When a watch needs repairs, it’s often cheaper for the owner simply to purchase a new one--not everyone wants to pay for a watchmaker’s time.
The trend is visible more broadly in Grevenmacher as well. “Before we had about 3-4 butchers, now we have one. There’s no electrician anymore, no wool shop when before there were 2, no real small épicerie for fresh fish or fruits. The last bookshop also closed down.”
Tom thinks part of the challenge is due to the pedestrian zone, since traffic is routed past the town’s centre. Previously, people stopping home from work, including cross-border workers, would park next to a florist’s and pop in for flowers, Tom says.
“In Grevenmacher, a village of about 4,000, a pedestrian zone is nice but perhaps it is too big for our small village.” Tom believes a better solution would be to create a zone de rencontre, or reduced speed area, as Dudelange has done. “The cars would be allowed to go 20k/h but only in one direction, and no lorries, which would make it a bit more lively again.”
Carrying on the tradition
Starting next year, Tom’s daughter and 2015 wine queen, Roxann, will take over her father’s business, having stopped her studies because “I prefer staying in the shop…I always watched the jewellery makers here.”
The year Roxann was crowned wine queen was, of course, the most memorable of the festivals for the father-daughter duo. Not only does it bring a glimmer of pride to Tom, but Roxann says, “I had always admired the wine queen and wanted to be a queen also one day. I was really happy when they asked me.”
That same year, the team at Bijouterie Hoffmann created the new crown--which will be worn by the next wine queen, to be crowned on 6 September. The crown is made with 161g of sterling silver, 11g of 18-carat gold. Tom says he pushed his team to see what was possible, and the uniqueness and craftsmanship is evident, from the tiny salamanders to the bulbous grapes featured in the design.
The wine queen crown in its phase of development. Photo courtesy Bijouterie Hoffmann
The team also wanted to showcase Grevenmacher in the crown, without disregarding the other wine festivals or wine queens of the region. To achieve this, 22 diamonds were fixed along the Moselle portion of the Luxembourg shape on the crown, each symbolising the main wine villages. A brilliant blue sapphire stands out for Grevenmacher.
It was as much of an honour for Tom to be a part of it as it was for Roxann to wear it. Nowadays, Roxann is also one of the 20-odd individuals making up the festival committee. It’s a year-round job, she says: “As soon as the wine festival is over, the planning starts for the next year.”
Like her father, Roxann agrees the festival has become more modern, but adds “we’re doing a lot of publicity in Germany, France, Holland, trying to get more people to Grevenmacher” in a bid to get the festival more known beyond the grand duchy’s borders. But that effort is not just about the wine festival, she says, “It’s also for the city, the country, the whole Moselle region.”