Q&A: Limburg schools work to produce future winemakers

Summary

Grants from Limburg province and the Flemish government will be used for a variety of projects that aim to educate students and to raise the profile of the region’s wines

Gezondheid!

The government of Flanders and province of Limburg have invested €392,000 in projects that will boost wine production in Limburg and the rest of the region. Economy professor Ghislain Houben (pictured) of the universities of Hasselt and Leuven is closely involved in the projects and is a Limburg winemaker.

How will the money to support winemaking be used?

Pcfruit, the test centre for fruit growing in Sint-Truiden, and the horticultural school in the city will now be able to install equipment needed for winemaking. For about a decade, Pcfruit has had a vineyard for tests and will soon be able to train fruit growers or others from all over Flanders in vinification techniques.

The horticultural school will show students the various aspects of the process, thus creating a new and better prepared generation of winegrowers.

How is UHasselt involved?

We will look at how to overcome financial barriers for fruit growers and others who want to start wine production, by examining how they can join forces to be able to afford the necessary investments. A team of Hasselt researchers will also develop an app to analyse the feasibility of a viticulture project, taking into account how much people in the area have available and the kind of investments they have to make, for example.

Will this lead to increased wine tourism?

Students of tourism at PXL University College will use surveys to explore how the tourism sector in Limburg can be aligned with the growing wine production sector, so they can strengthen each other. A viticulture route or digital applications could guide tourists to winegrowers, who will also have to invest in ways to attract visitors to their businesses.

Is the wine production sector growing in Flanders?

Since about 2000, the sector has been flourishing here more and more. The main reason is global warming, which is making the local climate increasingly suitable for viticulture, while more southern regions have always been the traditional producers of wine.

The Russian ban on EU imports of a variety of agricultural products has also convinced many fruit growers of the necessity to diversify their production.