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Study tour Wine in APD Germany – Western Balkans

IAK Agrar Consulting GmbH (IAK) organised an expert information trip to Germany from Mar 19-24, 2023 for the Regional expert advisory working group (REAWG) on Wine in the APD Germany – Western Balkans. The APD is funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and implemented by the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG) of South Eastern Europe and IAK.

The REAWG includes representatives of the relevant ministries of the six Western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – as well as their expert advisors from universities and research institutions in the respective countries. The IAK International Coordinator and the Project Manager accompanied the group, and the IAK Key Expert for Wine was also present.

The first stop on the trip was ProWein 2023 in Düsseldorf, the largest international trade fair in the wine world with trade visitors from 141 countries and 6,000 exhibitors from 61 countries – including some from the countries represented in the project. A SWG joint stand for all six Western Balkan countries is planned for next year.

Then it was on to Bonn to the BMEL, where the 11th interim meeting of the REAWG took place. First, BMEL officer Lutz van Elk, who has been accompanying the REAWG since 2018, reported on the latest developments in EU wine law and news from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). In addition, each country presented the status of developments since the last meeting and the thematic priorities for 2023. Key Expert Berthold Seitz spoke about the soon to start delivery of the fungus tolerant grape varieties (PIWIs) to the Western Balkan countries and the trial plots there. Afterwards, Prof. Gergery Szolnoki from the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences gave a lecture on sustainable wine tourism – a topic that the Western Balkan countries are very interested in, as they want to develop local tourist wine routes with the involvement of local winegrowers.

On Day 4, the delegation travelled along the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Middle Rhine to Bacharach, for a wine tasting with a pioneer of organic winegrowing. The participants also got to know several local businesses, e.g. a large dealcoholisation plant for wine, where they learned a lot about the production technology and the legal issues of dealcoholised wine, and a large sparkling wine cellar. The visit to the research project VitiVoltaic of the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences was about the use of solar panels on vineyards and the question of how well winegrowing and renewable energies can be combined and whether vines can, for example, be protected from negative weather influences at the same time.

In the evening, the group went to the other side of the Rhine to the wine-growing region of Rheinhessen, to a family business that refines grafts of the highest quality by using its own rootstocks and scions. It was very interesting for all participants to discuss here, as well as at other stations of the trip beforehand, not only specialist knowledge but also individual strategies on the subject of generational change.