Published on September 10th, 2018 | by James Drew


eat! Brussels, drink! Bordeaux

The 2018 eat! Brussels, drink! Bordeaux festival has drawn to a close with thousands flocking to see some of Brussels’ best chefs at work,
writes Martin Banks.

Starting on Thursday (6 September) lunchtime, over 30,000 dishes and 90,000 tastings of Bordeaux wine were served at Brussels Park during the 4 day festival.

Established in 2012, the eat! Brussels festival has become the unmissable gourmet event of the early autumn and the symbol of the culinary diversity of the Belgian capital.

For the fifth year running, the festival has also consolidated its privileged partnership with Bordeaux Wines. The 7th festival invited 20 iconic chefs from Brussels who took turns in showcasing their signature dish to the visitors.

They included the highly rated and much travelled Californian Alex Joseph, owner/chef at Rouge Tomate on Avenue Louise in Brussels who has carved out a real name for himself since arriving in Belgium a few years ago. In 2015, for example, he won the prestige San Pellegrino best young chef title.

Since he took over at Rouge Tomate he has led the restaurant to a new level of refined dining, offering a contemporary and modern cuisine. He was present on each day of the event, cooking dishes in front of the packed audience. At the festival he showcased one of his signature dishes in particular: pork belly, deep fried octopus, sushi rice and Japanese Gomae spinach.

This year, the eat! Brussels, drink! Bordeaux festival also provided an opportunity to meet several of Brussels’ best cheese-makers and pastry chefs. They acquainted visitors with new flavours from their original selection. Each day they took turns offering a tasting plate of their best artisanal products. From Thursday lunchtime to Sunday evening, over 30,000 dishes were sampled … a 20% increase in comparison with 2017.

The 50 Bordeaux winemakers and wine merchants served nearly 90,000 tastings of Bordeaux wine, including sparkling, red, rosés and white wines. The Bordeaux Wine School trained 1750 people over the 4 days. And an international village showcased 11 regions, provinces and towns, all of which are partners of the Brussels Capital Region.

As well as giving top chefs like Alex Joseph a chance to display their culinary talents to an international audience, the festival provided a platform to raise issues currently deemed relevant to the food and wine industry.

Speaking at a news conference for the event,Allan Sichel, of Vins de Bordeaux, spoke of the “concerns” some wine producers share about the impact of climate change.

Partly due to climate conditions, the 2017  Bordeaux crop was just 3.1 million hectare litres, compared with a yearly average of 5.1 million.

He told this website: “This was a severe reduction in production and, although  it is not expected to be a large harvest this year, it is still hoped that the 2018 crop will be around the 5 million mark.”

Concerns focus, he said, on the “violent changes” in the climate, which have seen Bordeaux wine makers hit in recent months by everything from drought – with no rainfall since July – and heatwaves to hailstorms and floods.

He said: “These climatic changes are certainly a challenge which is already having a real impact and bringing severe consequences. This year, for example, the harvest will be two weeks earlier than the 30 year average.

“Fortunately, we are prepared for these changes, for example, by picking grapes earlier than in the past and by holding back stocks of grapes.”

Despite such concerns, Stephan Delaux, deputy mayor of Bordeaux (for tourism) says there still plenty of room for optimism about the future.

It is pointed out, for example, that Bordeaux wine accounts for some 15% of all French wine produced each year. Some 60% of all wine consumed in France comes from the region (2% worldwide).

There are 7,000 growers in the region, across an area of 112,000 hectares, supporting 55,000 jobs.

Dalaux said: “There is a market, of course, for wines from everywhere in the world but there is also  every reason to believe that the historical popularity of our wines will continue.We produce wines which are unique.”

An event spokesman said:”It was a great occasion which attracted thousands of visitors, both from Brussels and much further afield.”

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