While New Zealanders are worrying about the threat of mining to our conservation areas, a similar but different threat is under way in Europe. Over the last 20 years, the Brussels wine lake has shrunk in size by nearly 40%, due to wine being extracted for various industrial uses. The lake, covering 100 hectares just north-east of Brussels, is considered by ecologists to be one of the ten most internationally significant landscape features in northern Belgium.
Plans to drain the lake began in the 1980s, with people arguing that it was of little economic value, and that the land could be better used for producing foodstuffs of greater value to the people of Western Europe, such as butter. Members of the nascent European Coffee Party movement argue that the wine lake should have been drained decades ago, and that the only reason it’s still there is because of European Commissioners and other Brussels-based bureaucrats like to sail on it in the weekends.
The wine lake has contributed expressions to many European languages. The English expression ‘pissed as a newt’ makes more sense if you realise that it was originally ‘Pissed as a Newt in the Brussels Wine Lake’. If the wine lake is destroyed, the birthright of all English-speaking children to understand the origin of this expression will be lost forever.
The small heads on long stems that are characteristic of Brussels Sprouts evolved for growing in shallow lake-water, with only the heads poking out of the water. Many people do not realise that these were originally native to many other European cities. But the reason they came to be known as Brussels Sprouts, rather than Paris Sprouts or Belfast Sprouts, is that only Brussels residents ate them. This is not, as many people believe, because residents of Brussels have no sense of flavour. Rather, the Sprouts that grew in the Brussels wine lake actually tasted good, due to the flavour of the wine. They were introduced to other European cities during the post-war rationing period of the 1940s.
Members of Christian religious sects set up by people who have read The Da Vinci Code believe the wine lake was originally a water lake, until Mary Magdalene took her son there on holiday in 42AD and he decided to imitate daddy.
The biggest threat to the lake comes from French petroleum companies extracting wine to process it into a synthetic diesel fuel known as ‘vin diesel’. Please write to your MP to say YOU want the government to keep Vin Diesel out of New Zealand. Many governments have already banned it for environmental reasons, including the United States, Mexico, Malaysia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Other threats to the wine lake come from a faction in the European Parliament who want to shift it to Bulgaria as a job-creation scheme for impoverished areas, and a group of Polish bishops who have threatened to transubstantiate it into the blood of Christ.
The Brussels Wine Lake is the last Semillon wine lake in the world. There are wine lakes in Australia, but they are mostly dry reds.
April 1, 2010