I am always drawn to the more unusual wines, so how could I resist this bottle from Luxembourg.
I have always known that Luxembourg makes wine, I have tried a few over the years – mainly sparkling, I’ve even sold a few in my time, but it’s still pretty unusual to find them easily available – so I thought that I would share the experience with you.
My general feeling about Luxembourg wine is that they often lean towards an Alsace style, as well as using the same grape varieties as Alsace – which is not far away – but there is none of the sweetness that seems to be creeping into Alsace wines nowadays.
If you travel south-west along the Mosel from Koblenz, where it leaves the Rhine, you pass through some of the greatest wine towns in the world and some of the most beautiful vineyards. Zeltingen, Bernkastel, Piesport and many others – all deserve a little exploring, before you arrive at the wonderful city of Trier. When I did the journey I stopped there, for a rather good beer as it happens, but if you keep on, the river changes direction and changes its spelling – it becomes the Moselle.
From where the river is the border between Germany and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to its source in France the name of the river is pronounced to rhyme with bell.
The German way, Mosel, is pronounced more like the Iraqui city of Mosul.
The bottle in question was a Pinot Blanc and there was a lot riding on it. I had recently been to an Alto Adige tasting and the Pinot Blancs there were disappointing to the point of blandness, so I wanted the grape to redeem itself.
I have a soft spot for Pinot Blanc, it is the unsung hero of the Pinot family and deserves more love and attention in my opinion. At the very least I normally find it less offensive than Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio.
Luxembourg wine in a nutshell:
There is just 1 wine region and 1 appellation contrôlée – the Moselle Luxembourgeoise Appellation Contrôlée.
This AC is made up of a strip of land that borders the Moselle River in the south east of the country, it is 42 km long and contains 1,300 hectares of vines – this compares to 15,300 in nearby Alsace and nearly 120,000 in Bordeaux.
As the region is not far from the vineyards of the Mosel, Alsace or the lesser known AC Côtes de Toul and VDQS Moselle in Lorraine, there is some similarity in weight of the wines and grape varieties used – as well as the bottle shape.
The grape varieties used are primarily:
Rivaner/Müller-Thurgau, Auxerrois, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Elbling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Gamay and Muscat.
All wine from the AC area is tasted by a commission and awarded points out of 20.
If the wine receives over 12 points out of 20 then it is awarded the Marque Nationale and may be sold as an Appellation Contrôlée wine.
These wines are then tasted again to see if they are worthy of being classified as either:
Vin Classé – if they achieve 14-16 points.
Or Premier Cru – if they achieve over 16 points.
A Premier Cru wine can then be tasted again and if it achieves 18 points out of 20 it is awarded the (the somewhat confusing) Grand Premier Cru – this is the pinnacle of Luxembourg wine quality.
The Champagne Connection
Interestingly Luxembourg wine production is historically closely entwined with that of Champagne. Mericer actually made ‘Champagne’ in Luxembourg City from 1886 until the 1930s, so important were they that the road the cellars were in is still called Rue Mercier.
Then in 1921 Bernard Massard came to Luxembourg from Champagne, where he had been a cellarmaster, and founded the company that still bears his name. Today it is the giant of Luxembourg wine and makes some very good sparkling wines as well as owning some of the best wine estates. Their Clos des Rochers has vineyards near its winery in the village of Grevenmacher as well as the more southerly commune of Wormeldange, while Domaine Thill is further south still in Schengen.
Quite pale, but very fresh looking and appealing with greeny apply tints.
The nose was clean and fresh with delicate green apple and softer peach notes.
The palate was fresh and lively with a nice feeling of minerality and a good core of clean acidity underscoring a succulent and slightly creamy texture and fruity weight. It is dry and medium-bodied, but pretty flavoursome with the taste of poached pear and peach balanced by the soft acidity of fresh pears.
A very good wine, balanced and enjoyable, this would be perfect with a salad or some seafood – 90/100 points.
£9.99 a bottle from Waitrose, so it is not cheap, but it is a lovely bottle to enjoy with a light lunch on a summer’s day.
I am sure that other wines from Luxembourg are available in the UK, but you really have to search for them.
As well as owning the Clos des Rochers, the house of Bernard Massard make some excellent sparkling wines by the traditional method – these are available from www.drinkon.com: Cuvée de l’Ecusson Brut & the Cuvée de l’Ecusson Rosé Brut – the Brut is also available in Nicolas shops.