Exploring Luxembourg’s Emerging Wine Region
By Emily Draper
(Photo by Laurent Jacquemart)
The ‘W’ word is on everybody’s lips in Luxembourg, but these days the ‘W’ stands for wine, not wealth (I know what you were thinking). Drive 20 minutes southeast out of Luxembourg City centre along scenic forest-lined roads and you will find yourself shoulder deep within Moselle Wine Region’s fresh-scented steep-sloping vineyards overlooking the Moselle River. Considering the country itself is a mere 51 miles long and 37 miles wide, its wine region is surprisingly substantial and its vineyards, ripened by a rich variety of grapes, cover almost 1,300 hectares of land in total. Amongst them? An abundance of spectacular estates, wineries, bars and restaurants all eager to offer you a true taste of Luxembourg.
Moselle Wine Region
Bordering France and Germany, Luxembourg is quite literally surrounded by some of the world’s top wine producing countries, and its wine-growing conditions are just as optimum. A mild climate, hilly landscape and varied mineral-rich soils throughout the Moselle Wine Region all contribute to Luxembourgian wines’ simple yet elegant taste.
The region winds 42km along the Moselle River from Wasserbillig to Schengen with many quaint, historical winemaking towns and villages dotted along it seemingly pulled straight out of a fairy-tale. In them, narrow cobbled streets, just wide enough for a car to pass through, ramble between rows of rehabilitated medieval semi-detached houses, each of which proudly wears a different pastel colour, shutters and hanging flower baskets. As you ascend the hills, the roads widen and open out onto vineyards and estates overlooking the Moselle Wine Region.
Here, the buildings become grander; turreted Jugendstil villas stand next to post-modern, open plan houses, all of which brag panoramic windows that offer the best views of Luxembourg’s rolling wine lands. But not only do these towns and villages have gasp-worthy architecture, they are brimming with warm-welcoming locals and hidden private wine cellars well worth sniffing around for too – and of course, where there’s good wine, there’s good food.
Some towns and villages are more touristic than others, so it’s easy to find a vibe that resonates with you. While Wellenstein is a relatively sleepy residential village in the Moselle Wine Region, its neighbour, Remich, is much more activity-centric. It is the idyllic riverside stop for those looking for typical Western European community; a buzz fills the promenade which is often peppered with couples and families enjoying a stroll, a picnic, awaiting a riverboat tour or meandering the weekend markets and other town events that roll on through summer. Meanwhile, in Mondorf-les-Bains, you will find visitors soaking in the local natural thermal baths, indulging in spa treatments and wandering through pruned rose gardens at the region-renowned Mondorf Parc Hotel.
Wherever you find yourself in the Moselle Wine Region though, you are guaranteed to be surrounded by enveloping hills, forests and of course, vineyards, all of which are laced with scenic walking and cycling trails of both a casual and challenging nature. With such an abundance of great trails in the region, it is well-worth getting lost in at least one or two.
Grapes & Terroir of Luxembourg
Nature, boat tours and historic towns aside, wine is what truly crowns the Moselle Wine Region. The grape growing conditions here greatly vary within a short distance, allowing for a surprisingly wide range of flavours to be produced. In Grevenmacher for example, the soils are limestone-based and therefore the wines the area produces are vivacious, whereas the marl soils around Remich give the wines a more opulent character. This is a very unique feature for a wine region of a relatively small size; one that most European wine regions can’t compare with.
In total, the Moselle Wine Region boasts a variety of nine different grapes. The variety of whites includes the elegant Riesling, flowery Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, exotic Gewürztraminer, soft Rivaner, oaky Chardonnay and regional specialities Auxerrois and Elbling, and there is just one red – the Pinot Noir.
Rivaner and Riesling are the most favoured grapes in the region, making up the majority of Luxembourgian wines consumed. Rivaner, accounting for 29% of vines grown in the region, is typically harvested young, making it a light and very drinkable wine that is often served in casual settings. Riesling on the other hand is drier and more elegant, and despite being one of the most popular Luxembourgian wines, it only accounts for 13% of the regions’ vines because its growing conditions are much more specific and harder to find.
Whether a Riesling, an Auxerrois or a Pinot Blanc though, Moselle Wine Region’s wine is guaranteed to be perfect for an afternoon spent in the Luxembourg summer sun.
Crémant de Luxembourg
If there is one wine that you must try whilst in Luxembourg, it is the delectable Crémant. Besides, it would be hard not to: a Luxembourgian custom, Crémant is offered as an aperitif before any meal.
This sparkling sensation is as close as it gets to champagne; the same secondary bottle fermentation technique is used to produce it and being a short distance from the region of Champagne itself, the growing conditions of its grapes are pretty similar. Nonetheless, Crémant is still very much its own person and should be appreciated for the unique beauty that it possesses.
Look out for bottles labelled ‘Crémant de Luxembourg’ as these Crémants are awarded by the Marque Nationale for using solely Luxembourgian grapes. Common varietals used include Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Rivaner, Elbling, Auxerrois, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling rosés.
With so many delicious varietals, it’s difficult to get bored of Crémant – it’s just as well because upon any visit to Luxembourg, whether in the wine region or in the city itself, you can always expect a glass to be placed in front of you.
Luxembourg Vintners & Producers
Today, there are 310 winemakers in Luxembourg’s Moselle Wine Region alone, an impressive 55 of which are private vintners. There’s no better way to learn about winemaking than by visiting one of the private estates as they cultivate their own grapes and ferment and bottle them onsite, meaning the wine production process can be followed closely from beginning to end.
Often, a tour around the vineyards and cellars within an estate are followed by a well-deserved wine tasting. For an extra special experience, visit Domaine Viticole Cep D’or Estate; at the end of the vineyard trail you can enjoy a taste of their delectable Crémant Brut on the benches between the vines that overlook the Moselle River.
There’s around six producteurs-négociants (wine merchants) which make wine from grapes purchased from select contracted growers. There are also around 50 wine producers in the region, the largest one being Cooperative Domaines Vinsmoselle, who are also Luxembourg’s first wine and Crémant producer.
The cooperative has been producing fine wines since 1921 and now produces exclusive wine made from the grapes of its 450 winegrower members all along the Moselle River from Schengen to Wasserbillig.
With so many great wines being produced in Luxembourg, whether by private wine estates, merchants or major producers, it is easy to lose track of time (and the number of glasses you’ve consumed) as you kick back and sip on wine after wine.
Wine Taste Enjoy
Every year, there are many events across the Moselle Wine Region to celebrate the on-going winegrowing traditions that continue to put Luxembourg on the worldwide wine map. One of the region’s biggest events, Wine Taste Enjoy, falls annually on the weekend of the Pentecost (50 days after Easter Sunday).
During this weekend, more than 20 winegrowers, wine cellars and even some distilleries open their doors to the public to offer complimentary wine tastings along with guided tours of vineyards and wine cellars, as well as art exhibitions, good music and some culinary treats. Visitors not only get to acquaint themselves with the best of Luxembourg’s wine scene, but they get to meet and socialise with other wine enthusiasts and even the winegrowers and producers themselves.
Wine maps are available to show you which wineries are participating, what they are offering and where they are located. It’s then up to you whether you take the complimentary shuttle or drive from one stop to the next, or cycle/stroll along some of the many country routes through the wine land itself.
Alternatively, visit in the second weekend of February for the Wine Cheese Enjoy event, which operates on a similar concept, but focuses particularly on cheese and wine pairings. Many more events are scattered throughout the year in the Moselle Wine Region, so be sure to keep an eye out for an event near the time of your own visit.
Why You Should Visit the Moselle Wine Region
Many who visit the Moselle Wine Region and experience the exquisite taste of Luxembourgian wine for themselves are puzzled as to why it isn’t more prominent in the international wine market.
Altogether, Luxembourg makes some 17 million cases of wine per year, which may sound like a lot, but once the Luxembourgians have had their share, along with their Belgian and German neighbours, there simply isn’t enough to sell to the rest of the world – Luxembourg has fulfilled its production potential.
Despite its size disadvantage, Luxembourg continues to prove itself an equal contender in the wine (and especially sparkling wine) market, one that should be as celebrated and well-recognised as its fellow wine-making neighbours France and Germany.
Therefore, as a stand out wine region with fresh yet elegant taste, don’t forget to add it to your European wine tour. In fact, with the variety of wine, idyllic scenery and quaint European village vibes, you may just want to bump it to the top of your list.
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