Monday, April 18, 2016
Luxembourg: A Small Country with Great Mosel Wines so Different from their German Counterparts
The German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) returned to the Embassy of Luxembourg for a tasting with Ambassador Jean-Louis Wolzfeld. See here: The Wines of Luxembourg – A Small Country Which Produces Great Wines
Dear German Wine Society Members and Friends of German Wine, we will once again be at the beautiful Embassy of Luxembourg in Washington, D.C. for our next tasting on Friday, April 8, 2016 at 7 pm. Many of you will remember our very successful events at the Embassy of Luxembourg in 2011 and 2013, and this provides us with another exciting opportunity to try the varied wines of the “other Mosel,” the Moselle River in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Our host for this evening, as at our 2013 event, will be Ambassador Jean-Louis Wolzfeld, who is nearing the end of his tour of duty in the United States this summer, so this event also provides us with the opportunity to thank him a final time for his gracious hospitality to our Society.
Wine Producer Luxembourg
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg - a constitutional monarchy - is tucked between Belgium, France and Germany. The country is very small, 84 km long and 52 km wide, with a population of 500 000.
Luxembourg is not really on the world wine map, although Luxembourg has a 2000-year history of wine-making. The vineyard area totals about 1200 hectares, roughly 10% of Germany’s vineyard area. Most of the wine is consumed in the country, with Belgium the by far largest export country (80%). Very little Luxembourg wine is seen outside Luxembourg and Belgium.
Wine is made in the southeastern part of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg along 26 miles of the Mosel river that is Luxembourg's border with Germany. A lot of the wine is grown for the sparkling wine industry, with many millions of bottles of Crémant de Luxembourg sold each year. But the better, south-facing slopes of chalk, clay or slate over limestone, are reserved for still wines.
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In contrast to the downstream German wine region Mosel, Luxembourg has very little tradition of producing semi-sweet or sweet wines, despite a significant similarity in terms of grape varieties, soil and climate. Rather, the wines of Luxembourg tend to be fully fermented and dry. The main grape varieties in Luxembourg are: Müller-Thurgau, usually under the name Rivaner (29%), Auxerrois (14%), Pinot Gris (14%), Riesling (12%), Pinot Blanc (11%) and Elbling (9%).
Wine production in Luxembourg is dominated by a number of cooperatives. The cooperatives in Greiveldange, Grevenmacher, Remerschen, Stadtbredimus and Wellenstein source their wines from over 800 hectares of vineyards (almost two thirds of Luxembourg's vineyard surface) and sell their wines under the common name of "Vinsmoselle".
The Luxembourg wine classification differs both from the one in France and the one in Germany. Wines that meet the standards of the national seal - Moselle Luxembourgeoise - can also carry three additional quality designations: Vin classé, Premier Cru or Grand Premier Cru. These designations are awarded the individual wine after tasting by an official committee. In contrast, in neighboring France, the terms Premier Cru and Grand Cru are used to classify vineyards (Bourgogne) or wine estates (Bordeaux); in Germany, the sugar content at the time of harvest is the main quality criterion.
The Crémant de Luxembourg designation for sparkling wine is awarded within the framework of the Marque Nationale, meaning that only domestic grapes are allowed in the production. However, some sparkling wine produced in Luxembourg is just labeled Crémant and does not display the Marque Nationale. Such sparkling wines are produced from imported grapes, must or base wine.
Sweet-style wines are produced on a very limited basis: (1) Vendanges tardives is a wine typically made of botrytised grapes; (2) Vin de glace is an ice wine, made from grapes harvested in the frozen state and (3) Vin de paille is a straw wine, made from dried grapes. Generally, the wines of Luxembourg tend to be bone dry. In any case, you do not find the low alcohol wines with a touch of sweetness in Luxembourg, made by stopping the fermentation that are well known in Germany down the Mosel valley.
We started the event with a Reception, where a Luxembourg sparkling wine was served. Ambassador Jean-Louis Wolzfeld welcomed us and introduced us to the wines of Luxembourg, which tend to be bone dry, except for the noble-sweet wines. This was followed by remarks of Carl Willner, President of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter). We then moved to another room, where members of the German Wine Society were pouring at three tables. After an hour or so, we moved back to the first room for a round of specialty wines from Luxembourg. Throughout the evening, the Embassy served finger food to accompany the wines.
The very attractive mansion housing the Embassy dates from the beginning of the 20th century and became the residence of members of Luxembourg’s royal family as well as a diplomatic legation during World War II. Formerly the Ambassador’s residence, it has served as the chancery since the 1970s and was extensively renovated in 2002-2003.
We started the event with a Reception, where a Luxembourg sparkling wine was served.
Ambassador Jean-Louis Wolzfeld welcomed us and introduced us to the wines of Luxembourg, which tend to be bone dry, except for the noble-sweet wines. This was followed by remarks of Carl Willner, President of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter).
Tastings at Tables 1 - 3
We then moved to another room, where members of the German Wine Society were pouring at three tables, one with sparkling and rosé wines, one with wines from Caves Bernard-Massard and one with wines from Cloches des Roches, Schram et Fils and from the Domaine d’Etat.
The wines at Table 1 included:
Bernard Massard Cuvee de l’Ecusson Brut Blanc
Bernard Massard Cuvee de l’Ecusson Brut Rose
The wines poured at Table 2 were all from Caves Bernhard Massard
2013 Bernard Massard Grand Premier Cru Riesling
2012 Bernard Massard Vin de Qualite Rivaner
2014 Bernard Massard Grand Premier Cru Auxerrois
2014 Bernard Massard Grand Premier Cru Pinot Gris
The Bernard-Massard Group was founded by Jean Bernard-Massard, a young oenologist who had started his career as a cellar master in the Champagne. He created the German branch in 1918 and the Luxembourgian branch in 1921.
The main activity of the Bernard-Massard branch in Luxembourg was, and still is, the production of fine méthode champenoise sparkling wines, with today over four million bottles annually. However, the firm also has a long history of producing great still white Luxembourg wines. The company now owns the individual estates of Château de Schengen and Clos des Rochers (see above). In 1995, it also acquired Monmousseau in Montrichard, Loire Valley (France). Over the past 2 decades, the Bernard-Massard Group in Trier has taken over the Wein- und Sektkellerei Langenberg in the Pfalz, Château Fontesteau in the Haut Medoc and the Sektkellerei Hoehl in the Rheingau.
At Tble 3, wines from Cloches des Roches, Schram et Fils and from the Domaine d’Etat were poured.
The Embassy supplied some wines from its own cellar for the event, produced from the State Domain — ones that are not available for public sale but used only for events hosted by the Luxembourg government and its embassies.
The Domaine d’Etat is a government-owned winery, created in 1918. The wine it produces is not for sale and only served at official government functions. The Domaine d’Etat also fulfills other government functions, notably research and education.
Domaine Clos des Rochers: The 18 hectares of vines on the Domaine Clos des Rochers are spread around the best slopes in the communes of Grevenmacher and Wormeldange and in the locality of Ahn. They are planted with Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.
Domaine Clos des Rochers traces its origins back to the 19th century and has always been considered one of the most prestigious Luxembourg wine estates. Owned since the 19th century by the Clasen family, the Domaine Clos des Rochers belongs today to the Bernard Massard Group, which operates out of Grevenmacher in Luxembourg and also out of Trier in Germany.
2014 Clos des Rochers Grand Premier Cru Pinot Blanc
Tastings at Tables 4 - 5
We then moved back to the first room for a tasting of some older vintages (Table 4) and Luxembourg specialty wines (Table 5).
At Table 4 one could taste some older vintages:
2008 Clos des Rochers Grand Premier Cru Pinot Gris
2009 Clos des Rochers Grand Premier Cru Auxerrois
2011 Schram & Fils Bech-Kleinmacher Naumberg Riesling Vin Moelleux
Luxembourg’s specialty wines are produced in very small quantities and these wines are not normally available for sale in the United States, but we could enjoy them on the territory of the Grand Duchy through the German Wine Society without having to make a trip to Luxembourg!
2010 Guy Krier-Welbes Ellange-Gare Auxerrois Vendange Tardive
2009 Guy Krier-Welbes Ellange-Gare Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive
2007 Caves St. Remy Remich Grand Premier Cru Riesling Vendange Tardive
2007 Caves St. Remy Remich Grand Premier Cru Riesling Vin de Glace
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