Although Riesling is not the most widely planted grape variety on the Moselle, it’s the one that forges estates’ reputations. They’re well aware of this on the Clos Mon Vieux Moulin estate (in Ahn) owned by cousins Frank and Luc Duhr. And they have been for some time.
Riesling transcends all trends. This quintessentially noble grape variety enjoys a status that sets it apart in terms of reputation. After all, aren’t the most renowned terroirs on the Moselle primarily Riesling terroirs? The king of grape varieties shines brightest in the magnificent quartet of Wormeldange Koeppchen, Ahn Palmberg, Grevenmacher Groärd and Wintrange Felsberg.
Clos Mon Vieux Moulin, which has stood for over 300 years opposite the cliffs and terraces of the Palmberg has a very close relationship with Riesling. “It’s often said that Gewürztraminer is the most aromatic grape variety, but I think it’s matched by Riesling,” argues cellar master, Frank Duhr. “Its citrus fruit, apricot and flinty aromas are perhaps not so easy to detect, but they are just as refined!”
It’s interesting to observe the evolution of wine-growing in Luxembourg over recent decades through the prism of the bond between this iconic grape variety and this historic estate. After all, the nobility of any grape variety is wholly dependent on winemakers’ ability to reveal it.
We don’t produce any wines in tanks over 5,000 litres.
Clos Mon Vieux Moulin is a founding member of the Domaine & Tradition association (set up in 1988) whose mission is simple: to promote grape varieties through prestigious wines. Its current membership consists of eight estates (Clos Mon Vieux Moulin, Domaine Thill/Château de Schengen, Sunnen-Hoffmann, Gales, Mathis Bastian, Mme Aly Duhr et fils, Clos des Rochers and Château Pauqué). Although yields are limited to 60 hectolitres per hectare under the association’s requirements, the Clos Mon Vieux Moulin estate limits this even further. As a result, its wines are dense and capable of expressing their terroirs’ identity. This is particularly important for Riesling as the variety excels in revealing the soul of the parcels in which it blooms. “Although made in the same way, our Palmberg and Felsberg Rieslings (grown near Wintrange), are very different,” confirms Frank Duhr. “For instance, the Palmberg is often the drier of the two.”
To maintain grape integrity and quality, the new generation of winemakers have also significantly improved the way grapes are transported from vine to cellar and unloaded. “During the grape harvest, we take small tubs of grapes back to the cellar every two hours,” says Luc Duhr. “The aim is to press the grapes at low temperatures to avoid damaging them and prevent fermentation from starting in an uncontrolled manner before reaching the cellar. This sometimes happens when the weather is hot…”
Rieslings produced from the finest terroirs and those labelled Domaine & Tradition have one thing common: they are spontaneously fermented. This means that sugar is converted into alcohol using only yeasts occurring naturally on the grape skins and in the air. Although not an easy choice, this process enables the grapes to express their origins most faithfully.
All forty parcels are vinified separately for maximum precision. Only after fermentation has occurred can certain blends be put together, where required. “All our wines are produced with the same level of care,” says Luc Duhr. “The goal is to always ensure that we have the best wine in each tank.”
Quality is about attention to detail. Our terroirs offer us the potential to produce great wines and we have to be up to the task.
This tailored wine-making process requires cellar equipment enabling a high degree of flexibility. Since stainless-steel tanks were first introduced in the 1980s, there has been a trend for favouring small over large containers. “We don’t produce any wines in tanks over 5,000 litres,” explains Luc Duhr. “In 2011, we actually demolished a large concrete tank and replaced it with seven small stainless-steel tanks, which are a much better fit for our approach.” All the tanks used for the past fifteen years are temperature-controlled, which helps optimally control fermentation.
In addition to its stainless-steel containers, the estate also uses 1,700 and 2,700-litre wooden foudres for its terroir wines, Domaine & Tradition wines, and “11 générations” (premium-quality cuvées from only the best vintages). “The wood enables micro-oxidation, which provides a subtle added touch,” says Frank Duhr. “Rather than giving the wines a woody flavour, this adds an overtone that helps bring out their personality.” The foudres contribute approximately 10% to the final blend of still wines.
All procedures have been honed through methodological advances and the winemakers’ perfectionism. Having spent time with Luc and Frank Duhr it’s clear that they are chiefly driven by a desire to make wines they can be proud of. “Quality is about attention to detail,” adds Frank. “Our terroirs offer us the potential to produce great wines and we have to be up to the task.” This also involves showing maximum respect for nature’s bounty: “Our job is simply to tend, manage and monitor, nothing more.”