The last vintage year beats all records, but what wines should we expect ?
135,907 hectolitres – the highest yield of the decade
2018 will go down in the history books, and the figures released by Luxembourg’s Wine Institute (Institut viti-vinicole, IVV) in Remich demonstrate as much. Producing this outstanding harvest of 135,907 hectolitres required 18,075,651 kilos of grapes to be gathered in. Winegrowers had never achieved a yield on that scale at any time previously in the last ten years. During that period, the 130,000 hectolitre barrier has only been exceeded three times: in 2011 (131,988 hectolitres), in 2009 (134,786 hectolitres) and last year. The average for the last ten years is around 109,000 hectolitres.
The comparison with the previous two vintages is spectacular. The 82,947 hectolitres in 2016 and the 81,249 hectolitres in 2017 have been exceeded by a massive margin, and happily so: the winegrowers had sold all their stock.
Unprecedented sugar levels!
The grapes enjoyed perfect weather during the entire growing season, enabling them to fill with sugar. On average, the levels came out at 105 degrees Oechsle for Gewürztraminer, and 100 for Pinot Gris: that’s a lot higher than the average over the decade, which is 93 and 88 respectively for these two varieties. For its part, Riesling was up eight points compared to a normal year (91 compared to 83 degrees Oechsle). The Pinot Noir (97 degrees Oechsle, eleven points higher than for a classic year) could be one of the big winners in this vintage.
And what of the late-harvest grapes (“sélections de grains nobles”) garnered by a handful of winemakers? Jean-Marie Vesque (Domaine Cep d’Or, in Hëttermillen) has harvested Auxerrois at 180 degrees Oechsle, and Henri Ruppert (Domaine Henri Ruppert, in Schengen) Rieslings at over 240! The wines that will be produced from these parcels will be unique in the Grand Duchy.
What can we look forward to?
The old adage goes that you don’t make good wines with bad grapes: so that is something of a reassurance! For all that, this exceptional harvest is also a challenge for winemakers. Managing all this sugar is something out of the ordinary, and that will have consequences for the wines in this vintage. The wines of 2018 will be very rich, in aromas but also in alcohol, because the alcohol is produced through the fermentation of the sugar. The wines of the 2018 vintage will therefore not sport the classic characteristics of Luxembourg wines. The effect of the season’s growing conditions will take precedence, and that’s what makes winemaking so interesting!