Clos Mon Vieux Moulin, in Ahn, is celebrating its 330th anniversary this year. Despite its venerable age, it’s in robust health: in 2002 the estate passed into the hands of the 11th generation, personified by two cousins Frank (38) and Luc Duhr (42).
Ahn is a charming, small village entirely dedicated to winemaking. Walking through its narrow winding lanes takes you past a whole succession of wineries and it must be said that the number of top-quality estates is impressive.
To find Clos Mon Vieux Moulin, you’ll need to go out along the Donverbach brook, towards Niederdonven. The old windmill after which the estate was named is in fact the family home and not the cellar. This is housed in an old winegrower’s building with lovely vaulted cellars hewn into the hillside. From the steps leading up to it, you can enjoy the magnificent panorama over the Palmberg where the estate has several plots. To get to them, you simply have to cross the brook.
A little further to the north are the Göllebour vineyards. For Clos Mon Vieux Moulin this terroir is key, it owns half the vines here, i.e. 7 of the 14 hectares, “1% of the whole Moselle,” Luc Duhr says with emphasis. And how it came about is no ordinary tale! “It was in my great-grandfather’s time,” the winemaker explains. “At the beginning of the 20th century, the Moselle went through a difficult period. At the end of the First World War all the customs agreements with Germany were scrapped and so alternative markets had to be found [attention turned to Belgium, heralding the founding of Belux in 1921, then Benelux in 1947]. Many winegrowers sold their vines and so my great-grandfather bought them up.”
Jean, Luc’s uncle and Frank’s father, adds: “At the same time, there was a widespread epidemic caused by the grape worm, which people didn’t know how to eradicate back then. Many winegrowers simply gave up and decided to leave everything, especially on the Göllebour.”
Their great-grandfather had a vision, he could see the potential of these south/south-east-facing plots which enjoy maximum exposure to the sun and where a welcome breeze helps dry the fruit in the morning (a good way of limiting cryptogamic diseases, caused by fungi) – and so he invested here. Today the whole family is agreed that this was indeed a masterly stroke! “Thanks to him, we have large plots on extremely high-quality terroir. We’re able to work these vines efficiently and harvest excellent grapes,” Luc says with satisfaction.
The country’s first Gewürztraminers and first Pinot Noirs were planted on the estate, in the early 1970s
In keeping with the family’s belief in looking forwards rather than backwards, the estate’s two front men are also producing new wines. “The country’s first Gewürztraminers and first Pinot Noirs were planted on the estate, in the early 1970s, at the same time as those of the cooperative winery. The estate was also one of the founder members of the Domaine & Tradition Charter,” Luc Duhr explains. “So we have to keep moving forwards!”
In particular, their drive and energy have taken shape in their new top-of-the-range crémant: Cuvée Défi. Made with equal amounts of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, all from the Göllebour, 70% of the base wines spend time in wooden barrels. “Aging the wine in wood barrels allows us to play with a wide range of different tastes and vary the intensity,” Frank adds. These bubbles are also the fruit of patience: “They’ve been on the lees for 50 months, that’s over four years before we could even taste them!” Luc says with a smile. The longer the crémant remains in contact with its yeasts, the more complex the aromas it can develop.
The 11th Generation is another highly personal wine. “It may be Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris or our barrel-aged Pinot Blanc,” Luc Duhr says. “The 11th Generation is a special favourite that we only release when it has been a good year. As far as we’re concerned, what’s most important is that it can withstand time gracefully.” The last one dates from 2014 and is a Riesling from a small plot on the Palmberg, a gem that is no longer available. It will be a few years before the next one, likely to be a 2018 Pinot Gris, can be enjoyed.
And so that all these wines can be tasted, Frank and Luc Duhr opened their new wine bar (Wäistuff) last year. With its large windows, which look out onto the Palmberg vines, you’ll feel totally immersed in the estate’s production. And for summer evenings, the terrace here is simply perfect!