A decade ago, several Luxembourgian, German and French producers set up Charta Schengen Prestige, one of the world’s rare cross-border appellations. Needless to say, the town in which the agreement of 1985 was signed is famous across the globe!
The idea of Charta Schengen Prestige is to certify the meticulous work carried out by its members on selected parcels and provide a seal of quality for the wines they bottle. In Luxembourg, the initiative includes the Vinsmoselle cooperative and the wine merchants Desom, Saint-Martin and Krier Frères. The German contingent consists of the Herber (Perl) and Appel (Nittel) estates. In recent years, the French have opted for a less prominent role.
A vineyards commission comprising representatives of each estate inspects all declared parcels one month after flowering and three weeks before harvesting. They are given a mark out of 100 for their inherent qualities and work carried out (non-use of pesticides or herbicides, green cover, etc.).
Charta Schengen Prestige is uncompromising on several issues. For instance, parcels must have a minimum gradient of 15% and be south-facing. A limit of 12 to 15 grape clusters per vine stock is imposed and yields must be under 60 hectolitres per hectare (compared to 75 for the high end of the Luxembourgian Moselle protected designation of origin). “A total of fourteen criteria are used to determine the score,” explains Serge Gales, chairman of the Charta Schengen Prestige committee, member of the vineyards commission, and vice-president of Domaines Vinsmoselle.
Although the commission has the authority to reject vineyards that fail to meet requirements, this penalty is very rarely applied. “Everyone understands and accepts the rules and Charta Schengen Prestige members all apply good working practices,” asserts the chairman. “Although 75 out of 100 is the pass mark for parcels, in reality virtually all of them are awarded at least 90 points.”
“The key criterion is to only select wines suitable for being laid down for long periods”
However, vineyard work is merely a step towards the ultimate goal of producing the finest possible wines. And the final say on that point goes to the tasting committee. Its members are Aender Mehlen, wine inspector at the Luxembourg Wine Institute in Remich, journalists from the specialist press, sommeliers, cellar managers and winemakers. The committee meets every year in early November to perform a blind tasting of wines from the previous year. Members never test wines they produce themselves. Depending on the year, 10 to 15 wines are put forward, not all of which pass this stage.
Like the vineyards, the wine must meet a number of criteria ensuring that it faithfully reflects the Moselle style. The grapes’ sugar content must be at least 85 degrees Oechsle for Riesling, Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc, and 90 degrees Oechsle for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. In contrast, the residual sugar (left in the bottle) must not exceed 10 grams per litre, with the exception of Gewürztraminer, which can be sweeter.
The key criterion is to only select wines suitable for being laid down for long periods. Each estate is free to apply the label to as many wines as required. Every year, Vinsmoselle offers a full range of Charta Schengen Prestige wines, while Caves Saint-Martin limits its offering to Pinot Gris and Riesling. Krier Frères and the Desom estate only market a Riesling under the label. And the only reason none of the producers make a Charta Schengen Prestige crémant is that only still wines are eligible.