The Kohll-Leuck estate in the small village of Ehnen is a fine example of the outstanding work done by independent winemakers. The business is now run by a well-matched and passionate duo – Luc Kohll and his brother-in-law, Claude Scheuren.
It’s true that a glimpse of the main building’s architecture is sufficient to gain a flavour of this estate’s spirit. The old house on the southern bank of the Gouschténgerbaach (one of two streams that run through the village) has retained all its old-fashioned rustic grandeur. However, while the exterior is steeped in the history of the surrounding area, the front door is a portal to another, resolutely modern world. In the cellar, the stainless-steel tanks are temperature-controlled and the grape reception and pressing stations have been redesigned to make them more ergonomic. Upstairs, the brand-new function room is a delight to behold. This bright, modern space full of exposed, wooden beams is the ideal setting for any wine tasting and embodies the two winemakers’ mantra that wine is all about sharing.
With the focus so clearly on meticulous and elegant winemaking, there is no room here for any pretence or affectation. Luc Kohll, son of Raymond and Marie-Cécile, never doubted that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. “I’ve always wanted to do this job and never considered anything else,” he smiles. Working in the cellar in winter, being out in the countryside in spring and summer, and driving a tractor is really all I’ve ever enjoyed doing!”
His training, which took him first to Trier and then Bad-Kreuznach (Germany), merely confirmed his passion. “Winemakers tend and cultivate their vine stocks, harvest grapes, make must and produce wine … they are involved in all these stages, which are all important. Each step is the result of choices that shape the end product. It’s very rewarding when your wine turns out exactly as you imagined it.”
I helped my father-in-law in the cellar, particularly with cleaning.
There is even greater cause for celebration when the transition between generations goes smoothly. Luc Kohll produced his first wine in 1999 aged 21. “It was a very large harvest – there were lots of grapes and not enough space!” he reminisces. Credit is also due to his father, who has made the experience a positive one by constantly supporting him and encouraging his choices, even when he strayed into new territory. “My father always tastes everything with us, but from the outset, he made it clear that it’s over to me now,” he adds. “I have a great relationship with him, which is made easier by him not being afraid to try new things!”
For over 25 years, Luc has been working with Claude Scheuren, who married into the family with none other than … Luc’s sister Sandy, making him his brother-in-law! Although winemaking is not in his blood, Claude quickly realised that he liked this unique working environment and joined the estate full-time in 2011. “From 1994, I lent a hand during the harvest like a tourist,” he reminisces. “I also helped my father-in-law in the cellar, particularly with cleaning, which takes an awfully long time since everything has to be absolutely spotless.”
With this interest and involvement in life on the estate and an increasing curiosity about wine, the idea of joining the estate full-time gradually gained traction. In 2007, he started working part-time for the business and when his father-in-law Raymond retired, the family was unanimous that he should commit all his time to Ehnen. So, he decided to take evening classes in wine-growing in Trier and marketing at the Chamber of Commerce.
The duo at the helm of the estate have proved to be a great match, both acknowledging that “it’s always been easy for us to work together”. Luc brings a passion for vineyards and wine drawn from his family history and a photographic memory of past experience from which no detail escapes. “I remember all the wines I make,” he says listing the characteristics of his first vintages. Claude, on the other hand, is a master organiser and planner. As a qualified systems analyst and former computer science researcher with experience of working in the HR department of a large Luxembourgian company, he excels in organising and optimising complex workflows. These skills are clearly an asset to a business of this type. “In my first career, I learned to do things like organising delivery rounds, arranging deliveries of supplies and managing staff,” he explains. Nevertheless, he spends most of his office hours outside the confines of the estate building. He can mostly be found working in the vineyards, a situation that suits him down to the ground!
As winemakers, we observe and respond to things.
Ultimately, the partnership between these two men in their forties is perfectly natural as they both apply their unique skills in pursuit of the same goal – working to the best of their abilities to ensure the truest possible expression of their terroirs’ character. “As winemakers, we observe and respond to things,” the pair proclaim in unison. “Our job is to make decisions at the right time, a window that is all the smaller for those seeking to work in a meticulous manner.”
And there is no doubt that they show great attention to detail. Their wines, which are produced with grapes from vineyards located within a radius of two kilometres of the cellar (which is itself a challenge when cultivating fifteen hectares) are all very distinctive. They are steeped in the terroirs in which they are grown. Naturally, great care is taken over the soil – pesticides and herbicides have been prohibited for many years, including on parcels planted on steep slopes. To produce these concentrated wines with their myriad aromas, yields are closely controlled and limited to 60 hectolitres per hectare on average.
The Kohll-Leuck estate is a family business in the best sense of the word. Luc Kohll and Claude Scheuren make a great team under Raymond’s watchful and benevolent eye. Their tireless commitment and pursuit of values are no secret, the best proof of which is the loyalty shown by their customers, almost 90% of whom are private individuals.