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Ahn Palmberg riesling Moselle Luxembourg

The Palmberg Cliffs Watch Over the Rieslings

Palmberg is without doubt one of the best terroirs in the country. Underneath the dolomite cliff, which stores up heat during the daytime to then release it at night, the Rieslings here take on a personality which sets them apart from all others.

Riesling is the king of varietals and Palmberg is unquestionably one of its thrones. Located on the hills above the village of Ahn (which has the highest proportion of winegrowers per inhabitant in Luxembourg!), this terroir is ideally south/southeast-facing. From early in the morning, Palmberg is bathed in sunlight and enjoys heat throughout the day as the sun follows its course.

The vineyards are tiered; their terraces supported by dry stone walls which are currently being restored. The soil is clay-limestone; however, there is Muschelkalk (shell limestone) very nearby. The cliff overlooking this natural amphitheatre is hewn into the dolomite rock, a harder limestone, which was quarried until 1959. These rocks bear witness to a past when this area was underneath the sea. 225 million years ago, the Grand Duchy lay under the waters of a vast tropical lagoon, the remains of which can be seen from shell fossils or seaweed found in this limestone rock.

The direction in which Palmberg faces, its cliff and dry stone walls, as well as the woodland covering its top, have a profound impact on its microclimate. The stone retains the heat from the daytime, releasing it at night to the benefit of the vines and the whole local microcosm. The trees which tower over the cliff ensure that the area is protected from cold north winds.

Palmberg is one of the finest hillsides in Luxembourg, it is meant for great Rieslings

At the foot of the cliff a trout stream flows, the Donverbach, which has hollowed out proper small gorges and which can be quite wild. The stream also creates its own special world with ferns, moss, willows, beeches, blackbirds fishing for aquatic insect larvae and fire salamanders which thrive here under such ideal conditions.

At these latitudes, the area’s vegetation is unusual. Etymologically, Palmberg comes from the Luxembourg word “Pällem” which means box tree. And indeed this tree, which tends to thrive in southern Europe, grows here naturally, even forming a small forest – the only one in Luxembourg. In the fields or among the vine stocks, a dozen or so varieties of wild orchids can be seen growing.

The fauna also shows that this small Mediterranean ecosystem has something very special to offer. The most astonishing example has to be the little mountain cicada, which can be heard once summer arrives.

Palmberg has been classified as a nature reserve because of all these unusual features, and apart from grapes, it is strictly forbidden to pick anything here.

And the grapes, of course, flourish wonderfully in this atypical setting. “This vineyard plot is quite exceptional,” states Antoine Clasen, Managing Director of Caves Bernard-Massard. Here he produces one of the most sought wines from Clos des Rochers, the family’s top-end estate. “With our Palmberg Riesling, we want to show the very best that the Moselle can produce,” he emphasizes convincingly.

The removal of buds, ruthless green harvesting and drastic selection inevitably result in very small yields of only twenty or so hectolitres per hectare. The grapes bunches are only harvested once fully ripened and then the wine is made in 1,200-litre wooden barrels. The wine remains on lees for one year. Once it has been bottled, it waits a little longer in the Grevenmacher Estate cellars where it matures for a further twelve months. “It needs time to age perfectly,” slips in Antoine Clasen. “With age, the wine becomes well-rounded, without any of those petrol notes typical of Riesling. At home, we’re starting to drink our 2007 and 2008 wines.”

For Ben Duhr (Domaine Madame Aly Duhr, in Ahn), this terroir is also in a class of its own. “Palmberg is one of the finest hillsides in Luxembourg, it is meant for great Rieslings.” Traditionally, the wine he produces here is used for his Charter of Excellence “Domaine et Tradition” wine; eight winemakers have signed this charter. “But we’re going to launch it on its own, with its own label as this is what it deserves.”

Whether it’s a good year or a not quite so good one, the terroir’s personality emerges

As well as the exceptional setting, Ben Duhr explains that Palmberg has now reached its prime because of the age of the vines planted here. “They date back to when vineyards plots were joined together in the 1970s, this being one of the first to be joined in Luxembourg,” he explains. “Thirty years or so, that’s the time it takes for the terroir to recover.”

As far as taste goes, what sets Palmberg Rieslings apart from their counterparts is their more floral than purely mineral side, “which is bound to be because of the orchids that grow there,” laughs Ben Duhr. Antoine Clasen also praises the distinctive notes specific to Palmberg Rieslings. “With Riesling you can’t cheat, it’s the most expressive variety of grape and it gives you a real photo of the land”, he explains. “Palmberg produces wines with exotic floral notes.”

Terroir has a powerful impact here because even though the years may vary, the terroir’s characteristics still come through. “Whether it’s a good year or a not quite so good one, the terroir’s personality emerges,” maintains Ben Duhr. “Sometimes, with young wines you say to yourself ‘No, this time it’s different’. But once the first year has gone by, there’s no doubt about it: ultimately, it’s all there!”

carte_ahn

Area : 9,8 hectares (42 parcels)
Winemakers : 16
Grape varierties : riesling (81,6 %), auxerrois (8,5 %), pinot blanc (4,8 %), pinot gris (4 %), chardonnay (1,1 %).

Palmberg rieslings : long-aging wines (by Claude François, founder and managing director othe gratis App VinsLux)

Riesling Ahn Palmberg 2015 Domaine Häremillen (Ehnen)

Apricot, peach, but also a good taste of grapefruit : this dry Palmberg has a beautiful aromatic and mineral concentration, and its menthol notes prolong the sensation of fruit. Dense, juicy, very salty, this wine is made to please lovers from Rieslings out of the commune of Wormeldange (for its minerality) and the very special terroir of Ahn (for its fruitiness).

Riesling Vin de Glace 2009 Palmberg Clos des Rochers (Grevenmacher)

This ice wine is very dense, with a caramel and apricot taste. In the mouth, nothing but lace: fir, resin, honey, maple syrup, what a length! A model ice wine, with its purity and long finish that revitalizes the peppery and spicy aromas of Riesling. Great wine… but extremely rare.

Riesling 2014 Palmberg Charta Luxembourg Domaine Pundel-Hoffeld (Machtum)

A very fruity Riesling, with a more classic Moselle style. Notes of exotic fruit, fat and long in the mouth, a beautiful chewy taste emerges during the tasting, this wine is both fat and mineral. It has developed well and is still very fresh, with this typical petrol note from older Rieslings.

Riesling 2016 Ahn Palmberg Caves Berna (Ahn)

This Palmberg will line your palate with this good apricot taste so typical of the terroir. Both light and concentrated, with a finely chiseled acidity, this beautiful Riesling is of a disarming natural quality. What length and elegance! Hand-sewn Riesling! A marvel of finesse, still very young!

Riesling Ahn Palmberg «Sous les Rochers» 2014 Domaine Alice Hartmann (Wormeldange)

Make no mistake about it, it’s a Palmberg : Apricot! Peaches, candied fruit, bergamot. There’s everything you would expect from a Riesling and a Palmberg. When tasting, it is more a dry, salty wine. What a natural fullness, a beautiful creamy, and these wonderful spices! Finish on dry and peppery apricot, elegant. Today, this Palmberg still impresses.

Riesling Ahn Palmberg 2016 Domaine Clos Mon Vieux Moulin (Ahn)

In the estate’s tasting room, you can enjoy a direct view of the Palmberg. Inspiring! We find the apricot and peach notes so typical for the terroir, and the legendary minerality that extends the taste of many caudalies.

Riesling Ahner Palmberg 2016 Domaine Max-Lahr (Ahn)

A mineral Palmberg! We find apricots, peaches and even quince, but citrus fruits take over. This Riesling is tasting more like candied citrus fruit. Beautiful length on a smoothness that develops during tasting, when the wine becomes a little more temperate – a sign of a beautiful dry white wine!

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