Heading north from Ehnen to Wormeldange, the terroir you can see alongside the road is Wousselt. The vines closest to the village at the bottom of the slope are planted on Luxembourg’s oldest terraces. The Riesling grapes mainly grown here benefit considerably from this unique setting.
Wousselt is essentially a rather discreet terroir. In order to fall for its charms, you must first be lucky enough to get to know it, take an interest in its terraces, and sample the wine from its vineyards. That said, it is by no means hidden. Wousselt encompasses the vineyards that line the Route du Vin between Ehnen and Wormeldange. A fleeting glance from a car window is enough to establish that it is split into two parts. On the north-eastern side are vines that were grouped together in the early 1970s. The parcels are straight and uniform. However, on the south-western side, beneath the modern houses of the Léibesch estate, you will see steep slopes (the gradient is sometimes over 50%), old terraces, and vines growing around their stakes with no iron wire to spread their branches. This is old Wousselt, an age-old terroir disputed by wine-growers from Ehnen and Wormeldange. “Officially, its name is Wormeldange Wousselt, but the vineyards extend well into our village,” smiles Luc Kohll (Kohll-Leuck estate in Ehnen). This is clearly a controversial issue between neighbours!
“Since no land consolidations have taken place here for many years, the vines benefit from the original soil, which is rich in organic matter,” explains Andreas Krebs, the cellar master at the Häremillen estate, who cultivates nine parcels in Wousselt. And since there is shelly limestone in the subsoil, the wines are both powerful and mineral.”
These are the country’s oldest terraces.
A terroir is not only defined by its soil but also by its climate. Wousselt is blessed in this respect too. “It is south/south-east facing, which means the sun revolves around it all day,” explains Luc Kohll. “It couldn’t be any better!” Its position at the bottom of a valley is also advantageous: “Wousselt virtually never gets frost due to the inertia of the heat from the Moselle,” explains Claude Scheuren, Luc Kohll’s brother-in-law and partner. Since it lies at the bottom of a steep south-east facing slope, it is protected from cold northerly winds, which can sometimes bring hail. “I remember a severe hailstorm in 2000 during the European Cup final between France and Italy. Eighty percent of some parcels were affected, but Wousselt avoided it completely,” recalls Luc Kohll.
The reason this area has managed to preserve its ancestral identity is that wine-growers have taken an interest, working hard to respect and make the most of it. “These are the country’s oldest terraces,” says Max Mannes, who runs the Häremillen estate. “Our oldest vine was planted here in 1941 and the youngest in 1970, but the terraces’ dry-stone walls are older still.” The combination of soil properties and old vines, which have had sufficient time to extend their roots deep into the shelly limestone, is perfect for Riesling. The Häremillen estate has bottled these treasures in its Wousselt Vieille Vigne en Terrasse Riesling, a pure, frank and very elegant wine.
The Kohll-Leuck estate has also put its faith in this terroir, which is among the oldest in the Grand Duchy, with its 1947 vintage, also a Riesling. “The vineyard once belonged to Nicolas Hein (editor’s note: 1889-1969), a writer born in Ehnen, known as the Professor in these parts,” explains Luc Kohll. “We lease it from his heirs and it is fantastic. However, these wines need time to reach their full potential. We started producing this vintage in 2014 and it is still too young. In my opinion, this wine is on a par with our Charta Riesling.”
We work here because we respect the need to preserve this heritage.
Charta Luxembourg is an independent wine-growers’ initiative aimed at identifying their best wines. Luc Kohll believes that the pinnacle of his wine-making career is a 2010 Charta Riesling made with grapes from vines planted in Wousselt in 1976. “I have never produced better wine,” he smiles, opening a bottle. “Before the harvest, there was heavy rainfall and 20% of this vineyard was affected by botrytis. The weather then turned cold and dry and the fungus transformed into noble rot. At harvest time, it was 98° Oechsle. At first, it was too sweet, but now it is completely balanced and I love it!” It is clear from its golden colour that this is a precious wine. With its nose of candied fruit and honey, it is very easy to drink. However, it is more energetic in the mouth than the nose would suggest. This wine has spirit and exceptional flair due to its highly tonic finish.
Producing these wines for their own sake requires an enormous amount of work, which does not make much sense from a purely financial perspective. The parcels have never been grouped, so they are small and inaccessible. “There is a road at the bottom and a path at the top. All the work is done manually as the vines cannot be accessed by machines,” smiles Max Mannes. We mow with a strimmer strapped over the shoulder, apply copper sulphate with spray wands, and when it comes to harvest time, well, we have to carry the crates of grapes! It’s true that it’s not very profitable as a lot of work is required for just 20 hectolitres per hectare,” he acknowledges. “We work here because we respect the need to preserve this heritage.”