Naumberg is a renowned lieu-dit, or “named vineyard”, in the southern half of the Luxembourg Moselle winegrowing region, which is celebrated for its Pinots. It covers a large area with numerous variations in its subsoil, which some winemakers even isolate to produce special cuvées.
Naumberg is justly recognised as one of the terroirs producing Luxembourg’s best Pinot Gris and Auxerrois. Several independent winemakers grow grapes here that are used to make top-of-the-range Charta Luxembourg wines. Domaines Vinsmoselle use Naumberg Pinot Gris and Auxerrois in their Grands Premiers Crus with indication of terroir, which are also some of their finest wines. A further telling detail is the fact that the lieu-dit is only planted with noble grape varieties, with Elbling and Rivaner occupying minimal space.
While the quality of this area is beyond doubt, it would be simplistic to regard Naumberg as a uniform block. This lieu-dit covers a vast area (almost 40 hectares), its boundaries set some 30 years ago during the great consolidation of vineyards surrounding the village of Bech-Kleinmacher. Prior to that, there had been a patchwork of terroirs including Rëtschelt, Fuusselach, Gaalgenberg, Gottesgôf, Igelsberg and Op de Griewer. Not all these names have been forgotten, with some still even featured on labels.
Our Naumbergs are more rustic, expressive, hearty, and complex. In contrast, the Gottesgôfs are more feminine, rounder and more elegant.
It is important to bear all this in mind, since the different localities imbue wines produced in them with specific characteristics. Domaine Claude Bentz (in Remich) is perfectly placed to discuss such matters, as it produces Rieslings and Pinots Gris under both the Naumberg and Gottesgôf denominations. “Our Naumbergs are more rustic, expressive, hearty, and complex,” explains Carole Bentz. “We’re talking fruit, white flowers, and also spices (including pepper notes) and grilled almonds (with a hint of nougat). In contrast, the Gottesgôfs are more feminine, rounder and more elegant, but still offer the same fruit and white flower aromas.” The only explanation for these cuvées’ distinct personalities is the grapes’ origin, since “the vineyard work and vinification are performed in exactly the same way for our Gottesgôfs and Naumbergs,” she explains.
These significant variations ultimately make perfect sense, as the parcels from which these wines originate each have their own special features. “The vines we use to produce our Naumbergs get the full benefit of the midday sun, and it’s very hot here in summer,” explains Carole. “The soil is clayey and even slightly red. In contrast, Gottesgôf is more sheltered. It gets the sun’s rays until late in the evening. As for the soil, it’s clayey but much lighter and stonier. All our vines here are 35 years old.”
Despite all this diversity, one thing remains constant: “the Pinots and Auxerrois are the crème de la crème – this is a very fine lieu-dit!” smiles winegrower Guy Krier (Domaine Krier-Welbes, Ellange-Gare), who cultivates 2.7 hectares of land here organically. Naumberg is a crescent-shaped terroir running parallel to the Moselle at its north-eastern tip, but fully facing the sun at its other south-western end. It occupies the northern slope of a small valley adjacent to the Moselle carved out by a stream that is now canalised and buried. Most of its slopes are terraced on three levels between the altitudes of 150 and 300 metres, with often steep gradients (of up to 30°). At the bottom, near the village of Bech-Kleinmacher, is a small area of woodland, replacing old abandoned orchards.
The Pinots and Auxerrois are the crème de la crème – this is a very fine lieu-dit!
“This basin shape is useful as it provides the vines with good protection against northerly winds,” says Guy Krier. “Thanks to this layout, temperatures are generally relatively stable. However, two very different scenarios can lead to spring frosts: either Arctic winds bring a sudden drop in temperatures affecting rows of vines closest to the ridge, or sub-zero temperatures persist longer than usual, and frosts are caused by a blanket of cold air that, due to its relative weight, accumulates at the valley bottom near the woodland. In this case, the lowest buds freeze.”
Besides its exposure, this terroir’s subsoil also makes it an ideal lieu-dit for Pinots. The earth in which the vines grow is 210-230 million years old and consists of stony Keuper marls (Steinmärgel Keuper in German). “While it’s true that the substratum is clayey, it’s not particularly heavy,” says Guy Krier. “The earth also contains a lot of pebbles from carbonate rocks (dolomite rocks, etc.).” Moreover, the limestone bedrock is only 30 or 40 centimetres down in places, and therefore relatively close. “This creates perfect conditions to protect the vines against droughts, provided that the soil structure is properly maintained to produce a layer of humus capable of retaining moisture,” he affirms. This position, which strikes a delicate balance between the starkness of the bedrock and the productive capacity of a relatively thin layer of good arable land, also enables yields to be controlled, which is a prerequisite for producing high-quality wines. It explains why Pinots thrive in the richer soils midway up the slopes, while Rieslings flourish in more pebbly areas, often at the top of slopes.
Vines planted after the land consolidation are now in the prime of life. With just over three decades under their belts, they have had the time to put down roots enabling them to draw water and nutrients from the subsoil. It also takes 35 years for soil to recover from the upheaval of an invasive land consolidation. Those carried out nowadays are less severe and more respectful of the environment, which can only be a good thing!