It is high time the common misconception that the Moselle only makes quaffing wines was put to bed – its vineyards also produce wines that age exceptionally well. Here is the proof in the form of five wines – three whites and two reds. Patience has never been more of a virtue!
Reputations die hard and do not always provide a true picture. At least one generation has passed since the days when Luxembourgian winemakers’ main aim was to mass-produce wine to supply the bars of bistros, which actually no longer exist. Wine-growing in Luxembourg has undergone radical change, with the focus now firmly on producing high-quality wines.
Specialist techniques applied in vineyards and cellars inevitably result in wines that consumers can lay down without any fear of aromatic deviations. Premium grape varieties, in particular Pinots, Chardonnays and Rieslings, on the other hand, actually benefit from patient maturation for several years in the peaceful setting of a good cellar.
In the “Vintage” section, a group of seasoned tasters is invited to taste wines that are at least five years old. Needless to say, it was not possible to hold the meeting planned for this issue due to the lockdown. Allowances therefore had to be made for these new circumstances. This time, the producers dug out some old bottles from their own cellars and re-tasted them. Five people took part in this tasting: Marc Krier (Krier Frères cellars in Remich), Charlène Muller (Grevenmacher cellar manager for Domaines Vinsmoselle), Jean-Marc Schlink (Schlink cellars in Machtum), Jean-Marie Vesque (Cep d’Or estate in Hëttermillen) and Marc Desom (Desom estate and cellars in Remich).
The oldest wine, an Auxerrois from the Cep d’Or estate, was produced last millennium. It has grown, developed, and in no way resembles a freshly bottled wine. But that’s by no means all it has to tell us! With 15 years on the clock, the Caves Desom Pinot Noir is a real revelation and proof that the Moselle also produces great red wines. It has everything you would expect to find in a Burgundy from a quality terroir and would almost certainly fool any wine taster. The Moselle is full of surprises for those who are open to its charms!
Caves Krier Frères (Remich), Pinot Noir Suprême 2003
Marc Krier: “I chose a 2003 Pinot Noir produced as a red wine – the Pinot Noir Suprême. 2003 was a special year with very little rain and a lot of sun. The grapes developed perfectly to optimal maturity, with density well above 100 degrees Oechsle. This explains the 13% volume. That year was similar to 2018.
The colour of this wine, which, let’s not forget, is 17 years old, is a very pleasant ruby red. The nose includes cocoa, tobacco and dark chocolate aromas. Despite its age, this Pinot Noir spoils us with its distinct red fruit aromas on tasting.
Realistically, we have to acknowledge that it has fulfilled its ageing potential, so we recommend drinking it now. It could be paired with red meat, in particular game such as venison. Anyone with a sweet tooth would also enjoy it with dark chocolate.
I have a soft spot for Pinot Noir as we were the first to make red wine from it. That was back in 1995, when we started making Rubis, which is still produced today and presented in Bordeaux-style bottles. Suprême came along later in 2003. It is only produced in outstanding years and is our flagship red. Suprême Pinot Noir is presented in a Burgundy-style bottle.”
Domaine Cep d’Or (Hëttermillen), Auxerrois Stadtbredimus Primerberg élevé sur lie 1999
Jean-Marie Vesque: “This Auxerrois was produced from vines that no longer exist, as the Primerberg terroir on the hills overlooking the bend in the Moselle north of Stadtbredimus was consolidated some ten years later. Its robe is a beautiful golden yellow. The nose includes aromas of roasting, white truffles and exotic fruit such as lychees and mangoes. In the mouth, it is more subtle and reminiscent of hazelnuts, while the finish is very sweet.
The defining characteristic of this wine is that it is matured on the lees for five to six months interspersed with regular bâtonnages (editor’s note: stirring). This technique is used with very dry wines to produce creamy, very full-bodied and highly gastronomic aromas. This Auxerrois is very different from a standard Auxerrois. For 7 to 8 years after I set up the estate in 1995, I matured my Auxerrois on the lees. However, I subsequently stopped doing this as our wine range was getting too large.”
Domaine Vinsmoselle, Riesling Schengen Prestige 2010
Charlène Muller (Grevenmacher cellar manager): “Some of the great Rieslings from the beginning of this century were made in 2010. The crop was small as many of the grapes were affected by rot. Stringent standards were therefore required when selecting grape clusters. In the end, Rieslings were the year’s main winners with a good level of maturity and high acidity. One of these – the Domaines Vinsmoselle Charta Schengen Prestige – is well worth introducing to your taste buds!
The grapes are harvested from parcels that are subject to strict cultivation rules and low yields. Firstly, its golden yellow, intense, sparkling robe is a revelation. The nose primarily consists of gingerbread, beeswax and quince jelly. The attack is complex, aromatic and explosive. A fine acidic structure and remarkable minerality give a feeling of freshness. The finish is sweet with brioche, almost buttery notes. A versatile, extraordinary wine providing a perfect illustration of the fantastic 2010 Rieslings.”
Caves Schlink (Machtum), Riesling Charta Privat Wënzer 2012
Jean-Marc Schlink: “This Riesling is produced as a dry wine with just a touch of residual sugar. The nose betrays its origins in a chalky terroir – the steep slopes of Machtum Ongkâf. In the mouth, it is lemony and has remained very fresh despite being eight years old. In my view, it would go perfectly with white fish. Its liveliness would work wonders if the sauce is on the rich side.
This Riesling meets the standards of the charter for independent winemakers. Stringent requirements are applied to vineyard and cellar operations and yields are kept very low (40 hectolitres per hectare). Before the grape harvest, we performed an initial sweep and any clusters that were not perfect were removed. We only kept the best! In the cellar, the grapes were macerated for five hours and pressed gradually over a long period. This allows the aromas to develop fully.
Tasting it today, I’ve realised that it has fulfilled its potential. I don’t think it will develop much more, so now is the time to drink it. Actually, I’ve still got a few bottles left!
Generally, wines produced under the charter for independent winemakers are ideal for laying down. Given the care and attention we give it and the quality of the resulting product, this wine can be kept without any major issues, provided it is stored in appropriate conditions.”
Caves Desom (Remich), Pinot Noir 2005
Marc Desom: “This Pinot Noir has kept very well. Although it is 15 years old, it is still going strong. It has evolved very well, retaining a great deal of fruitiness and good potency. To me, its nose includes notes of candied fruit, prunes, a hint of leather (although not too much) and a floral touch. The wood has blended in completely and is no longer discernible, although the wine was kept in high-quality French oak barrels for over a year. Its style is very reminiscent of Burgundy. It would go perfectly with roast chicken glazed with a dash of honey.
Like 2007 and 2009, 2005 was an excellent year. Phenolic maturity was perfect – after all sugar is not the only important factor, especially for red wines (editor’s note: the term “phenolic maturity” relates to the maturity of anthocyanins, which give colour and tannins)!
This wine shows that Luxembourg is capable of producing fine Pinot Noir for laying down, which not everyone believed at the time. To be fair, we did our utmost to achieve this. It comes from vines that I still cultivate, planted in the 1980s on an excellent terroir (Bech-Kleinmacher Enschberg) where yields are restricted (50-60 hectolitres per hectare). The entire process including cold skin-contact maceration, a week of extraction, adding CO2 to avoid oxidation and maturing on fine lees is aimed at producing wine that can easily be laid down for ten years … or even longer!”