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In northern Luxembourg, it’s not just Riesling that ages well!

Charlène Muller, manager of the Domaine Vinsmoselle cellar in Grevenmacher has dug out a number of old gems that she produced several years ago. The selection she has put together is both admirable and unconventional!

This section of Vinorama truly leads to some fantastic discoveries! In this issue, we asked the manager of the Domaines Vinsmoselle cellar in Grevenmacher to share some old vintages from local vineyards.

Grevenmacher is at the northern tip of the Luxembourg Moselle wine region. Limestone dominates the subsoil, surfacing visibly and taking solid form in the unbroken line of cliffs enclosing the valley from Ahn, about ten kilometres to the south. With little arable land and an omnipresent mineral base, the northern half of the Luxembourg Moselle wine region provides ideal conditions for Riesling! 

However, in Charlène Muller’s view, seeking out some nice vintages of this grape variety famed for its longevity would be like taking the easy way out: “That would be too simple!” she smiles. “I looked for other types of wines as I wanted to prove that we’re capable of making something other than Riesling in the north!” 

On that note, one of the wines discussed in this article is a rarity produced in only two years (2007 and 2008), a Pinot Noir vinified as white wine and moreover matured in barriques, which we never suspected would still be so delicious. It still tastes surprisingly young, almost begging the question of why this limited series is no longer produced.

We also tasted a grape variety that conventional wisdom traditionally associates with the southern Moselle: Gewürztraminer. This particular bottle produced in 2009 in the Göllebour terroir (in Ahn) is worthy of being described as a great wine! It is very delicate and aromatic, the polar opposite of a “bodybuilder” wine, offering the type of finesse that never gets old.

The cellar manager also couldn’t resist presenting two of her guilty pleasures: a magnificent 2002 Pinot Gris late harvest, which has retained its elegance, and a 2010 ice wine (Riesling), a relic to be consciously enjoyed, since these small bottles constitute a form of heritage set inevitably on a path to extinction due to climate change.

Domaines Vinsmoselle, 2008 Cuvée Réservée barrique-matured Pinot Noir vinified as a white wine

“This wine is a rarity that we only produced in 2007 and 2008. I arrived in Luxembourg in 2005, just before it was made. To be honest, we hadn’t planned to make this wine. It was produced from a vineyard that had been somewhat overlooked. All the Pinot Noirs had already been brought in and we were a little bit at a loss as to what to do with these grapes… Since they had been picked slightly late, they were very ripe, and I thought it might be good to vinify them as white wine, then mature them in barriques. It actually worked very well! The wine was really good and sold very quickly! So, we repeated the same method the next year. I’ve just found this bottle in our stock and tasted it out of curiosity. I was amazed! It exhibits virtually no ageing notes, with perfect balance between fruit and barrique. I wasn’t expecting this – it’s almost tempting to make some more! I really like the caramel notes in the finish. 2008 wasn’t even a particularly good year for pinots. It was more of a Riesling year. However, the acidity due to the grapes not being extremely ripe has really benefited this wine.”

Domaines Vinsmoselle, 2009 Machtum Göllebour Gewürztraminer

“I really like old traminers, and this one is a very good example of how well they age. It is light in the mouth, with some substance, but not too much. The apricot jam and chutney notes I love are there! There’s honey too. This wine’s ABV is not very high (11.5%) and since it has retained a good level of acidity, it is very easy to drink. It was also an excellent vintage for Pinot Gris and Auxerrois. I have clear memories of this Gewürztraminer, since it already exhibited its current level of quality when it was young. It made a big impression on me!”

Domaines Vinsmoselle, 2002 Vendange Tardive, Pinot Gris

“When this wine was made, the late harvests were vinified here in Grevenmacher. This now takes place in the cellar in Wellenstein. The first thing that stands out is its colour. This caramel tinge is typical of old late harvests or old ice wines. These varieties age very well and are ideal for laying down, as proven by this bottle. This late harvest is still incredibly fresh. Obviously, you can taste the sugar, but there’s also an edge of acidity that gives it liveliness. Back then, climate change was less noticeable and the sugar content of Pinot Gris did not rise as much as it does nowadays, so the grapes retained a nice level of acidity. These days, the grapes are very different.”

Domaines Vinsmoselle, 2010 Ice wine, Riesling

“This wine is a relic… I’m not sure whether ice wine will continue to be made on the Moselle. It requires frozen grapes to be harvested in early winter at temperatures of -7°C. We made some really nice bottles of this in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, but they have since become a rarity. It’s a pity as they’re so good! This ice wine is obviously very sweet as it is 174° Oechsle, yet remains very fresh. It is by no means cloying. Like all ice wines, it has a low ABV (8.5%). Riesling is the perfect grape for it.”

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