Luxembourg's vineyards - small but excellent The Grand Duchy offers a wide range of grape varieties, to suit all tastes
The Luxembourg Moselle region is best known for its white wines, both still and sparkling. Riesling, a classy, fruity wine with mineral notes, is probably the most famous of the Grand Duchy's wines. Crémant sparkling wine is a must-have for festive occasions. Yet the Grand Duchy's offer of wines goes far beyond these two long-standing companions. The wide range of grape varieties grown in the Grand Duchy means there are wines to suit all tastes. Why not find out all about Luxembourg wines before taking a trip to the Moselle region? On your marks, with tasting glasses at the ready!
White wines to suit all tastes
The slopes of the Luxembourg Moselle region offer good ripening conditions for white grape varieties. The result is two major categories of wines: lively, classy wines – made from Elbling, Pinot Blanc and Riesling grapes – and wines that are rounder and more aromatic – made from Rivaner, Auxerrois and Pinot Gris grapes. Let's look at the grape varieties in turn:
- Elbling: unjustly considered as a base wine for sparkling wine, even though this misconception is historically well-founded. Indeed, this is a very attractive still wine which, due to its low alcohol content, is very popular with consumers. A modern Elbling is a lively wine with aromas of citrus fruit, redcurrant, green apple and pomegranate.
- Rivaner: fruity, light and soft, with characteristic notes of muscatel. It's a good match for traditional Luxembourg foods, and is suitable for relaxed drinking.
- Auxerrois: a less frequent variety, producing gastronomic wines in a wide variety of styles. It can even yield wines for cellaring that are not unlike Burgundy whites. They are crisp, fruity and full of flavour, with a delicate acidity. A perfect match for smoked Luxembourg specialities.
- Pinot Blanc: important as the base for crémant wines, but also used for still wines, it is delicately fruity and mineral, a good match for fish, white meat, and egg dishes. If it is raised in the wood, its fruity notes give way to smooth buttery aromas.
- Pinot Gris: one of the varieties most appreciated in the Grand Duchy – the area planted with this variety has doubled in the past twenty years! Typically, it has a pleasantly fresh acidity and mineral notes . It goes well with white meat, poultry and fish prepared in a sauce. Look out for its notes of citrus, pear and nuts.
- Riesling: its intense minerality comes from the chalky soil this variety grows on in the Grand Duchy. As a result, it's less fruity than varieties that grow on shale soils, but very complex and expressive, with notes of citrus, apple and quince and spicy aromas. There's no doubt that it reflects the Grand Duchy's terroir.
- Chardonnay: this variety from Burgundy is a recent addition to Luxembourg's vineyards and has become very popular. There are Chardonnays with a very pleasant light fruitiness as well as more and more Chardonnays which are matured in barrels. These very intense wines are both vanilla-flavoured and endowed with notes of toast and roast. Moreover they are perfectly suited to be matured in their bottle for many years.
- Gewürztraminer: a real concentration of aromas: rose, peach, lychee, apricot, orange, grapefruit and honey. Its balance of sweet and savoury flavours means it can be drunk as an aperitif or to accompany a cheeseboard or certain desserts.
Looking for a 'classic' among the Luxembourg Moselle wines? Go for one of the wines made from Elbling, Rivaner or Auxerrois grapes. Or are you interested in trying the wines that have become more popular recently? Pinot, Riesling and Chardonnay are good choices.
There are bubbles in the Grand Duchy too!
Over the past thirty years, Luxembourg's winegrowers have managed to create a sparkling wine that has aroused the enthusiasm of the most knowledgeable experts: Luxembourg crémant. Since 1991, the name 'crémant' has been in use for quality sparkling wines, either white or rosé, that meet the strict conditions laid down by law. According to these conditions, the grapes must be picked by hand, and pressed whole, and the cuvée must stay on the lees in the same winery for nine months.
Red wines are less well known, but are surprisingly good.
Although the Grand Duchy is known for its white wines, you also need to know about two varieties of grape used for red wines to complete your tour of the Grand Duchy's still wines:
- Pinot Noir: made into red wine, this grape typically has aromatic notes of red fruits. Raising the wine in the wood barrel adds a touch of vanilla and toast. A perfect match for red meat and game.
- Saint Laurent: this is a variety in the Burgundy family, which usually produces wine of a high quality. Typically, it has a powerful aroma and a dark colour. This wine is intensely scented and fruity, with aromatic notes of wild berries, sour cherries, plums and, when fully mature, a hint of bitter chocolate.
A quick look at the different appellations
Introduced in the 1980s, the "Appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) – Moselle luxembourgeoise" protected designation has allowed a development in the concept of the quality of wine by adding an indication of its origin. The AOP scheme attests a product's quality based on its geographical origin. What does this principle of origin consist of? Briefly: the smaller the geographical unit indicated, the greater the notion of terroir and the stricter the criteria for quality.
According to these criteria, "AOP Moselle luxembourgeoise" wines are classified as follows:
- 'Lieu-dit': wines from strictly delimited terroirs, from the best vineyards of the Luxembourg Moselle.
- 'Coteaux de ...': quality wines with typical features - the classic wines of the region.
- 'Côtes de ...': balanced entry-level wines, for everyday drinking.
- Luxembourg crémants.