“Luxembourg is a not only a good place to live, but also a good place to enjoy wine.” – the Commission de Promotion des Vins & Cremants de Luxembourg
See, it wasn’t just me who said that.
Finally, with out of town guests visiting, the children in school, and the vineyards full of fruit, I (with enthusiastic guest approval) decided it was time to take a tour of the Moselle Vineyard Valley. It is after all only 25 minutes away from my house.
I know as much about wine as I do about playing music, so please know that these wine notes will be thin. I will try not to use the words “flavor profile” or “complexity” with any hint of authority. I just know what I like, and one of the things I really like is that with the exception of the Chardonnays (which are just so-so) almost every wine produced in Luxembourg is under 10 euro a bottle. That price point is enough to keep all pretention out. It may also be the reason why Luxembourg ranks second in the world in per capita wine consumption.
The Moselle Vineyard Valley runs along the Luxembourg/German border for 42km (almost a perfect marathon distance) from the charming village of Wasserbilling in the North to Schengen in the South. There are lovely paved paths (both on the Luxembourg and German side of the Moselle River) to explore the length of the valley on foot or bike, or by car (or motorcycle if you want to be obnoxious) on the meandering two lane Route de Vin. The drive between Grevenmacher and Remich is a particularly pretty stretch of the Route de Vin.
You can also take a train from Luxembourg City to Wasserbilling, and either BYOB (bring your own bike) or rent cruising bikes in Wasserbilling. I’ve done the train+bike to Wasserbilling three times now, but none of which involved wine tasting. The bike path on the German side, as you might expect, is superior. The wines on the Luxembourg side however win hands down.
Known for its dry whites and sparkling wines, there are about 50 wine producers in Luxembourg. The region produces nine main grape varieties (Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Rivaner, Elbing, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir) plus the sparkling wines. Riesling is their pride and joy, Pinot Gris their most popular, Pinot Blanc their live wire, Auxerrois their love, Ebling their bottom of the barrel, and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay their stretches.
With export only to Belgium & Germany, Luxembourg wines have virtually no international reputation but people in the region flock across the borders to buy these irresistibly flavorful wines. To illustrate the national pride there is with their wine, the Luxembourg Moselle region has 18 wine festivals each year.
I started planning our Moselle Vineyard Valley tour the night before. This is not advised. I got all excited when I found this website called “Wine Tasting with Friends” put on by the Luxembourg Wine Commission. It listed all the “vintners who will give you a warm reception at their wineries.” But when I started clicking away to discover more about tasting programs, I discovered that most of them were by appointment only and only then provided tastings for groups of ten or more. This would have been best discovered earlier than the night before our adventure. However, there were two wineries that had open tasting rooms (for sure stops on our tour) and I sent four email queries (in French – thank you Google Translate!) that morning in hopes that one of them might be willing to do a last minute private tasting for our small group of three. Disproving my theory of European email lag, I got back three responses the next day. Two emails were with regrets (but offered alternate days), and one of them was willing to host a late afternoon tasting with us.
Here then are the stops our on poorly planned, but dare I say well executed, Moselle Wine Tour. Three wineries with a stop for lunch and coffee make for a complete day. Plus, having the final winery be an outstandingly awesome experience makes for a pretty perfect day.
Our tour started in Grevenmacher at Bernard Massard, the biggest producer of sparkling wines (“Cremants”) in Luxembourg. From 9:30-6pm every day through Oct 31, you can drop in the winery and get a 45 minute tour (in English) of how they make the wine along with a tasting of 3 of their cremants for 8 euros. For 7 euros more, you can visit the Butterfly Garden. (?) We did not do this. Ronnie, our tour guide, was affable but slightly jaded having no doubt done this tour a few too many times. The tour was quite informative and definitely worth the price of admission. We tasted the Brut (dry), Demi-Sec (medium dry), and Rose Cremants. We unanimously decided that we like the Rose the best, and the Demi-Sec was a close second. They didn’t offer tastings of their still wines, but it’s the Cremants (the French prohibit Lux wine makers from saying “Champagne” even though they use the same technique) that they are clearly the most proud of. The downstairs décor is a bit dated, but the upstairs tasting room is new and airy and place you’d want to hang out for a while. On the recommendation of Ronnie, we had lunch just down the street at Restaurant Savory which offered a small, but good selection of lunch specials for about 12 euros.
"My only regret in life is that I didn't drink enough Champagne." – Harry Cantrell.
Okay, Harry, but I’m driving.
This winery also has a tasting room that is open Monday-Friday from 8-12 and again from 2-6. They have lovely wines, and the people that worked there were friendly but it wasn’t a particularly inviting place (save for the cat named “Pinot.”) We didn’t get a lot of information about the wines which could have been a language issue or the fact that we weren’t doing a tasting with the actual wine makers. They don’t give tours of the vineyards (which are right outside the tasting room) or cellar. We did do the tasting alongside a couple from Antwerp, who provided some cheer to the otherwise flat tasting. The couple came in to the winery having had one of their outstanding Rieslings at dinner the previous night. In addition to that tasty Riesling, the Auxerroris Remich Goldberg “grand premier cru” was definitely worth the stop. The Auxerrois is smooth, light, with melon and citrus flavors that reminds me of a Sauvignon Blanc. At less than 7 euros a bottle, I bought four bottles.
After a stop in Remich at an outdoor café along the river for a cappuccino, we drove that pretty stretch of the Route de Vin from Remich back toward Grevenmacher stopping in Ahn.
Ahn is an enchanting village (the most picturesque of the three we were in) with several wineries, including our final stop at Aly Duhr which is perched atop of the hill. Our appointment was at 5pm. We arrived a bit early and knocked to be greeted by the wine maker’s Mother who invited us in (to her home) while we waited. After a few minutes, a young – and I mean young – man appeared in the living room to start our tasting. Max Duhr, age 24, and his 28 year old brother are the youngest wine makers in Luxembourg having taken over the 140 year old family business after the early death of their father.
What followed was a wonderful tasting of two Rieslings, two Pinto Gris, one Pinot Blanc, and one Chardonnay with an incredibly knowledgeable and gracious host. Every wine was outstanding, and Max sheepishly mentioned that one of his Rieslings had just received the “Coups de Coeur” or taster’s highest seal of approval by a prestigious wine guide the night before. Only later did I realize how well regarded Aly Duhr’s wines are in the area. The finest restaurants carry his wines, and because of demand for them, they don’t need to sell their wines in any retail outlets. As a small independent winery with a rich history and some of the best located fields, they hand pick all their grapes and use organic farming techniques (although they have no interest in marketing themselves that way.) Max leisurely took us through his wines, giving us a fabulous education in wine making along with giving us a detailed tour of his cellar. I left with two cases. If you live in Luxembourg, you must get your friends together and visit Max. You will be very glad you did.
If your heart is warm with happiness, you'll need a glass - if sorrow chills your heart, have two! – Hannu
I have two glasses of Aly Duhr’s award winning Riesling for anyone who comes to visit!