Fresh breeze in the vines
Transforming ExperiencesYoung Winegrowers
At the Luxembourg Moselle, a new generation of winegrowers is coming to the fore – with fresh ideas and a shared goal to make absolute top quality wines.
Ahn is a charming village, sited where the Donverbach stream flows into the Moselle, and surrounded by highly photogenic hillsides. Looking down on Ahn is the Palmberg, one of the country’s finest terroirs and also a nature reserve that can be explored by following the “Wine and Nature, Palmberg Ahn Dream Loop”, an extremely popular hiking trail.
In the centre of the village is an estate which is now being managed by two young men: Nicolas and Mathieu Schmit (27 and 26). The brothers’ father, Armand, is however always on hand to offer his invaluable advice. Although the estate is long-established (founded in the 18th century), it certainly moves with the times.
In 2017, Mathieu and Nicolas decided to start converting the whole estate to organic. They are convinced that by banishing synthetic chemicals, nature will provide them with better wines. “We’re not fanatical about being organic!” Nicolas jokes. “It’s just that we firmly believe that by allowing the vines to grow in a richer ecosystem, they’ll flourish far better – which can only be of benefit to our wines.” Visitors are welcomed in the new – and truly splendid – tasting room with a glass door at the back that opens into the cellar.
A little higher up in the village, Jeff Konsbrück (31) decided to take a mighty step in 2012. Up until then, his father Guy used to sell his grapes to other winegrowers. However, when the time came for Jeff to take over, he decided he wanted to produce his own wines. He already had some very fine plots in highly esteemed terroirs (such as Palmberg and Göllebour) but he had no cellar. So, a new, modern and finely balanced building has risen out of the ground opposite the Palmberg’s terraces.
Although enormous, the challenge has turned out to be a resounding success. In the cellar, Jeff has found his style by producing wines which give voice to their beautiful origins. His wines are modern, lively and always well-balanced.
The young winemaker also had a hunch that by taking a chance with wine tourism he could make a name for himself. He has therefore built a lovely, large tasting room in his cellar with natural timber everywhere and large bay windows that open out onto Ahn and the Palmberg. What’s more, his cellar is on the Dream Loop. Jeff says with a smile: “When the weather is fine, a hundred or more walkers will come past my cellar and many of them stop off to enjoy a glass of wine from the vineyards they’ve just walked through.”
A little further to the south, in Remich, Corinne Kox also opted to return to the family estate after many years studying biology. In 2014, one of Corinne’s first ideas was to bury two authentic Georgian earthenware amphorae in the estate’s garden; these qvevris are 800-litre vessels and identical to those in which the first wines were produced 7,000 years ago. The grapes are simply destemmed and placed inside and, all that’s left to do is wait: “It’s nature that makes the wine!” Aromatic and complex, these extraordinary wines really need to be served with food, accompanying for example, fillet of duck breast.
Yohan Nguyen, 2018 Best Sommelier in Luxembourg, speaks of the 2015 Qvevri Riesling in glowing terms: “Because of the skin maceration, the extraction of flavour and colorants from the skin, the wine has complexity, power and a slight tannin content. Given its structure, purity and dazzling mineral quality, this wine can be kept for a very long time indeed: ten years at least and no doubt much longer. A great Riesling to be enjoyed with fine food!”
Although Corinne Kox has one foot in the past, she is also firmly focused on the future! Last year, she was the first private winemaker to try using drones to spray her vines. The experiment, which was carried out on a few plots, was an emphatic success. There are many good reasons to use drones in vineyards, however, her primary motivation was to “cut down crop protection product dosage and spraying”. Since drones can fly lower than helicopters, (organic) spraying doesn’t spread beyond the plots. Not to mention that working up in the air, means there’s no longer the need for tractors which compact the soil, harming the microfauna that keeps it alive, and which in wet weather can even skid. With her parents, Corinne regularly organises wine evenings and tastings in their gorgeous property in the heart of Remich.
Towards Mertert, up in the northern part of the Luxembourg Moselle, Pit Leonardy is a member of Domaines Vinsmoselle. He is even the President of Jongwënzer, the cooperative’s section for young winemakers. At 28, he has taken over from his father, Aly, a prominent figure in the organization. However, Aly’s help is always welcome since managing an estate with 29 hectares of vines (including 1.5 hectares grown for table grapes) and a herd of 200 cattle (Charolais and Limousin) is no mean feat!
In 2014, the Leonardy family was the first to cultivate plots organically for the cooperative. “We had the opportunity to replant a terroir that had been abandoned over the decades, the Härenberg, in Mertert,” Pit explains. These full south-facing terraces on steep slopes are ideal, but very difficult to work. Located in a Natura 2000 zone, the only way of being able to cultivate them was to go organic and the Leonardy family had no hesitation. Pit stresses: “Here, more than elsewhere, you have to listen to nature. The work is more complicated, but also far more interesting because you have to think carefully all the time!”
Since their move to organic, several other Vinsmoselle winemakers have opted to follow suit and farm their plots organically too. To showcase these wines, the cooperative launched a new range that was an instant commercial success. Does this mean that Pit will farm more hectares organically? He explains: “For the time being we’ll stick with our two hectares, but obviously we’re thinking about developing the organic side further.”
So, this is how this young generation views their work at the Moselle. Doing the same old thing, season after season, is simply out of the question - quite the opposite. Mathieu and Nicolas Schmit, Jeff Konsbrück, Corinne Kox and Pit Leonardy approach everything they do intellectually, the idea being that with each vintage they will achieve even greater things.
A beautiful region
The Route du Vin (wine route) runs along a large part of the Moselle. There is no shortage of possibilities to stop and taste good wines at various winegrowers. Nine grape varieties are grown here: Riesling, Pinot noir, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, Gewürztraminer, Auxerrois, Rivaner, Elbling and Chardonnay.
Wine village festivals: the Schwéidsbenger Wäifescht, the Grevenmacher Grape and Wine Festival, the Riesling Open in Wormeldange and the Hunnefeier in Schengen are all invitations to get involved in the local culture.
Dream Loops: beautiful certified hiking trails. There are three of them: Palmberg Ahn Wine & Nature Trail; Manternacher Fiels, and Schengen without borders.
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