Cep d'Or Hëttermillen
© Andre Schoesser

Good Life From the field to the vineyard

3 minutes

The secret of the golden vine

For centuries, the landscape along the Moselle has been shaped by viticulture. Even the Romans appreciated the terroir in the south-east of Luxembourg. To visit Cep d’Or is to encounter a unique  family business.

Life is too short to drink bad wine, said Goethe, allegedly. It’s probably a misattribution but the core of the message is sound. Life is definitely too short, especially to drink bad wine. That’s why our search for good wine leads us here, standing in the mud just above Stadtbredimus.

Cep d'Or Hëttermillen
© André Schösser

A search for good wine

Our shoes are covered in clay. It looks more like a mud-patch than a vineyard. The word vineyard conjures up images of juicy grapes and green vines bathing in the sun. Of a romantic, idyllic country life. Sun-ripened nectar in beautiful glasses. Like in other realms of life, the work that goes into all that is beautiful and elegant remains unseen, it is laborious and much less romantic than you’d think.

A generational project

Back to our mud-patch and the makings of good wine. It is spring 2021 and together with Lisa Vesque and her father Jean-Marie, we watch helpers plant new vines by hand in the muck field that is going to become a vineyard. A rich harvest will take years, an emotional realization connected to the passing of time, slow progress and long-term goals. It requires devotion and trust in nature and its inner workings. You can’t think in terms of quarterly results when investing in a vineyard. You have to think in decades. In 25 years, this vineyard here will still be cultivated. Lisa will be in charge then and her father Jean-Marie might drop by to offer gracious tips that she might just as graciously ignore. It’s a generational project. That’s why they selected the vines together in the Champagne region.

It’s October. At dawn, mist hovers over the River Moselle. The vineyards have a green glow. Autumn colours are beginning to appear. The plush grapes huddle between the vine leaves. The harvest is in full swing. We don’t see any machines. The grapes on the steep slopes along the Moselle are usually picked by hand and immediately cleaned. Small tractors pulling trailers full of grapes can be seen puttering along the river.

Cep d'Or Hëttermillen
© André Schösser

The river valley is home to many vineyards that form the “Route du vin” (“Wäistrooss” in Luxembourgish), a 42 km route through the Grand Duchy. Domaine Cep d’Or (or, the golden vine) is one of them.

A gift from the gods

The gate to the vineyard is wide open. We walk in and are immersed in a hullabaloo of fizz, clatters and creaks. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, this isn’t the job for you! But dirt is the wrong word. After all, what causes the stains here is exquisite grape juice! Beaming, Lisa stands between shiny stainless-steel tanks holding a bucket and stirring the yeast. This is the most exciting time of the year for a winemaker.

It involves harvesting, pressing, storing, filtering, decanting, adding yeast, measuring, cooling and tasting. Lisa is in her element. She is clearly a hard worker. We’ve only ever seen her in rubber boots. At the same time, she’s an artist. Making wine is artistry, a mysterious secret that turns simple fruit into fine wine. A gift from the gods.

Shared dreams

Alright, maybe it’s not that mystifying. The whole process is taught in college. Lisa, for example, studied oenology in Geisenheim and Bordeaux before joining her family’s business in 2016. At 29 years old, she’s the same age her father was when he first created this winery. The Vesque family business actually dates back to 1762 but they used to sell the grapes after the harvest. As a young man, Jean-Marie dreamed of making his own wine. He is overjoyed to see his daughter share his dream.

Cep d'Or Hëttermillen
© André Schösser

Pleasure, art, craft, love

In 1995 when he was 31 years old, Jean-Marie created this vineyard with the help of architect François Valentiny, only ten years his senior, who shared his enthusiasm for concrete and design. Together, they designed a striking building crowned by a tower that looks like an oversized grape press.

It’s an eye-catcher. “When you start a new winery, you have to draw attention to yourself,” says Jean-Marie, grinning. “Our family already owned the land here along the “Wäistrooss”. Everyone who drives by here will inevitably pass by our cellar. The more impressive it is, the more likely people are to be curious and pop in, if we’re lucky.”

The plan must have worked. The cellar is bursting at the seams. Wooden barrels are stacked on top of each other and stainless-steel tanks are crammed up to the ceiling. The Crémant is resting. By the way, the “Cuvée 36” lies here for at least 3 years, as its label suggests. Which leads us back to the time spans in which father and daughter think.

And this is where the romance comes into play. It lies between the ruby-red stained barrels, the dark, shimmering wine bottles and the boxes full of beautifully crafted labels waiting for young wines. The ingredients: pleasure, art, craft and a lot of love.

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Wine and architecture

Do you love good wine and exciting architecture? The “Via Mosel” route presents the most beautiful wine villages and wineries in the “borderless” Moselle valley in the border triangle of Luxembourg, France and Germany, known for the quality of their tourist infrastructure but also for their remarkable historical or contemporary architecture. 

Domaine Henri Ruppert Schengen
© Gregor Lengler