People often ask me why I started a wine blog. I usually say something along the lines of ‘Well, I drink quite a lot so it makes me feel less guilty if I write some of it down.’ Or, ‘I was told when I was working for a marketing agency that I should have a blog, and I enjoy writing about wine.’ But I’d be in denial if I didn’t admit that it was because I hoped and hoped that one day, I’d get sent wine that I had never heard about before. Not just any old wine but wine that would help me discover grapes far from the supermarket shelves and even the independent shops I trundle into.
By some miracle, it happened, and hopefully through this, it has enabled other people to be inspired to try wines a little out of their comfort zones. I’m eternally grateful to the people who send me wine to educate and excite me. Recently, someone got in touch via Instagram to ask if I had ever tried Luxembourg wines. I admitted they had not been on my radar and they very casually said they’d send me some. And so, thanks to Domaine Madame Aly Duhr I have had the most fascinating insight into the wine, and history, of Luxembourg.
Side note: They didn’t ask me to write about it or pay me you cynics out there, I have simply decided to share what I’ve learned.
Grand Duchy was an entirely new word to me, it’s confused me beyond belief. It turns out it’s not an exciting extra organic range at Waitrose but something else entirely. What hasn’t helped my research is that there’s seemingly very little writing about the wine in Luxembourg, so I wasn’t sure where to start. A bit like when it comes to quality designation in Germany, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on in Luxembourg. From what I do understand, they are very good at making a sparkling wine, Crément de Luxembourg, but very little is exported, I think this may change. They’re also pretty good at Riesling. Luxembourg actually boasts the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita rating across the whole of the European Union (EU) which means that even if Crément de Luxembourg does become popular in England, you’d be better off driving all the way over there, filling up multiple times with cheap fuel and buying the wines straight from the beautiful vineyard.
Luxembourg is located in the Moselle region, where they have been making wine for donkey’s years. The grapes in this area include, (love of my life) Gewurztraminer, Auxerrois, Rivaner, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Elbling and Chardonnay.
Riesling is now the most commonly planted variety. But Luxembourg are gently holding onto their roots by keeping up the production of the less popular Elbling grape, which has been grown in this region since the Roman times. Luxembourg wines are produced to demanding official standards under a system with the most glorious name, AOP Moselle Luxembourgeoise: “The aim of the “Appellation d’Origine Protégée – Moselle Luxembourgeoise” is to combine the indication of origin and quality. The closer we move to the top in the quality pyramid, the more the terroir should come into its own. In the age of globalization, the indication of origin is becoming increasingly important. It forms a counterpoint to the technically often excellently made but soulless wines from all over the world.” – AOP
The history of Domaine Madame Aly Duhr is much easier to swallow.
Here’s the Duhr’s story:
“Our winery was founded in 1872. My brother Max Duhr and I Ben Duhr started 10 years ago, after our father died quite early in December 1999. From 2000 to 2010 my Grandmother took over the winery because we were at that time in school and following this, university to finish our studies. The winery is working for over 15 years having respect for nature. We don’t use weed killers and treatments are with biological products.”
All The Wines
The sparkling wine is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. It spends 30 months on yeast before disgorgement. The Barrique (red) is 100% Pinot Noir, ageing for 10 months in French Oak (30% new oak 40% second wine and 30% third wine oak). Ben tells me that like in England, 2018 was a very rich year and it is probably the most concentrated red they have produced in the winery. A huge ageing potential! The Monsalvat is a 100% Chardonnay aged for nine months in 100% new oak so this wine is very concentrated and has a lot of ageing potential – ready to drink in five years.
The Rieslings: Ben and his brother are not producing stone dry Rieslings. Why? Because they are working with the natural yeast in their wines (except the sparking ones are made out of selected yeasts.) The natural yeasts at a certain amount of alcohol will die and therefore they often have wines with residual sugar. Both wines have around 9g/l residual sugar! The classic wines are made in steel tanks and never see any oak contact. The last wine is the Barrique (white). A blend of 80% Pinot Blanc and 20% Auxerrois. The Auxerrois is a variety which is very local you can just find this variety in Luxembourg, Alsace and on the German Mosel. This wine spends nine months in French oak barrels with 30% new oak, 40% second oak and 30% third oak.
Admittedly, so far, I have only tried the Luxembubbles and a Riesling. I will share as I go through the rest via my Instagram: @winingawaytheweekend
Mme Aly Duhr et Fils
Grand Cuvée Brut 13%
50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noit
AOP Moselle Luxembourgeoise Controlée par l’état
There is a wonderfully helpful QR code on the back of this wine. If you scan it, you will be taken to an equally wonderful page that describes the AOP system in Luxembourg.
This is a very good wine. It is a dry, very well balanced sparkling that could accompany almost any food. Bubbles truly are best, you can have them with some of the most simplest dishes and transform mediocre into marvellous.
Mme Aly Duhr et Fils
What a superb Moselle wine. This has totally amazed me. So soft, great purity of fruit. Slightly sweet with notes of peach and candied lemon, refreshing acitity. A perfect accompaniment to Thai curry, a regular in my household.
Something that confused me:
Auxerrois according to Jancis Robinson:
Slightly fuller, less acid version of Pinot Blanc widely planted in Alsace and blended with it (although the blend is almost invariably called Pinot Blanc on the label). Treasured in Luxembourg for its low acid.
Auxerrois according to Matthew Jukes book ‘wine’:
Malbec – An unfashionable, old retainer grown in the Loire Valley, Cahors in central France and South America. It is a fairly heavyweight red grape which used to be widely planted in Bordeaux and was used as the tannin/colour provider on account of its thick skin. It can also be known as Cot and Auxerrois.