A quick guide to the grapes grown in the Grand Duchy
Winemaking has been practiced along the banks of the Moselle River for at least 2,000 years. The Romans, under Julius Caesar, completed their conquest of the region in 53 BC. It’s hard to say what was planted back then, but today white grapes dominate. Riesling is king, Rivaner’s used for commercial purposes, and Burgundian varieties make for a strong backbone when it comes to blending.
Europe’s Oldest Grape
First comes Ebling, the oldest cultivated white grape in Europe and a close relative to Riesling. It’s a rare sight on modern vineyards, though its high acidity and low alcohol make it perfect for sparkling wine (known as Crémant de Luxembourg, and made in the same way as Champagne). Today, it makes for less than 10% of the production in Luxembourg.
A handful of Burgundian varieties reign supreme, particularly with small, family-run productions. Looking at the numbers, 50% of all bottles contain Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir. These varieties are sometimes blended, though you’ll mostly come across single varietals on the Luxembourg side of the Moselle.
An Increase in Red Wine
Speaking of Pinot Noir, it’s one of the only red grapes you’ll find in the Grand Duchy (less than 5% of all Luxembourg vines are red, almost all of which are Pinot Noir). It’s mostly used in French-style Crémant blends, though a few small producers (Cep d’Or and Alice Hartmann) are now making some fairly impressive reds.
Rivaner, which also goes by the name of Müller-Thurgau, was Germany’s most popular grape variety up until the 1980s. In Luxembourg, it’s still planted in nearly 30% of all vineyards, though it’s mostly restricted to larger, commercial producers for the production of entry-level bottles (the kinds that can sometimes be found in European grocery chains).
Riesling to the Rescue
Last comes Riesling. As the superstar of the white wine world at the moment, it’s having a bit of a moment in Luxembourg. Despite its small share (still only 15% of total production), the grape produces some world-class wine. There’s even a local “Riesling Queen”, crowned every year at the start of a festival entirely devoted to the grape.
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