We consider ourselves somewhat of an expert in wine tourism in Europe. Sure, we haven’t been everywhere, but we have visited a lot of the lesser-known European wine regions. The Moselle Wine Region is the home to the Luxembourg wine industry and certainly falls within the definition of lesser-known wine regions.
Although I’ve known of Luxembourg for years as a financial and banking center (mostly because of my former life as a tax lawyer) I had no idea that it produced wine.
And, not just any wine, but great value wines that can rival Champagne any day. It’s certainly a unique wine tourism destination that offers a lot for intrepid travelers.
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The Moselle Wine Region
The Moselle River winds along the border of Germany and Luxembourg, just a little outside of Luxembourg’s capital and the city center. The Moselle River Valley on the Luxembourg side is a historic wine region that dates back thousands of years.
It is located in the southeast of the country, along the German border (where the river is known as the Mosel River). The Moselle region stretches for about 26 miles (42 kilometers) from Schengen in the south to Wasserbillig in the north.
This is one of the smallest wine-growing regions in Europe. Although it is often compared to the Mosel region across the river, which produces some of the best German wines, Luxembourg can certainly hold its own.
It’s a great area to visit in Luxembourg not only for wine, but also for great food, nature, and other activities, including Moselle River cruises in the summer.
What is Luxembourg Cremant
On our first night, we visited a few wine bars in Luxembourg city. It was cold and wet outside in early spring, so I asked about Luxembourg red wine. I will say, it exists, but it is not the primary wine in the country.
The bartender kind of looked at me askew and suggested Cremant. I know Cremant as a French wine. It is what they call white sparkling wine produced in the traditional champagne method, but it is not produced in the Champagne region.
Let’s take a step back to explain some of these wine words. Some wine drinkers assume all sparkling wine is Champagne, but that is just not the case.
Champagne is a term reserved for sparkling wine that is produced in the Champagne region of France.
If someone is making sparkling wine outside of Champagne, within France it is normally known as Cremant. In Italy, near Venice, it is known as Prosecco and in Spain, it is known as Cava.
If someone is making sparkling wine in Italy, Spain, Portugal or the US, it legally cannot be called Champagne. It must be called sparkling wine. In Luxembourg, then, the sparkling wine is considered Luxembourg Cremant.
How Is Cremant Produced?
There is something more to understanding the process of making sparkling wine this way. It’s something you can see when visiting any Luxembourg winery.
When winemakers use grapes to produce wine, there is an initial fermentation, normally in a steel tank. This fermentation turns grapes into alcohol, and the wine we all know and love.
Second Fermentation Makes The Bubbles
To make Champagne, there is a second fermentation in the bottle. This is what creates the bubbles. There’s a lot more that goes into managing this process, which is why sparkling wine made this way is often more expensive.
This is called the traditional method, or méthode champenoise in France, or metodo classico in Italian.
Cremant in Luxembourg is made in this traditional method, which is why it is so similar to Champagne. There are different varieties of Cremant including Cremant Brut, which is more dry, and even Cremant Rose.
Tasting Luxembourg Wines
The Moselle Valley is the birthplace of Luxembourg wine and they specialize predominantly in white varieties, many of which are used to produce Crémant de Luxembourg.
Cremant is served alongside many of the most traditional Luxembourg dishes, at wine bars, or as an aperitif before meals. We can recommend a few wine bars in Luxembourg to taste the local wines including Barrels, Dipso, and Vinoteca Luxembourg.
It’s pretty easy to drink cremant when visiting Luxembourg City, but the real treat comes from exploring the Moselle Valley in Luxembourg. There are about 50 producers lining the Moselle River, which is only about a 20-30 minute drive from the city.
Together, they produce over 15 million bottles of wine every year, almost all of which is consumed within the country or in the neighboring areas. To drink Luxembourg Cremant you pretty much have to visit Luxembourg!
Luxembourg Wine Varietals
The character of the Moselle wines come from the fertile soil and the unique microclimate of the area. Being more moist and cool, white grapes tend to grow better than red grapes in the area. There are less than ten white varietals that Luxembourg wineries can use to make Cremant as well as still wines.
The most popular wine varietal grown in Moselle is Riesling, which is one of the most-well known grapes used to produce wine in Germany.
I always associated Riesling with sweet wine, although in Germany the grape is used to produce both sweet and dry wines. The Riesling in Luxembourg tends to be more dry than in Germany.
In addition to Riesling, other international grapes are grown including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. These are grapes that are commonly used to produce Champagne as well.
One of the most surprising grapes to us was Auxerrois. Auxerrois Luxembourg was one of my favorites during our wine tourism trip. It’s crisp and light when young but also ages well and becomes more creamy with flavors of honey. It has a full, aromatic nose. I could just sit all day and smell a glass of Auxerrois. Okay, I enjoyed drinking it as well.
Other grapes used to produce wine in Luxembourg including the ancient grape Elbling as well as the Rivaner, which is quite common. They also produce wines from Gewürztraminer, another grape commonly grown in Germany.
Recommended Luxembourg Wineries
There is a Luxembourg wine route, which means that there are wineries to visit, villages to explore, and plenty to drink. Along the way, vineyards climb from the river up the hillsides and into the Luxembourg countryside.
The route begins in the north, near Wasserbillig and follows the River south. To start, there is a Folklore and Wine Museum “A Possen” in Bech-Kleinmacher as part of the wine route. There is also a Wine Museum in Ehnen, which is more dedicated to wine and wine history than A Possen.
We visited a handful of wineries during our Luxembourg wine tasting journey, from large producers to boutique wineries.
Some of these wineries are easier to visit than others. Some have regular hours and it is possible to just pop in. Most, though, have more restricted hours and require advanced booking through their website.
Caves St. Martin
One of the easiest wineries to visit is Caves St. Martin in Remich. They are unique in that their wine cellar is carved out of the limestone cliffs. This is where they age their Cremant.
Tours include a walk through these moist wine caves (don’t worry, it’s totally safe) and ends in their shop with a tasting of Cremant.
Although we tried some Cremant in Luxembourg city, this was our first stop during our wine tour. They gave us our first introduction to Luxembourg Cremant and took the time to educate us.
During nicer weather, there is a restaurant just outside where you can eat traditional Luxembourg food and drink their Luxembourg wine. Tastings range from €6.50-€20 per person depending on the wines tasted. They are closed on Monday.
We had a lovely visit as well at Sunnen-Hoffmann in Remerschen (no there is no relation between us and the Hoffmanns). They are focused on producing high-quality, biologic and organic Luxembourg Cremant.
Founded in 1872, they are the perfect mix of traditional Luxembourg wine culture with a focus on the trend of more sustainable production.
They are open Monday through Friday in the mornings and again in the afternoons for tasting and are open for arranged visits on weekends as well. It is a good idea to plan ahead of time by emailing or calling for an appointment.
We also learned quite a lot while visiting Maison Viticole Schmit-Fohl in Anh. Schmit-Folh is a true family-run, neighborhood winery. They are not as big as their neighbors but have a quaint tasting room attached to their winery. Their Auxerrois was one of my favorite wines of the trip.
I kind of wanted to slip a few bottles into my backpack before leaving and wished we had planned to travel home with wine from the trip.
Maison Viticole Schmit-Fohl in Anh offers tastings on request, but they are a small family-run operation. The best time to visit them is during the village’s open cellars festival in July.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Schmit-Fohl, we visited a large Cremant cooperative called Domaines Vinsmoselle. They are a collection of six cooperatives that together control over 60% of the winemaking in Luxembourg. The other wineries mentioned above are all independent of the cooperative.
Our tasting focused mostly on Cremants Poll-Fabaire wines, which incidentally was also what LuxAir served on our flight to Luxembourg. In the wine shop there were dozens upon dozens of different types of wine offered. We only tried a handful, although our host kept pouring more and more.
How They Make The Bubbles
We saw one thing that was pretty interesting when visiting their bottling facility. Traditionally, when wine is aged under the traditional Champagne method, it’s important for the yeast to stay in contact with the wine in order to improve the flavor of the end product.
Towards the end of the aging process, the bottles are placed at an angle and turned a bit every few days in order for the yeast to settle closer to the top of the bottle.
Eventually, the yeast is dispelled from the bottle (in a complicated and very cool process called disgorging). Traditionally, people would hand turn each and every bottle every few days to make this happen. Imagine doing this with hundreds of thousands of bottles. Now, there are machines to take over this process.
We saw a couple of these machines for the first time at Schmit-Fohl and happened to be there when they turned on automatically, to rotate the bottles.
It’s a giant black cube of upside-down sparkling wine bottles rotating like a small carnival ride. Although we didn’t see them in action at the cooperative, the sheer volume of these agitating cubes was astonishing. Row after row of aging sparkling wine.
Luxembourg Wine Festivals
The Moselle River Valley hosts a series of wine festivals throughout the year. Some of them are big events and others are more local. Another great way to learn about the Luxembourg wine region is to visit the Grape and Wine Festival in Grevenmacher. Grevenmacher hosts the largest wine festival in September each year.
Wineries celebrate the fall harvest and open their cellar doors to visitors. In July each year, the village of Ahn opens its cellar doors and winemakers offer tastings throughout the village. For any of these festivals, consider planning a visit from the Luxembourg city center. If you wish to stay in the wine region, it’s best to book accommodation in advance.
FAQS – VISITING LUXEMBOURG FOR WINE
When purchasing directly from the winery or at some wine shops, wine in Luxembourg can be a great value, with many bottles selling between €8-15 a bottle. At restaurants, glasses and bottles will be more expensive.
Absolutely! Every one of our wine tastings in Luxembourg included both sparkling and non-sparkling wines, but we only tried a few reds. Some of the white wines are also aged in oak barrels, giving them more age and complexity. If you don’t generally drink sparkling wine, perhaps mention that when making a booking for a tasting and tour.
It certainly helps. There are buses from Luxembourg that can bring you to the region. Once there, you can actually take a riverboat up and down the river to visit a couple of wineries in one day.
Where To Stay In The Moselle Valley
We stayed at Hotel Ecluse, an eco-focused hotel property where our room had a view of Germany over the river and its own in-room sauna.
It was one hotel where I didn’t want to check out. Their restaurant offers a menu pairing with Luxembourg Cremant. Get the best rate at Hotel Ecluse here.