Luxembourg: Vine varieties

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Most Luxembourg still wines are varietal wines and are almost invariably labelled as such. Rivaner is the name used here for the müller-thurgau that so effectively replaced Elbling in the 20th century that by the early 1980s it was planted on half of the Grand Duchy’s total vineyard, being relatively easy to ripen whatever the local conditions. Its ability to yield obligingly high quantities was so abused by many growers, however, that it became synonymous with mediocrity and declined considerably to 330 ha/815 acres by 2013, about a quarter of the country’s vineyard. Much of it was replaced by Pinot Gris (193 ha/477 acres), highly regarded for its low acidity and its ripening potential. Pinot Blanc (158 ha/390 acres) and Pinot Noir (116 ha/286 acres) have also been enthusiastically planted, chiefly for crémant sparkling wine. Pinot Blanc’s close relative auxerrois enjoys higher status in Luxembourg than anywhere else in the world (and certainly higher than in Alsace, where ten times as much is planted). Its low acidity is a positive attribute this far from the equator and when yields are curbed, barrel-aged Luxembourg Auxerrois can produce smoky, full-bodied wines worth ageing. Total plantings in 2013 were 188 ha/465 acres. Although some Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer are planted, the only other significant variety is Riesling (158 ha/390 acres), whose stately ageing curve put many Luxembourg wine drinkers off for years, but a new generation of producers seems to have understood the need to pick Riesling later and achieve more consumer-friendly flavours.