Luxembourg Crémant - let’s keep it secret!
By Sarita Rao
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting one of Luxembourg’s most famous wineries. The tour was fascinating, but in all honesty, like any avid wine drinker, I was chomping at the bit for the tasting. And I was not disappointed.
What I know about wines can be written on a postage stamp. In other words, I buy bottles randomly, depending on what the supermarket is promoting. I gulp rather than savour.
Despite my lack of knowledge, I would say a sizeable chunk of household expenditure goes on the grape. Why clean when you can quaff?
I had never heard of Crémant before I came to Luxembourg. Now I am a true convert. It tastes better than champagne and is infinitely more affordable.
As well as tasting good, you can be assured to impress visitors with its uniqueness, because it’s not to be found in the Champagne parlours of London, that’s for sure. It’s Luxembourg’s best kept secret.
It seems though that this is all about to change, according to Niels Toase, sommelier at Bernard-Massard. The brand already has a strong export market in Belgium, Finland and Canada but is now exporting to the UK, United States, Estonia, the Netherlands, Columbia and Russia.
Crémant is in fact produced like Champagne. It follows all the same processes, it just can’t take the name because the grapes aren’t grown in that region. In fact, true "Crémant de Luxembourg" must only involve grapes grown in the country, and some of the stuff I’ve been buying in the supermarkets for less than 10 Euros a bottle is in fact a blend of grapes from the Duchy, mixed with imported ones from Germany, France and even Italy. Technically it’s not called Crémant, but I’ve never let a technicality get between me and a glass of wine before.
During the tasting I discover what I’ve really been missing. That is, the wines that you can only buy direct from the producers. Oh and what wines they are.
I had always laboured under the delusion that Riesling is something you fill your car with. If you must drink it, then add a liberal amount of crème de cassis to take away that petrol taste. How wrong was I? A smooth single grape Riesling is like a summer breeze on your tongue. A single grape Pinot Blanc is even better.
The unusual micro-climate here means that the Duchy can produce a great range and variety of wine. Niels Toase tells me that Grevenmacher soils are chalky and hard, while Schengen has softer clay soils. This allows the winery to blend different varieties and flavours as well as produce single blends.
I should be delighting in this abundance of good quality “vino”, but instead I’m afraid that if Luxembourg starts exporting it, there won’t be enough left for me. Should I go out now and fill my cellar, or just keep a watchful eye on supermarket shelves?
Then I reassure myself that Luxembourgers will not let Crémant run out in their own country. If it did, no one would attend any festivals; bars and restaurants would close; theatres would be half empty and the clocks would stop.
Of course I am thrilled that at last friends and family overseas have the chance to delight in the sparkle that is this country’s elixir of life, so long as they don’t drink too much of it.
Luxembourg has a great many “secrets”, from the wilds of Mullerthal to the streets of Grund, the fantastic gromperekichelcher, and the traditions of Buergbrennen. But Crémant is my favourite “secret”. And I’d like to keep it that way.