I am often asked about organic wines: can you taste the difference? How are they made? And most importantly, can you find them in Luxembourg? To be quite frank, I didn’t have any of the answers, so I knew it was time to get to work. After a bit of research, I decided that Domaine Sunnen-Hoffmann, Luxembourg’s first organic winery, was the perfect place to get the information I’ve been looking for.
I arranged a visit with Yves Sunnen and Corinne Kox-Sunnen, the brother-sister team behind the Domaine. They were extremely welcoming, and I spent a lovely afternoon learning about organic wine making and experiencing some new Luxembourgish wines.
The Domaine was founded in 1872, and although the winery has been in their family for five generations, Yves and Corrine have made their personal mark by becoming Luxembourg’s first official organic winery in 2001. Before settling on the idea to go organic, they experimented on a tiny piece of their vineyard. The experiment was so successful, they decided to expand the business and to make a full conversion to organic wine making. Since 2001, they’ve been able to add 6 hectares of vineyards to their estate.
Becoming an organic wine producer is no easy feat. There is a strict certification process which is followed by yearly checks of the soil, leaves and grapes to ensure that only organic fertiliser and seeds are being used. Additionally, the wine itself is analysed as organic wines must be lower in sulphur than conventional wines. If a producer passes all of the analyses, it is only granted the right to sell wine under the ‘bio’ label for one year.
One thing that struck me while speaking with Yves and Corinne was their passion for organic wine production. Although they acknowledge that you can find good and bad organic wines, they’ve found that for them, using organic products and processes has resulted in the production of typical Luxembourgish wines of a very high quality: wines with more structure and containing grapes that have reached their full potential. Clearly hearing all of these claims, made me eager to have a taste.
I tasted a variety of their wines and truly enjoyed every glass, but there were two wines that truly stood out from the rest:
The first is the Riesling Vieles Vignes 2015 (Wintrange Felsbierg). This wine is labeled under the Domaine & Tradition brand. Domaine & Tradition wines are selected by blind tastings and must reflect the typicity of the grape. This bottle is a classic Luxembourgish Rielsing of the highest quality. This wine is perfectly balanced and the minerality of the soil is reflected at all stages of tasting. Even if you’re not a usual Riesling fan, I would highly suggest giving this bottle a try.
The second bottle I recommend is the Libellula Blanc 2015 (aged in an oak barrel). This wine is an blend of Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc and Cabernet Blanc. If you haven’t heard of Cabernet Blanc you’re not alone. This was the first time I had heard of or tasted the variety. Cabernet Blanc is a hybrid grape in which Cabernet Sauvignon has been crossed with an unknown American grape. These grapes are very interesting for wine producers as they are almost entirely resistant to disease. I would recommend this wine if you’re looking to taste something outside of the typical Luxembourgish wine range as the aromas are unexpected, and the complexity of the wine makes every sip more interesting than the last.
If you’re interested in trying one of Sunnen-Hoffmann’s wines, there are some bottles available at Naturata. However, as usual, to get the biggest selection it is best to go straight to the source.
Domaine Sunnen-Hoffmann is open daily from 8am-12pm and 1:30-5pm. For tastings or visits outside of regular hours, it is best to make an appointment.
6, rue des Prés
+352 23 66 40 07
Follow Amanda on her journey to uncork the Luxembourg wine scene, and stay tuned for information on tastings and tours. www.luxuncorked.com
All photos published with kind permission of Domaine Sunnen-Hoffmann.