Luxembourg: From vine to wine in a country hiding light beneath its bushel

Wine at Schmit-Fohl winery, Luxembourg
Wine at Schmit-Fohl winery, Luxembourg

The wine-maker's daughter stands proudly in the sunshine amidst her family's vines, with the magnificent Moselle river winding behind her amid the green of the valley.

Across the river is Germany.

Vines at the C'ep Dor winery, Luxembourg

Vines at the C'ep Dor winery, Luxembourg

But this is lovely Luxembourg, where the wine is white and preferably with bubbles.

For many Brits, Luxembourg is rarely a factor in their travel plans.

Although many live and work here in the finance industry or in the various Euro institutions, few think to drop in for the weekend or the week as knowledge of the country is low-key.

Despite its location just a couple of hours by plane away, it’s rarely a country top of most travellers’ lists, something I was informed the Luxembourg people are quite happy about really.

The Moselle river winds through the valleys lined with vineyard, Luxembourg

The Moselle river winds through the valleys lined with vineyard, Luxembourg

Although they welcome tourists with open arms, they also quite like their city and country failing to achieve the tourism notoriety of Amsterdam or Venice.

They don’t want it ruining.

Quite understandable.

It’s beautiful and inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living.

The Moselle Valley, Luxembourg

The Moselle Valley, Luxembourg

For the uninitiated, Luxembourg is a small, landlocked, country - or strictly speaking a Grand Duchy - in the heart of Europe, bordered by Belgium, France and Germany.

It became independent of the Netherlands in 1867, has its own royal family and the native residents’ main language is Luxembourgish - though most speak at least three or four languages, usually English, German and French. They are part of the European Union so currency is the Euro.

Remarkably 47.5 per cent of the population is of a foreign nationality.

This is a country of many stories of war and territory but has a peaceful feel thanks partially to years of positive migration - many big companies have chosen to land here including Amazon - and the many European institutions with their senior executives.

We landed first in the city of Luxembourg itself, following a direct flight from Manchester with Flybe.

An hour after landing we were checking into our lovely city centre hotel, the chic white Hotel Simoncini, which boasts a harmonious, trendy, lobby, art installations throughout and small but perfectly formed rooms with view across the streets and rooftops of the photogenic city .

We were, the next day, to meet the owner Simoncini himself, an irrepressibly joyous gentleman who welcomes us with enthusiasm to his pet project, the Gallery Simoncini.

In a shop front adjacent to the hotel lobby he has curated a thought-provoking collection of moveable, mechanical, art ‘Les songes de Holly Chirot’ from the late artist.

The hotel’s location in the heart of the city is perfect for a walking tour.

Wearing our most comfortable shoes we took in the highs and lows of the new and old city - literally. Luxembourg is the most Instagrammable mix of old and new, with beautiful homes clinging to the cliffs and chocolate boxy scenes set into the lush green interior of the old city.

You can run, you can hike or bike right through. Its city parks are a delight and the central area a history-hunter’s delight.

The fortifications of the old city and its ancient quarters have been part of the UNESCO Cultural World Heritage since 1994, a fact which the people of Luxembourg are every proud.

You can travel down into the depths of the old city historic district of Pfaffenthal on foot or bike via outdoor public lift from the upper city of Luxembourg - which is not for the faint-hearted in the heights department.

The city boasts a vibrant food and drink scene so we ate like royalty at the quirky Restaurant Mesa Verde and tried the famous Riesling Paschteit, delivered with pride to the table by owner Gull Kaempff at the deli Kaempff-Kohler, which was founded by Gull’s grandparents in 1922.

All too fast it was time to leave and head for the wine region, skirting the famous Moselle river where vines coat the banks and fields and the main topic of conversation comes in a glass.

As our base we stayed at the Mondorf Parc Hotel, a sprawling thermal spa hotel of the type so popular in central Europe and somewhat of a cultural clash for the British unused to nudity on such a scale.

The good news is you can keep your cossie on in the outdoor thermal pools, if not the steam rooms and saunas.

But we were barely there, heading out instead to the wine growing region, as part of the Open Wine Cellars weekend.

We walked in the sunshine through the vines, which stretch as far as the eyes can see, before settling down between them with a glass of Cremant (Luxembourgish bubbles), made with grapes grown in this very valley by the family-run C’ep Dor.

Family is a theme as we travel from wine maker to wine maker, the generations linked by a love of the grapes and the countryside, children often returning after university and youthful adventures to carry on the traditions in new and modern ways.

In Moselle, you can largely enjoy white wines as well as Cremant, the exception being the many Pinot Noir, which taste light and refreshing, served cold.

We taste wine with cheese with master cheese maker Pierre Avon at the Maison Viticole Schmit-Fohl and enjoy lunch in the caves at Lueck Thull and even gin at the Distillerie Zenner.

We visit the wine cellar and landscape garden at Domaine Claude Bentz.

It’s idyllic.

They know how to live in Luxembourg.


For info about Luxembourg look up
Hotel Simoncini 6, Rue Notre Dame L-2240, Luxembourg
Restaurant Mesa Verde, 11 rue de St. Esprit L-1475
Kaempff-Kohler deli
Montdorf Domaine Rural, rue Dr E. Feltgen L-5601

C'ep Dor winery C'ep Dor
Maison Viticole Schmit-Fohl here