Bernard Massard Cuvée de l’Ecusson Brut 2003
New Year’s Eve is a time for celebratory fizz, it seems, and I thought therefore that with my Weekend Wine falling on this final day of the year that this sort of wine would be the obvious choice. And although my hand landed first on a variety of vintage Champagnes, I decided to focus on something a little more esoteric to see out the year.
When listing the wine producing nations of Europe Luxembourg is rarely one of the first to trip off the tongue – unless you are a native of this country, I suspect. Nevertheless, there is a long history of viticulture here, and it is along the Moselle that the vines flourish. After flowing down from the Vosges mountains in France to enter Germany, where it is more familiar to us as the Mosel, the river creates a natural boundary between Germany and Luxembourg. On the left bank, on Luxembourg soil, there are planted many familiar varieties including Riesling, Silvaner, the ancient Elbling – which once dominated the vineyards of Germany before the omnipotence of Riesling was realised – and even some Pinot Noir. Here in the town of Grevenmacher, at the heart of the Moselle wine region, Caves Bernard-Massard are located.
Luxembourg has a long history of producing sparkling wines using the méthode traditionnelle (stretching back more than 80 years in the case of Bernard-Massard), and at one time the country was a regular source of base wines for German Sekt. That is no longer the case, and the wines are more likely to be found declaring their true origins, under the simple appellation system based on the French model. There is just one appellation for the still wines, whereas the sparkling wines are bottled as Crémant de Luxembourg, the regulations for which mirror those of French Crémants. The cuvée tasted here, the Bernard Massard Cuvée de l’Ecusson Brut 2003, is one such wine. It certainly has plenty of life in the glass, displaying a fairly fine but plentiful bead frothing up to the surface. The nose offers very crisply defined aromas, showing a little peach and sherbet, in a fresh, lifted and slightly herby fashion. The palate very much mirrors these aromas, crisp but with a playful sherbetty edge, but underneath a rather more stern, minerally, rocky character backed up by plenty of acidity. This is covered by an appealing mousse with a creamy presence, and overall it has some good substance in the mouth. I find it rather reminiscent of a good sparkling Saumur or Crémant de Loire, the examples which make you feel you have just licked the very limestone rocks from which they were born, rather than those which have been tarted up with residual sugar or honey-tinged oak. These are wines of honesty, and I like them very much for that. 16+/20 (31/12/07)