It is laborious work, and at times a challenging, thankless profession, but a new generation of Moselle winemakers is currently taking the reins and putting heart and soul into growing and making wine in the region: After Jeff Konsbrück, Bob Mollings and Ben and Max Schram, Paul Zahlen has now also embarked on the “Moselle gold” adventure.
When asked why he joined the Wine Institute (IVV) in Remich at the age of 23, Paul Zahlen is quick to answer: “To be a civil servant.” A secure job for the young man who had completed an apprenticeship in agricultural mechanics. But then something started to grow in him that he hadn’t anticipated: a passion. More specifically, a passion for wine. This was not a passion he’d been born with or into – neither of his parents had had any professional connection to agriculture. “But my grandparents had been winegrowers in Greiveldange. They’d sold their grapes to Domaine Vinsmoselle,” says the friendly 35-year-old.
His grandparents, René and Émilie Speltz, were surprised, but proud to hear their grandson’s career news: “When I told them I wanted to produce my own wine and become an independent winemaker, their first reaction was, ‘Are you sure?’” recalls Paul Zahlen with a laugh. “My grandfather’s 91 and regularly drives over to check on how things are going in the vineyards.”
Striving for organic quality
In 2021, the IVV employee launched Pauls Winery. “I initially bought 45 ares of Rivaner and Gewurztraminer vineyards in the area around Schengen and Remerschen, and then also rented some vineyards to bring the total up to just over four hectares,” says the winemaker, whose vineyards are all located within the commune of Stadtbredimus. Riesling, Chardonnay, Auxerrois, Pinot Noir Précoce, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer… and PiWis – grape varieties that are cross-bred, which makes them more resistant, and therefore require less spraying. Paul’s goal is, in fact, to produce organic wines. “It’s a three-year process to become organically certified. I’m in the second year now.”
A double life
For now, Paul Zahlen still leads a double life as an employee and a winemaker. “My father’s retired and so helps me out, but it’s hard work,” he says. He’s aiming to focus on winemaking full time soon.
“At the moment, I’m producing around 3,500 bottles of crémant and 6,000 to 7,000 bottles of wine. I’m using the vats that belong to my friend Jeff Konsbrück, who’s expecting to obtain his organic certification this year. He’s been an immense help to me with the cellar work. He shares his extensive experience and expertise with me and helps me with all the questions and problems that constantly crop up for a young, aspiring winemaker like me.”
An exquisite tasting
Sommelier Annaëlle De Zutter, who’s been working at restaurant Grünewald Chef’s Table since the autumn, tasted the young winemaker’s wines. She was particularly taken with his Gewürztraminer 2022: “A very open, expressive nose with the typical aromas of the grape variety: rose and lychee. It’s a complex wine, very floral, with a wonderful aromatic depth, a delicate sweetness and mild spicy notes. A pleasant, thirst-quenching finish, a fresh sweetness balanced by a sharp acidity.” The sommelier would pair this cuvée with “a blue goat cheese with cherry confit in port wine, or simply with pan-fried foie gras with candied fruit, a few dried cranberries and an aged balsamic vinegar”.
The second discovery: Pauls Rosé. “A truly fine rosé to be enjoyed with a special meal and that captivates with its intense raspberry colour. Damson, fresh plum and delicate raspberry notes emerge on the nose. It has a nice volume on the palate and aromas, less reminiscent of a rosé and more of a light red wine, that gently unfold. It would go perfectly with seared tuna and beetroot with a pomegranate sauce.”
Finally, the sommelier applauded Paul Zahlen’s Crémant for its “expressive, fresh and floral, yet slightly sweet nose, which would pair perfectly with a lovely lemony yuzu dessert.”
Sheer wine indulgence!
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