A strong case for terroir!


There can be few, if any, winemakers in the Mosel with as inimitable a style as Reinhard Löwenstein of Winningen. As the address suggests, Bahnhofstrasse 10 is right by the train station; the impressive art nouveau house built in 1888 was joined recently by a giant concrete cube containing the winemaking facility and the two buildings are joined underground by the cellar. All manner of design concepts are employed here, including Fung Shui and Pablo Neruda’s poetry.

Winningen is in the Lower Mosel, just outside the city of Koblenz. The climate here is warmer than in the Middle Mosel and the wines somewhat sturdier. It is here, primarily from the Uhlen site, that these wines are made. He also has holdings in the Röttgen, other Winningen sites and in Hatzenport further upstream. Reinhard divides the Winninger Uhlen into three unique terroirs: Blaufußerlay (blue-grey slate), Laubach (dark chalky slate) and Roth Lay (red, quartzite laden, silty slate). Heymann-Löwenstein cultivates 14.5 ha in total.

For all intents and purposes the wines of this estate should be treated and drunk as dry wines even if they are not ‘legally trocken’. Reinhard harvests late and must weights are at the higher level, some must oxidation is deliberately encouraged, fermentations occur naturally, and the juice is settled, not fined, before racking into one of his many Doppelstück where they remain until the following harvest. The resultant wines are a truly cerebral drinking experience; they are far from ‘classic’ Mosel, but this doesn’t detract one bit from their quality. Only noble sweet wines are bottled with a Prädikat here.

The Roth Lay and Laubach I enjoyed recently are not current release but from the 2014 vintage. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that one of these sessions included a bottle of 2007 Prager Kaiserberg Riesling Smaragd from the Wachau; ‘gilded’ and ‘beguiling’ were among the ostentatious words thrown around the table. Last year, visiting with my father (who was most impressed), I had the great fortune of tasting the 2015 Heymann-Löwenstein vintage while still in barrel. The 2016 wines I am yet to have the pleasure of encountering.

There’s a distinctive and very tactile ferrous nature to the wines of the Roth Lay portion of the Uhlen site. The wines are deep and multi-layered and the aroma to me is somewhat ochre, or red-toned. This already drinks beautifully, with intensity, with grace; full, firm and yet gleaming, quartz like. The Laubach I found to have a refined opulence about it with a fairly exotic, yellow fruit touch, it continued to evolve, kaleidoscope-like, over the course of dinner and drank thoroughly well with duck… I was however in special company and not really taking notes. ‘Blaufußerlay’ I haven’t tasted in over a year but I find it the most delicate or discreet of the three.

The Heymann-Löwenstein Schieferterrassen Riesling is not to be scoffed at and if you happen upon the very fragrant Pinot Noir vom Schiefer (made in collaboration with Hanspeter Ziereisen of Baden) then do not pass up the opportunity to drink a bottle.

Reinhard Löwenstein is a fiercely opinionated man, however as one listens to him speak, you get the impression that his views are formulated very intelligently. If his wisdom alone is not enough then let his wines do the talking, they make a strong case for terroir! I’ll get to the punchline because I’d like to make a point. When it comes to ‘dry’ Riesling of this pedigree I find comparisons with white Burgundy (often made by journalists) to totally debase their value.

What I’ve been drinking…

Dear reader,

I thought I’d jump right in because I don’t really know what to say about myself. My drink choices should speak for me… here is what I’ve been enjoying recently…

2009 Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken Saarburger Rausch ‘Diabas’. The name Diabas refers to a green-tinged basaltic stone of volcanic origin that is found in the Saarburger Rausch alongside the classic Devonian slate. This is the top feinherb of the Zilliken estate, very much at the ‘ripe peach’ end of the flavour spectrum; it’s a textbook example of how Saar Rieslings can be fully ripe and remain feather-light. This was my first experience with this wine and it has left quite an impression on me; this is my kind of Riesling and it reminds me of why I enjoy the wines of Peter Lauer so much.

2009 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, this is decidedly juicy and (like a 2007 Auslese we enjoyed recently – as dessert) still shows a lot of what Katharina Prüm likes to call “baby fat”. It’s a brilliant Sonnenuhr Spätlese. The 2009 Graacher Himmelreich is currently in a much less forgiving phase.

Both of these wines are very adolescent and are yet to emerge completely from their ‘closed-down’ phase; at least they have the benefit of a little natural sweetness. I have some more bottles of the Diabas Riesling and plan on waiting some time before opening another.

On a recent visit home, I pitched a couple of beautiful dry wines against each other for my father; a 2015 Clemens Busch Marienburg Falkenlay GG and a 2016 François Cotat Les Monts Damnés Sancerre. The Falkenlay is a truly outstanding example of the 2015 vintage, it is full of extract, ripe succulent fruit and mouthwatering acidity; it promises to mature into a very seductive dry wine. The Monts Damnés is drinking beautifully as a young wine but patience will be rewarded…

There, you know where my loyalties lie now.