Von Hövel Hütte GG

I have just published my first article: The VDP and its Klassifikation (Part 1) in the new Content section of this site. As previously mentioned, I aim to continually expand on the information available here… 

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Very much in keeping with the theme of the aforementioned article, I’d like to make mention of a wine I’d been eager to revisit since my first tasting in November; the 2015 Von Hövel Hütte GG from the Saar. I suspected that I had unfairly judged this wine for it’s unconventional style…

The Oberemmler Hütte is the monopol of Weingut Von Hövel. I believe this sees a few days of skin contact which sets it quite apart in style from the feather-light 2016 Saar Riesling feinherb that I’ve been consuming with enthusiasm lately. I find the aromas of citrus blossom, ginger and black tea very attractive; there’s even the mildest paraffin note. It’s rich in extract, creamy even, but thoroughly well balanced, pithy, tense and long. It’s absolutely delicious. 11% alcohol.

This is ready to drink but you needn’t hurry. Imported into Australia by Heart & Soil and available online through Randall’s.

On a closing note, I would like to politely remind all who have not given consideration to Riesling Downunder 2018 to please do so. Just over two weeks to go!

Hofgut Falkenstein

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Living in Melbourne, I’ve seldom had the opportunity to drink the wines of Hofgut Falkenstein. Based in a side-valley in the north of the Saar called the Konzer Tälchen, father and son Erich and Johannes Weber produce a range of light and mostly dry Riesling wines bottled not simply by vineyard, but by cask. They farm about 8 hectares of old vines, a portion of which are ungrafted, and adhere to a strict low-yield policy. In the cellar fermentations occur with ambient yeasts in 1000 litre Mosel Fuder.

Despite specialising in dry wines the Webers still label with a Prädikat (Kabinett trocken, for example) and chaptalisation is out of the question, not merely because it’s not allowed for Prädikatsweine but on principle; the practice is redundant for wines of this style in any case. As a rule, a Kabinett trocken will be lighter than a Spätlese trocken.

The Saar is a special place, there’s no doubt about it. There is a feeling of tranquility about the region that makes the Middle Mosel feel almost metropolitan by comparison. Temperatures in the Saar are on average lower than in the Middle Mosel and the rainfall is higher, as a result the wines here are far racier; must weights are lower and levels of acidity are more pronounced. To some palates the Saar offers the purest and most profound expression of Riesling on the planet.

I drank the following two wines recently and stashed another away for lunch on Christmas Day…

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
Stunning clarity, pure, tense, tropical accented fruit… incredible detail and length. There is a breathtaking lightness, a coolness, about this Auslese and it only tastes at sweet as some Spätlesen, I am mighty impressed.

2016 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese Trocken
The Ober Schäfershaus is a 0.2 ha parcel within the Krettnacher Altenberg that was recently purchased by the Webers. Amongst slate and quartz, you find the basaltic diabas, also found in the Saarburger Rausch. This, more than the Auslese, illustrates what the Webers do best. Flinty and faintly smoky, a whiff of iodine even. Very tense, very elegant. It does benefit from a little air.

The Webers also farm plots in the Niedermenninger Herrenberg, Niedermenninger Sonnenberg and Falkensteiner Hofberg. The wines of Hofgut Falkenstein are imported into Australia by Andrew Guard.

Welcome Von Hövel!

Imagine my delight recently when I learned that Weingut Von Hövel’s wines have made it to Australia all the way from the Saar. Importer Heart & Soil had a few wines open for a tasting at the French Saloon recently, alongside new releases from Keller, Wagner-Stempel (Rheinhessen) and some very fine reds and whites from Ziereisen (Baden).

Von Hövel is based in Konz-Oberemmel in the Saar (not far from Wiltingen), they own the Oberemmeler Hütte in its entirety and also have holdings in the Scharzhofberg and other well-known sites like the Kanzemer Hörecker; The Hütte site has the same south by south-east exposition as the Scharzhofberg. Maximilian von Kunow took over the estate after his father Eberhard suffered a stroke in 2010. Maximilian has continued the fruity Saar style made by his father but has also introduced dry-tasting Saar Rieslings too.

Both the 2016 Saar Riesling and Saar Riesling trocken are fine examples of their style; clean and bright, elegant and mineral. These are classically light-footed Saar wines and I hope to see them appear on wine bar/restaurant lists over the summer.

The 2015 Oberemmler Hütte GG will divide opinion; there is a fair amount of skin contact here (I initially suspected some botrytis but I am assured that the dry, off-dry and GG wines are fungus free) and the wine is both fruit and tannin rich, plenty of dried apricot, orange rind, black tea etc. A meditation wine indeed, this will very generously reward some cellaring, give it 5-7 years at least and in excess of a decade if you have the patience.

The wine that really grabbed me was the 2015 Scharzhofberger Kabinett. This was supremely fine, filigreed, flavoursome and long and will take years to unfurl. The interplay between sugar and acidity approaches perfection, a stunning Kabinett from a legendary vineyard site. Drink a bottle now and then lay a few down for a another 5 years at least. I will be.

On another note, as I write I am drinking a 2015 Immich-Batterieberg C.A.I. Riesling Kabinett. This is quite simply one of the best value dry Mosel Rieslings I have tried to date. The labelling Kabinett makes a point about chaptalisation. There’s uniform ripeness here, much fruit and spice and bracing acidity. I believe some fruit from the lower portion of the Enkircher Batterieberg makes it in to this wine, joined by some fruit from the Saar too… I could be wrong. I will be drinking this in place of water over the summer months.

A strong case for terroir!

Heymann-Löwenstein

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.

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