1868 Saar und Mosel Weinbau-Karte

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Something I’d been missing for a while was a wall-mountable map of the Mosel, or in other words, something outside of a book. I’ve had plenty of other regions covered (I gave away a lovely and very detailed map of Alsace to a friend earlier this year and I’d like to replace it)… but the Mosel? No such thing in my collection.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had ordered a facsimile of the 1868 map of the Mosel and Saar by Franz Josef Cotten, and I happily took delivery last week.

As the accompanying notes explain, the map was based on assessments made by Prussian tax authorities between 1816 and 1832. The 1868 Saar und Mosel Weinbau-Karte divides the land under vine at the time of publication into three tiers based on revenue, with the those of greatest value highlighted in dark red. Many present day sites are immediately recognisable, including some of enduring renown. It is fascinating to be able to look back 150 years into the history of the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer.

Preceded by the 1867 classification of the Rheingau by Friedrich Wilhelm Dünkelberg, the 1868 Saar and Mosel map is amongst the first of it’s kind. Of course, there are some notable similarities between the 1868 first edition of Clotten’s map and today’s modern VDP.Klassification.

2017 von Hövel

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When a name like Scharzhofberg is so intrinsically linked to one estate alone, it’s hard to imagine that anyone else could coax wines of any value from the same site. Well, enter von Hövel. I’ll readily admit that I’ve written about this estate often and so I apologise if I come across as repetitive. That said, the 2017 vintage is fresh on our shores.

In the Mosel, 2017 saw growers completing a trifecta of excellent, albeit very different, vintages. All three presented their own challenges but devastating April frosts might have made 2017 the most difficult of the three. Losses are reported at between 30-40% on average, though some (a few) sites were spared such a malady.

The weather did take a turn for the better in the end, though rainfall meant that disease pressure was high, and whilst BA and TBA was produced at the finest addresses, no Eiswein was made.

In comparison to the filigreed and cerebral 2016 vintage, the low yielding 2017 has produced juicer wines with concentrated and succulent fruit, high extract and firm tannins (small berries, thick skins).

If Max von Kunow’s  Feinherb and Kabinett Rieslings aren’t convincing enough then the Kabinett “S” (from the Silberberg parcel within the Krettnacher Altenberg that’s been otherwise ignored by the VDP) should turn some heads. It’s exotic, juicy and layered with sorbet like acidity bringing the wine into total harmony.

The Kabinett was the only wine from the Oberremmeler Hütte on show and was ever so slightly subdued. It has on it’s side, however, good structure and length and promises a bright future. Other than a stunning 2015 GG, I’ve not had the fortune of tasting much else from this renowned Monopollage.

Whilst the Scharzhofberger Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines show beautifully in youth, they all demand and deserve considerable patience. It was the 2017 Auslese #48 (from one Fuder) that swept me off my feet. There is no denying the supreme quality of fruit here and the indulgent richness of this wine is tempered with a firm structure and vibrant acidity. The #48 promises great rewards for anyone willing to lay a few bottles down for the next 20-30 years, if not more.

Also on show were 2016 wines from Simon Bize in Savigny-lès-Beaune and 2015s ad 2016s from Robert Chevillon in Nuits-Saint-Georges. I’m a fan of both estates, Chevillon in particular. The premier cru Vergelesses from Bize was fantastic, nourishing, savoury with beautiful fruit and good line (as one would expect from a year like 2016). The Chevillon wines all showed brilliantly and I was most impressed by the 2016 (again) Bourgogne Passetoutgrain and the gorgeous 2015 premier cru Vaucrains which was characteristically dense and firm.

As I said before, I’ve written about von Hövel both often and quite recently. They’ve become one of my personal favourite addresses for supremely crystalline Saar Riesling and I’d like to see them on more dining tables in the future.

Imported into Australia by Heart & Soil.

(more) praise for von Hövel

I’ve been delighted each and every time I’ve had the good fortune of tasting these wines. Von Hövel’s Saar Rieslings have not been present in the Australian market long and I would really like to see their presence grow.

Though a decent portion of von Hövel’s wines are made in the classic ‘fruity’ style, a drier style has become an important focus since Max took up the reins in 2010. Additionally, the estate’s holdings have more that doubled since then.

2016 Saar Riesling Feinherb
The interplay between natural sweetness and brilliant acidity in this wine is a ‘case in point’ example of what the Saar does so perfectly. Though slightly muted upon opening, with just a little air this Feinherb offers a beautiful array of ripe white and yellow fruit, the acidity is mouthwatering and there is considerable length to the finish.

2016 Riesling Kabinett ‘S’
From ‘Silberberg’, a parcel in the Krettnacher Altenberg, not an official place name, but undoubtedly a fine piece of Earth. This is a beautiful Kabinett, just sweet enough and very well balanced. Another gem from the 2016 vintage. It’s unfortunate that ‘Silberberg’ is classified as a Grosse Lage site by the VDP, but the Altenberg’s brilliant terroir is not acknowledged.

2016 Riesling Scharzhofberger GG
‘A GG with 10.5% alcohol’… that sentence echoed in my mind as I mused over this elegant dry Riesling. The fruit is beautifully ripened and the finished wine is succulent and deeply layered. Sure enough, the alcohol is admirably low for a GG and consequently there’s a wonderfull weightlessness to the palate. So very fresh. One for the cellar.

2015 Riesling Scharzhofberger Auslese***
The three stars are applied much in the same way as on the Markus Molitor labels, this Auslese is made from 100% clean (no botrytis) fruit. A hypnotising and distinctly gilded bouquet. This is the product of a very warm season and you most definitely feel the added layer in ripeness, but it’s just so well balanced. Faintly smokey, reminiscent of Earl Grey tea, and also showing a savoury tone with a little air. It glides across the palate and finishes with considerable length. Of course, this is just about the greatest terroir for the Riesling grape to be found on this planet.

These wines are imported by Heart & Soil. I believe the 2017 vintage is already on the water.

2016 Joh. Jos. Prüm Frühstück

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Restaurant: Lucy Liu, Melbourne

Joh. Jos. Prüm really needs little in the way of introduction… and anyone even vaguely acquainted with me will know just how much I adore the wines produced by this estate. Amongst the producers that adhere to the ‘classically fruity’ Mosel style, these are just about the most brilliant. They are always pure and filigreed, even aristocratic in style with low alcohols and incredible depth of flavour. The Kabinette here are afforded utmost care and attention and are built to age almost as well as any Spätlesen or Auslesen.

Dr. Katharina Prüm is the current custodian of this estate. She is a very earnest, intelligent and kind woman… when I visited in 2016 I was very deeply moved by her generosity and hospitality. The first vintage she completed with her father, Manfred, was the very challenging 2003; those wines are very graceful indeed.

I consider myself fortunate because my visit to the Mosel in 2016 coincided with some of the first days of sunshine and dry weather that the region had seen in over a month. In spite of considerable disease pressure, this vintage turned out to be something of a triumph. The finest wines of 2016 are supremely elegant; acidities are higher than in 2015 and alcohol levels are lower. 2016 was a minimal Botrytis vintage, though Prüm’s Auslesen are not a style defined by ‘Edelfäule’… this is more or less found in the breathtaking Goldkapsel wines and the higher predicates.

The key sites here are the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Bernkasteler Badstube (which is actually a grosslage and not an einzellage). The former two are without a doubt the most famous with the Sonnenuhr producing the more succulent and fruit focused wines and the Himmelreich tending towards a racier and smokier style. Both the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Bernkastler Badstube yield brilliant wines; the Johannisbrünnchen site within the Badstube has, for instance, produced some brilliant eiswein in vintages like 2004 and 2015.

Prüm is amongst a handful of estates that releases cellar aged wines and we are fortunate in Australia to have access. This means that the brilliant wines of older vintages can be found on wine lists here. If you happen to stumble upon any 2004 Auslesen I strongly urge you to drink some. Furthermore, if you can purchase more than a single bottle then patience will be very generously rewarded. Some museum release wine was shown at this event.

Though other estates have offered beautiful 2016 wines to the Australian market, this is the first we have seen from Prüm… their wines are typically released late.

Please excuse the irregularity of my notes. I often struggle with note taking… but I’d like to share my impressions if I may. You can really take these with a pinch of salt (it’s for my own recollection more than anything else)… on the whole the Kabinette offer some immediate drinking pleasure and are more accessible than in 2015; they will of course still cellar comfortably. Many tasters were most taken with the Spätlesen. The Auslesen were mostly quite restrained at the moment. Overall quality of the 2016 vintage meets high expectations.

2016 Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett
Very charming and floral. Still open and drinking well.

2016 Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett
Racy as always, slightly saline.

2016 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett
Beautiful quality of fruit, supremely elegant. Plus length.

2016 Bernkasteler Badstube Spätlese
Good tension and very pure fruit. A delightful wine.

2016 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese
No note. Sorry. I enjoyed it, no doubt.

2016 Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese
Very tense, smoky, racy and with a firm finish. Really very good.

2016 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese
Slight sponti nose. A very succulent, charming wine with a long life ahead. Brilliant.

2016 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese
Very nice, elegant, light but not dilute, good tension.

2016 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese
Saline, nice concentration of fruit and great balance. Very long.

2016 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese
Silky, succulent, layered… ‘gilded!’ A very fine Sonnenuhr Auslese, very elegant and long.

2009 Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese
This is emerging from it’s closed down phase nicely. I had looked at a few unforgiving bottles in the past but this is showing more fruit now and that classically Himmelreich smokey note.

2012 Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese
Very much closed down but an excellent wine that needs a little more patience.

2012 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese
Silken fruit, slightly honeyed tone, good extract and structure. More showy than the Himmelreich Spätlese at the this stage but still needs time.

2003 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese
I remember being taken aback by the elegance of Prüm’s 2003 wines. I also tasted this in 2016 and I’m happy to again see it showing beautifully. Paraffin scented nose. This is again deserving of more time but you can comfortably approach it now.

2016 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese Goldkapsel
Very tense, brilliant acidity but aromatically subdued. Definitely closing down already. Allow for a long and peaceful hibernation.

2016 Bernkasteler Lay Auslese Goldkapsel
Sweet fruited, wonderful vibrancy and nice structure too. I noted that this was a favourite among tasters. A lovely wine and nice to see a Lay Goldkapsel bottling!

2016 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Goldkapsel
Many layers of flavour and texture here. Sort of chewy extract, savoury complexity and long… so long! A truly brilliant wine that I would love for my own (very small) collection.

2004 Bernkasteler Johannisbrünchen Eiswein
Not my first time with this wine but I was overjoyed to be tasting it again. 2004 is a favourite vintage anyway but this in particular sits at the very pinnacle of what can be achieved with the Riesling variety. A very evocative nose, incredible depth of character and such tranquility and grace not to mention length.

If anyone is interested, this is the menu we enjoyed across the five brackets at Lucy Liu. I’m rather a fan of this restaurant.

Betel leaf with tuna tartare, chive and soy.
Barramundi and scampi wonton with green onion and brown vinegar dressing.
Soft shell crab Jianbing spicy hoisin.
Crispy pork bun with spicy kimchi and Kewpie mayo.
Free range drunken chicken breast, shoa xing wine, spring onion and ginger dressing.

New Arrivals

Heart & Soil had some new arrivals on show at Arlechin this week. I was quite surprised to see Keller sporting a new label (about which I haven’t made my mind up) but on the whole it seems that the 2017 vintage promises some real treasures despite having been a very difficult season.

Here were the Germans on show…

2017 Keller Grüner Silvaner Trocken (Rheinhessen)
I like this wine… it’s consistently delicious. Very fragrant and shows real clarity. I wish there were more German Silvaner available on the market here.

2017 Keller Riesling Trocken (neuer Etikett) (Rheinhessen)
A very fine Keller trocken, succulent, floral, aromatically intense and focused. Great poise and length. Punches well above its weight. The product of a very troubled vintage and a good one at that. Best yet… so they say.

2016 Joh. Bapt. Schäfer Riesling Trocken (Nahe)
An elegant and playful trocken wine… very light and fresh. An absolute bargain.

2015 Joh. Bapt. Schäfer Riesling Norheimer Pittermänchen Grosses Gewächs (Nahe)
Characterful and charming, a very supple, sweet scented GG. It’s dry, obviously, but the fruit really sings. Very persistent and artfully balanced. Delicious!

2016 Wagner Stempel Porphyr (Rheinhessen)
Very well made. Ferrous and earthy, but not rustic… in fact, very polished and dignified… pure and bright… very drinkable indeed.

2016 Wagner Stempel Riesling Kabinett (Rheinhessen)
Only slightly too sweet for my palate but a well made wine. Definitely at the riper end of the spectrum.

2016 Von Hövel Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett (Saar/Mosel)
A beautiful and tranquil wine, the acidity is high and the wine has a briskness and levity about it that can’t be replicated in other regions. It drinks well at this stage but deserves serious patience. I’m so glad that the wines of Von Hövel have made it to Australia.

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.