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!

Weingut Hirsch, Kamptal

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Hirsch is not a producer that I can claim to know an awful lot about… and I’m not a walking repository of information on the Kamptal either (time for a visit). Most of my experience with this region has been limited to the wines of Bründlmayer and Schloss Gobelsburg (as if that were a bad thing)… but the wines of Hirsch made quite an impression on me when I first tried them about a year ago.

Johannes Hirsch, together with his family, produces wine with an unwavering faith in nature; he understands his terroir intimately and works, biodynamically, with utmost respect for his environment. He favours extended contact with fine lees (feinhefe) and the resulting wines pair creaminess (cremigkeit*) with remarkable elegance.

Hirsch produces only white wine, solely from Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, and fruit comes from some of the finest sites in the Niederösterreich; Lamm and Grub in Kammern and Gaisberg and Heiligenstein in Zöbing.

The 2013 Heiligenstein Riesling Reserve** epitomises the style of the estate that I’ve come to understand in my limited experience. It radiates a distinctive warmth; marmalade-like, creamy/honeyed… but tense, brilliant and firm. It is so beautiful and has years ahead of it. I didn’t decant this wine (as Hirsch suggests)… rather, I drank it very slowly. That patience paid off…

The Heiligenstein (36.7 ha in total) put simply, is the result of ancient volcanic activity and about 280 million years of tectonic movement, vegetation, decay and erosion. If someone else can sum it up better in one sentence then be my guest… otherwise, I found this article by Sally Easton MW quite informative. The Website of Weingut Bründlmayer also has some useful information.

*please forgive my occasional use of German adjectives.
**it’s that extra .5% of alcohol.

The wines of Weingut Hirsch are imported into Australia by Enoteca Sydney.

Riesling Downunder 2018

For those of you not already planning on attending, Riesling Downunder 2018 runs from the 2nd to the 7th of February in Melbourne and Sydney. This is the most significant event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Riesling Riot runs on Sunday the 4th here in Melbourne at the Regent Theatre Plaza Ballroom and on Wednesday the 7th in Sydney at the Sydney Town Hall. Tickets to either of the five-hour symposia are very affordable and the list of outstanding producers from around the world is exhaustive.

Head to Riesling Downunder to read more. I hope to see you there.

Riesling Downunder is presented by Frankland Estate, Jim Barry and Pikes. Event partners include CellarHand.

Kabin class.

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Mosel Kabinett, whether fermented dry or left with residual sugar, counts lightness (low alcohol) and elegance amongst its most redeeming qualities. The capacity they have to age is remarkable and they show great versatility with food.

The term Kabinett (formerly Cabinet) has a long and complicated history which I won’t go into in great detail here. It first appeared on labels in the Rheingau with Schloss Vollrads claiming to have used the designation for a reserve wine as early as 1716.

In 1971 the term became embedded into German wine law as part of the Prädikat system (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat – or QmP – until 2007… now Prädikatswein) and sits at the bottom end of the scale with Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein following in ascending order. Prädikatsweine are graded according to must weight (ripeness) and are unchaptalised.

These days, owing to global warming, growers most often achieve must weights well above the 73 degrees Oechsle (just under 10 Baumé) required for Kabinett in the Mosel. In fact, because there is no legal maximum limit of ripeness for Prädikatsweine, many Kabinett wines are Spätlesen (even Auslesen in some cases) that have been ‘declassified’ purely for commercial reasons. One could easily view this as a slight abuse of an otherwise useful (if far from perfect) system, but many quality growers pick based on flavour and not simply numbers alone. Most ironically, winemakers now selectively harvest for Kabinett in an age where Spätlese and Auslese are becoming commonplace.

Up to and including Auslese, Prädikatsweine can be made anywhere between dry and sweet and so understanding a winemakers’ style and philosophy is as, if not more, important than deciphering words on a label.

Joh. Jos. Prüm and Dr. Loosen are two producers of high quality and age-worthy Kabinett that are very well represented in the international market. Ernst Loosen himself is one of the more outspoken advocates of the style. Both estates produce exceptional examples from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr… Prüm’s wines demand far greater patience, however.

 

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.

Dr. Loosen Kabi, more than nostalgia…

We’re beginning to see the 2016 German vintage trickle into the country and despite a challenging year, with heavy summer rainfall and significant disease pressure, quality is very high indeed. Reports that I’ve read show unanimous favour amongst Mosel enthusiasts for the open knit, fruity and charming Kabinett wines from this vintage.

I don’t need much of an excuse to drink Kabinett, a night at home alone is all it takes really, and the low-alcohol associated with the style brings an added appeal. I’m also not much of a home cook… so some smoked salmon on rye was very enthusiastically washed down with a 2016 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett the other night. It’s a classically styled, juicy white peach Sonnenuhr Riesling; supremely elegant, refreshing and long.

Ernst Loosen focuses a great deal of energy on promoting powerful dry GG wines from top Mittelmosel sites, particularly those around the villages of Erden and Ürzig, he has however committed to keeping the Kabinett style alive. It’s easy for consumers to forget these elegant and fruity wines when faced with the wow factor of an Erdener Prälat GG for example, but both have their place.

For me, like most drinkers in Australia that have fallen in love with the Mosel, it all started with a Dr. Loosen Kabinett.

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.