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.

not all that is GG is gold.

I was talking with a colleague about dry Riesling the other day. Personally I have little concern for whether or not a Riesling be technically dry, sweet or somewhere in between and though I’ll admit some Auslesen and above are strictly ‘correct time and place’ wine styles, I mostly prefer a little residual sugar*. The broad range of available dry wine styles can easily intimidate and I find some retailers and sommeliers are not very conscious of what they are selling. These wines work brilliantly on the table if applied in the correct setting. What’s more? A growing number of importers have older wines on offer these days.

I tasted two wines recently that continue to play on my mind; a 2011 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf (Ruppertsberger) Gaisböhl ‘G.C.’** and a 2015 Reichsrat von Buhl (Forster) Jesuitengarten GG. The former is showing development beautifully with an intoxicating nose of honey and apricot, medium-full bodied with great tension and incredible length. The latter is initially reticent, firm even, typical of 2015 you have perfect ripeness and brilliant acidity; decant it if that’s what you like to do or preferably wait a few more years, either way it is sublime.

The two producers mentioned below, while both favourites of mine, are very different in their style and philosophy. One is an important member of the VDP, boasting an enviable collection of Grosse Lage sites; the other, with just one Grosse Lage site, has recently left the VDP, proudly renouncing their classification all together. The GG (Grosses Gewächs) concept has really gained traction and this is a commendable achievement for the VDP and its members, what is a shame is that GG is now all people want to buy; it’s like the Grower Champagne fad. I don’t know if it’s ignorance or laziness… not all that is GG is gold.

Wittmann, Rheinhessen: Outstanding quality right from the ground up, Weingut Wittmann is based in Westhofen in the Rheinhessen’s Wonnegau district. This producer shares a lot of crus with Keller and the two are often compared; frankly they each have quite an individual style and I love both. The 2015 Morstein GG is a paradox, it seems to be built from pillars of solid rock, but then drinks with such finesse even as a young wine. It’s a shame the other crus are rarely seen on lists in Melbourne. I’m itching to pull the cork on a 2007 Aulerde GG we have in the cellar.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz: Koehler-Ruprecht have a style that is all their own and they work with admirable integrity. Typically opulent but never at the expense of balance; if light and fruity Mosel Kabinett is normally your drink then don’t say I didn’t warn you. Koehler-Ruprecht left the VDP recently in order to continue bottling their dry Rieslings with Prädikat and the higher must weights obviously achieve richer and more complex results***. The Saumagen vineyard of Kallstadt is their primary source of high quality fruit and the top wines are held back by the estate for late release; the 2008 Kallstadter Saumagen Auslese trocken ‘R’ is a standout example of what heights can be achieved in the Mittelhaardt and makes me hungry for game.

*which is why talk of dry and off dry Mosel Riesling will wait till another day.
**rather curiously, Bürklin-Wolf use the abbreviations P.C. and G.C. for premier and grand crus respectively, rather than the German Erste and Grosse Lage; odd considering that they were instrumental in establishing the VDP classification.
***the decision to leave the VDP and to continue to bottle dry Prädikatsweine is reflective of Koehler-Ruprecht’s firm standpoint against chaptalisation which is permitted for dry Qualitätsweine and dry wines in the VDP classification.