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.

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.

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!

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.