German wine is primarily produced in the west of Germany, along the river Rhine and its tributaries, with the oldest plantations going back to the Roman era. Approximately 60 percent of the German wine production is situated in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where 6 of the 13 regions (Anbaugebiete) are situated. Germany as the eighth largest wine-producing country in the world. White wine accounts for almost two thirds of the total production. Among enthusiasts, Germany's reputation is primarily based on wines made from the Riesling grape variety, which at its best is used for aromatic, fruity and elegant white wines that range from very crisp and dry to well-balanced, sweet and of enormous aromatic concentration.
- Item #: i_304542Bottle Size: 750ml
VINOUS 92 POINTS
I harbor fond memories of halbtrocken Merkelbach Wurzgartens long past, so perhaps you’ll think I was overly influenced simply by having once again seen those words on a bottle of their Riesling. But its contents certainly left me wishing that they would let this happen in their cellar more often. A classic Wurzgarten nose of fresh strawberry and lime adds hints of more Erden-typical tarragon and sassafras. Subtly silken in feel, this finishes buoyant and lusciously long, with animating, bright primary juiciness and transparency to shimmering impingements of stones and mineral salts. Incidentally, it weighs in at a mere 10% alcohol, a reminder that the Merkelbachs pick for Spatlese at must weights that most of today’s top Mosel growers would deem appropriate for Kabinett. A prime example of what I call “hidden sweetness” – residual sugar playing a supportive and catalytic role while not engendering any overt sense of sweetness – this will perform brilliantly at table as well as in your cellar. -- David Schildknecht
MOSEL FINE WINES - 89 POINTS - This offers a nice nose of peach, cassis, wild strawberry, white flowers and fine spices. The wine is delicately zesty on the palate and leaves a clean and playful feel in the long and nicely spicy finish. This beautifully expression of off-dry Riesling will appeal to lovers of classic light-weighted Mosel wines. Now-2026
- Item #: i_382385Bottle Size: 750mlWine Enthusiast: 93 PointsWINE ENTHUSIAST 93 POINTS - "Smoke and slate mingle into luscious peach and pineapple in this lithe yet concentrated dry Riesling. Piercing lemon-lime acidity and honed strokes of steel build a feeling of tension on the palate with each sip. Gorgeous already but likely to intensify in complexity through 2030."
- Item #: i_374426Bottle Size: 750mlMOSEL FINE WINES 93 POINTS The 2017er Euchariusberg Kabinett AP 12 (known internally as “Kugel Peter”) comes from a parcel planted with 50 year-old grafted vines in the prime Gross Schock sector of the vineyard which was classified in the highest category on the old taxation maps and was fermented down to 40 g/l of residual sugar. This offers a gorgeous and delicate nose of greengage, pear, apple, bergamot and slate. The wine develops a gorgeously vibrant yet ripe fruity feel on the palate. The finish is superbly elegant and persistent. This has more power than its 2016 sibling but remains utterly elegant and refined. 2027-2037
- Item #: i_374427Bottle Size: 750mlWINE ADVOCATE 94 POINTS From two parcels (Forster and Ternes) in the upper Gewanne of the cru, the 2017 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Spatlese (AP 14) is discreet and delicate on the nose, which still offers yeasty and discreetly flinty notes. Concentrated and ripe fruit aromas emerge only later. Sweet and lush but carried by enormous acidity and grippy-mineral tension, this is a potent, age-worthy Spätlese that will develop over the years into a great wine. Tasted in June 2019. If you are interested in superb, classic, highly individual Saar Rieslings, Hofgut Falkenstein is one of the very best addresses. As in old times, each plot is vinified and bottled separately, and only a very few wines blend the fruit of two similar parcels that are too small to fill a 1,000-liter fuder. Each parcel has a given name—so, there is an "Uncle Peter" or "Gisela" fuder—though it is never mentioned on the label. Thus, the wine you get is only officially the Euchariusberg Kabinett Alte Reben, but in truth—and among freaks—it's "Gisela." Like any other wine, "Gisela" always goes into the same fuder every year, and so, if you want to speak about terroir, the terroir begins here: inside the traditional Mosel barrel that is cleaned but never filled with water between the bottling and the advent of the new vintage. Instead, a part of the sediment is conserved with sulfur and helps shape the new "Gisela," as does the vineyard plot with its old, ungrafted vines. The Webers say this is how they keep the soul of each fuder alive.
By the way, "Gisela"—or Euchariusberg Kabinett Alte Reben—is the finest Kabinett I have tasted in the Saar Valley this year. It has the luminous, precise and airy character combined with vitality, depth and complexity like Egon Muller's finest Scharzhofberger Kabinetts used to have. Really, I don't think I'm exaggerating. There was no Kabinett like Müller's Scharzhofberger before I met the Euchariusberg Kabinett from the 2017 and 2018 vintage, which actually outshine the famous neighbor in both years.
Unfortunately, the Falkensteiner Rieslings are fast-selling wines. You need to have a great relationship with your supplier, because even at the domaine you won't get a bottle to buy, only to drink. Erich and Johannes Weber could sell each bottle at least two times. There is no other domain that is as "hot" as the Falkensteiner Hof right now. The Webers are real farmers who do everything themselves and by hand. The vines have just one arch, and the soils are kept meager, with natural green cover between the rows. "After 42 years of farming the same way, we have an evolved system," said Erich. Whole-cluster pressing and natural fermentation in traditional fuders in the old, humid cellar are part of the system, too. Father and son know each single vine, and both (plus one employee) care about the plants as if they were pets. Some call the Webers (and their "wine historian" Lars Carlberg) crazy, and that's exactly what they are—but there is no better way of craziness. Just check out the wines, they speak for themselves.
The current vintage is the 2018, an early but ripe year. The Riesling harvest began on September 15. "As soon as the grapes have 80° Oechsle we get nervous, because we want to keep the acidity Saar-like and Falkenstein-like," said Erich Weber. Like most of the domains, the yields were reduced on the press. "The first must that is running from the press is 'winzerblond' [untranslatable: bright] or colored like ice tea," he said. With more than 0.8 bar of pressure, the juice becomes dark and reflects the enormous sunshine of the vintage even in a dense canopy wall. "It was easy to lose two grams of acidity if pressed for too long, so we stopped early. This is also a kind of intervention, but it's not a chemical one," Erich told me. He described the look of the grapes as "beautifully golden and healthy like in 2015." Since he is striving for lightweight wines, which he loves to compare with a ballet dancer, he doesn't de-leaf the grape zone, doesn't pick too late and does no maceration. "We don't want to have holes in the dance floor because the dancer is too heavy." In 2018, the Webers stopped pressing at 0.8 to 0.9 bar, while in normal years and also in 2017, the pressing went up to 1.1 to 1.2 bar. "We also need the last part of the pressing, otherwise the acidity would be too high. Ours is already self-confident, but we don't need 12 grams of total acidity."
Due to spring frost and botrytis, 2017 was a more difficult vintage, and the parts that were left on the press in 2018 were discarded in 2017. The selective picking paid off: the Hofgut Falkenstein's 2017s are extraordinary good, especially the Auslese from the Euchariusberg.
- Item #: i_304587Bottle Size: 750mlWINE SPECTATOR - 90 POINTS Lithe, featuring accents of Red Delicious apple to the lychee and citrus flavors. Presents a vivid structure, with notes of lemongrass and minerally spice on the long finish. Drink now through 2023. 46 cases imported. — AZ
MOSEL FINE WINES - 91 POINTS "Harvested at a refreshing low 79 Oechsle, this offers a gorgeous nose of pear, cassis and grape. The wine is beautifully well balanced on the palate, with ripe acidity gorgeously wrapping some mouth-watering sweetness in the long finish. The finish is elegant and as light as a feather. What a beauty! 2026-2041."
- Item #: i_360380Bottle Size: 750mlThe 2018er Spatlese Mosel Slate is a fully fruity-styled wine made from the Estate’s holdings in the Erdener Treppchen. A hint of smoky reduction gives quickly way to riper notes of quince, candied grapefruit, herbs, ripe apple and pear puree. The wine is pleasantly playful on the palate, where some nicely ripe yellow fruits mingle with fine acidity, thereby nicely balancing out the sweetness of this fully fruity Spatlese. This is already a joy to drink now but will gain in finesse in a few years’ time.
- Item #: i_360383Bottle Size: 750mlWINE SPECTATOR - 89 POINTS This shows precision and great clarity, with aromas of orchard blossom and flavors of apple and lime, plus notes of slate for added complexity. Blood orange and spice flavors linger on the crisp finish. 1,500 cases made.
MOSEL FINE WINES - 89 POINTS The 2017er Urziger Wurzgarten Kabinett Feinherb was fermented down to fully fruity-styled sugar levels. The wine opens up to some minty elements before revealing an aromatic and ripe bouquet made of spices, pear, fresh pineapple, almond, greengage and a hint of cinnamon. It has the ripe and creamy presence akin to that of a Spatlese on the palate, where pear, a hint of apricot and juicy yellow peach make for a hugely sweet feeling. The finish reveals more structure and is nicely intense despite the noticeable sweetness.
- Item #: i_333308Bottle Size: 750mlWINE ADVOCATE - 93 POINTS The 2017 Niederberg Helden Riesling Spatlese is the finest and most precise of the different selections or predicates. The nose is pure and fresh, with slatey notes. The palate is lush but lean, crystalline and elegant, revealing generous but precisely defined fruit and lingering salinity. Tasted in March 2019.
Thomas Haag lost 33% of the potential yield due to the spring frost in April 2017. This led to high extract levels despite a patchy summer. The harvest started on September 25—earlier than ever before. (In 2018, however, the harvest started even one week earlier.) Haag describes the vintage as "spicy, mineral and complex, with fine and subtle fruit, vibrantly racy acidity and a lot of tension, salt and straightforwardness. The 2017s have more concentration and structure compared to 2016, whereas the 2018s will have more generous and accessible fruit," he finds. "2018 is precise and offers a charming, fruity character, but it also has a degree more alcohol than 2017. After two bottles of Riesling, you'll know the difference, though you don't feel the alcohol immediately. But you'll feel it very soon..."
Since I was only in the Mosel Valley in late winter this year, when the first 2018s were prepared to be bottled, I didn't taste the whole range of 2017, but I still tasted many impressive wines, such as all the seven Grosses Gewächs (GG) Rieslings from Piesport, Lieser and Brauneberg stream downwards to Bernkastel, Graach and Wehlen, as well as the sweet predicate wines from the same vineyards.
The quality is exceptionally high, and no wine was rated lower than 91 points. Among the dry wines, the Doctor GG (96 RP) is on top, followed by the Graacher Himmelreich and the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen (95 RP each). The 2017 Auslesen are all terrific, namely the gold-capsuled Juffer-Sonnenuhr (97 RP), which has only one rival: the glorious TBA from the Niederberg Helden (98+ RP).
The wines from Thomas Haag are all vinified in stainless steel, and the dry wines are kept on the lees until June and do not undergo the malolactic fermentation. All the GG's were bottled in July.
The five Kabinett wines all came out at 8% alcohol to serve the lighter Kabinett style, as Thomas Haag explains. However, in 2017—and most probably also in 2018—these are pretty sweet wines with about 60 grams of residual sugar. They taste sweet but also racy-piquant, and freaks will be awarded, if they remain patient.
The four Spätlesen I tasted are all made from healthy, golden-yellow berries and fermented up to 7% or 7.5% alcohol. The Goldtröpfchen and the Wehlener Sonnenuhr are my favorites in a strong quartet.
There are three "regular" Auslesen (95+/96 RP) that are based on healthy grapes free of botrytis. The gold-capsuled Auslesen (96-97 RP) are based on, respectively, 15% to 25% and 35% to 40% botrytis berries and were all selected in a singular passage. They are excitingly clear and shining and also very precise on the palate.
2017 is a terrific success for Thomas Haag, who announced some changes for 2018. Nothing dramatic, though, only some new names for well-known Spätlese trocken wines.
This Estate is one of the new stars of the Mosel that in Thomas Haag (son of Wilhelm at Fritz Haag), has one of Germany's brightest up and coming winemakers. Smoky sweet red apples lead to notes of red slate, earth and fine peaches on the palate. There's plenty of energy here and bags of punchy fruit set in an open, accessible and inviting package. A warm, open and embracing Spatlese.
- Item #: i_310011Bottle Size: 750mlWINE ADVOCATE 93+ POINTS - The 2016 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese is super ripe and almost caramelly on the intense and concentrated nose. Intense and lush on the palate, this is a dense and concentrated Auslese with fine but tight and piquant grip and lingering salinity. Still a bit closed, this Auslese will develop more finesse and transparency over the years in the bottle.
Johannes Selbach's 2016s include some of the finest fruity Rieslings in the Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese category I have tasted along the Mosel this year. The Kabinett wines are chunky, piquant and stimulating. The are Spatlesen mouthfillingly generous, round, lush, elegant and salty. The Auslesen are highly refined and elegant but also piquant and precise. The "Schmitt" Auslese from the Zeltinger Schlossberg is mind-blowing in its finesse and elegance, and the one-starred Spatlese from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr also represents world class Riesling from one of the Mosel's most famous vineyards. In the Zeltinger Himmelreich, Selbach-Oster selected a light, filigreed, highly delicious Beerenauslese from Pinot Blanc (!) as well as a brilliant Riesling Eiswein that combines precision and finesse with lingering salinity and piquancy. Among the dry wines, my enthusiasm is less chiseled. However, the 2016 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Trocken "Bomer" is a great mix of intense and lush flavors and the minerality of the Bomer terroir. If you don't like your wines too sweet nor too dry, then all the medium-dry "Feinherb" Rieslings are a great alternative, especially as food wines.
In total, Selbach-Oster lost 20% of the potential harvest mainly due to peronospora in 2016, but the family is really happy with the results. The course for the next generation has also been set. Christian Vogt (previously Karthauserhof, Ruwer) is the new cellar master, starting with the 2017 harvest. In order to face the challenges of fungal diseases and other infections, Selbach (vineyard manager: Frank Prüm) is changing over to "gentle pruning" that is reducing the cutting surfaces and respecting the crowns of the vine. By a special pruning technique, a healthier and longer life of the vines can be ensured. Grape varieties such as Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir were also planted two years ago. Just recently, the new winery and tasting room opened just 1.5 kilometers away from the ancestral home in Zeltingen. Last but not least, the next generation has to decide to change into the wines business so that the story of Selbach-Oster is to be continued.
- Item #: i_364181Bottle Size: 750mlMOSEL FINE WINES 94 POINTS The 2017er Scharzhofberger Kabinett was fermented down to fully fruity levels. This is still massively under the impact of the spontaneous fermentation on the nose. It takes a few minutes before a most beautiful and telltale nose of white peach, white flowers, mint and plenty of chalky minerals, blended into elements of smoky slate to perfection. The wine is racy but also delivers a delicately smoothing feel of creamy grapefruit on the palate. While it does have the presence of a light Spätlese, the wine remains light-footed and completely elegant right into the apricot blossom infused finish and leaves one with a superbly airy, delicately fruity and mineral feel in the after-taste. Overall, the wine still remains rather shy and it is easy to overlook its greatness to come. Everything is there for making a stunning, playfully light yet complex Spatlese or Auslese like Eberhard von Kunow, the father of Max, used to make in the 1990s.
Importer's notes: This is a remarkable kabinett showing black tea, red peach and a smoked paprika nuance. The palate is crunchy with grilled tangerine, bitter orange and a cayenne pepper cut. It was both fermented and aged in tank for 8 months and only contains 43 grams/liter of residual sugar. It’s a juicy, straight riesling full of charm.