The French have Mouton-Rothschild, Italy has Sassicaia and Germany has Egon Müller. Possibly the only world-famous wines to orignate from Germany are those from Dr. Loosen, Robert Weil and Egon Müller – the latter being, by far and away, the most expensive.
The Scharzhofberger site is so synonymous with Egon Müller that, in wine circles, if you say the vineyard’s name, Müller’s wines are the ones you think of despite several wineries owning parcels in what is Germany’s most-famous vineyard.
But it is Egon Müller that is so commonly associated with this slate-soil site in the Saar region (a sub region of the Mosel) and for good reason. The off-dry and nobly sweet wines from this winery and from this vineyard belong to the world’s finest white wines – on a par with top whites from Burgundy – despite being vastly different.
Pale, golden yellow in the glass, the nose of this wine is slightly different to the Mosel and Saar Kabinetts I have tried in the past. There is far lesser reliance on fruit and the mineral aspects: slate, white pepper, fresh herbs are far more prominent. There is fruit in the way of pear, a touch of something tropical (mango, papaya, pineapple) and a decent amount of fresh apple juice. Interesting too is the way the residual sugar is worked into the wine – believe it or not but it is not immediately noticeable – of course this isn’t a dry wine: that is obvious, but the fruit is so composed and worked into the spice structure that it isn’t bright: it doesn’t dominate as is so often the case in Kabinett. The fruit does come through but the slate aromas coupled with a unique sense of smoke and the fresh herbs on the nose run the show leading to a very clean finish – unusual for Kabinett which often remains sweet and syrupy on the palate.
A fantastic Kabinett which presents the soil perhaps better than any other wine of the same classification from this site – composed, clean and remarkably addictable.
Egon Müller wines in the UK
Egon Müller wines in the US
There are a few vineyards with a selection of unmistakable characteristics. Erden's Prälat is one such vineyard and all of its wines are immediately recognisable - perhaps only Ürzig's Würzgarten is parallel in terms of vivid personality in the Mittelmosel region.
Slate isn't limited to this vineyard but the way a kind of evergreen-woodsmoke is worked into this, paired with a faint whiff of lighter fuel: it can only be Prälat. Fruit is pushed into the background in the nose but there is sweet apple compote, quince and maracuja - some lime is lurking in the slate's shadow and so too is juniper.
Whereas many wineries in the Mosel region experience international recognition, there are so many smaller producers doing just as good a job. Without the backing of the VDP or multi-national parent companies, their wines remain little-known and, as a result, have a much lower price. Besides Meulenhof, there are hundreds of Mosel producers, many of which have vines in some of the region's finest vineyards.
On the attack is lime, green apple and sweet lemon. This moves onto cooking apple (think crumble), the promised quince, a touch of pineapple and then a unique display of red fruit: rhubarb and even raspberry. The wine finishes on slate, smoke, white pepper and a satisfying sweetness that keeps the piercing acidity at bay.
Fabulous wine with an awesome signature touch - this is about as Prälat as it gets.
Meulenhof in the UK
Meulenhof in the US
Every now and again, I return to Dr. Loosen. The wines are notoriously hard to locate in Germany, which is strange because, everywhere else in the world they stand as proud ambassadors for German wine. Whereas the other ambassadors are usually best avoided, the Dr. Loosen portfolio is very good indeed. Actually, it's very good in its own right: the winery's Rieslings are both of very quality and also represent the Mittelmosel astonishingly well. With parcels of land in some of the Mosel's best-known and most-celebrated vineyards, Dr. Loosen is one of the region's most important producers and arguably, Germany's most important exporter.
The Ürziger Würzgarten vineyard needs no introduction but I can provide a basic description nonetheless. This world-famous vineyard is fabulously red in colour thanks to the volcanic soils that make it up. Slate also forms the base soil and, due to this and the high amount of iron in the red volcanic earth, the wines often emerge as very spicy - hence the name "Würzgarten" - literally "spice-garden". With varying angles of steepness, the vineyard is slightly concave, subjecting it to relative protection from wind and long and undisrupted sun hours.
These off-dry wines come into their own a few years after harvest although many are immediately drinkable. 2010 might not have been the Mosel's best vintage but its Kabinetts and some of its Spätlese wines are very fine and offer early and enjoyable drinking.
Bright golden yellow.
The first thing to note about the wine is the high concentration of fruit: there is a lemon juice feel which is sweetened by an essence of honey. After this are many notes of tropical fruits: particularly pineapple and papaya. An underlying feel of apple is in there and this is complimented by slate, white pepper and a green herbal mix: sage, eucalyptus and fresh spearmint.
The attack is driven by the lemon and honey on the nose but it isn't sharp and almost immediately moves onto the apple. This comes through like freshly-pressed apple juice and whilst on the tongue, nuances of white peach, apricot and pineapple poke through. The finish is crisp with an explosion of slate, white pepper, nettles, aromatic herbs, a touch of salt and menthol notes.
A very well put together Kabinett that shows off what this vineyard can really do. As suggested above, there wines are enjoyable when young but also profit from a decade underground. This Kabinett would fit perfectly with spicy Thai food: particularly with seafood - its sweetness wouldn't allow the chilli to steal the show and its fruit would compliment the spice structure in the dish.
This is the kind of wine that German viticulture is famous for. Rather than the dry wines that are so popular nationally, the rest of the world is more interested in the Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockbeerenauslese wines with rewarding sweetness.
Goldkapsel wines are the sweetest wines created by wineries in the Mosel, Pfalz and Rheingau and are usually sold via auction rather than in retail.
Marienburg is perhaps one of Clemen Busch's most celebrated sites. With a mixture of blue, red and green slate and a South to South-East facing slope (with up to 70% gradient), the site is both typical of the best Mosel vineyards and ideal for the cultivation of Riesling. Due to a meander in the river close-by, the sun's energy is retained on the site and protected from wind and weather.
Golden and oily in the glass.
Lots of cloudy apple juice, almost freshly pressed. Perhaps a hint of quince or green pear in the background with an undeniable sprinkling of slate.
The same is true on the palate with a slippery, smooth attack and then plenty of long cloudy apple-juice body right onto a long finish which is slippery and clean. There are some other spices in there: particularly those of a seasonal character: a touch of cinnamon perhaps and even cloves - nothing too intensive though and all expertly attached to the juice in the body.
A fantastic Goldkapsel and remarkably fresh - even in youth: balanced, smooth (almost buttery) and yet full of character. Priced at around 30€, this is one again proof that if you want to drink the world's best wines on a small budget, Germany is the best place to look.
For me, this is one of the best Mosel Spätlese wines I've had in recent years. I can imagine it keeping well for about ten years and more - offering excellent drinking now though.
Markus Molitor appears fairly often on this page and there’s a good reason for that: the wines are both fantastic and, thankfully, wonderfully affordable. Neighbouring wineries with wines that are just as good from the same sites are often twice or three times as expensive.
Whereas the majority of wines sold in the domestic market are dry, it’s no secret that the finest wines to emerge from Germany’s finest Riesling vineyards are off-dry and their fruit structures are best off-set with a very rewarding level of residual sugar.
Zeltingen is best known for its Sonnenuhr vineyard and the Himmelreich site is situated at the top of the very same slope with much the same slate soil.
Straw yellow with a hint of green
Rather clean although hints of freshly chopped herbs and grass are almost immediately noticeable. After a few seconds grapefruit, watermelon and cloudy freshly-pressed apple juice emerge and so too does orange peel and eucalyptus.
Sweet and silky on the attack, apple juice is the first note on the scene and this carries on right into the body taking green pears, mango and kiwi onto a long but finely-composed finish with a eucalyptus and green tea finish ending in a bite of slate.
This is the kind of wine the Mosel is famous for: long, juicy Riesling with just enough bite to remain refreshing and yet still have plenty of sinful residual sugar. It would fit brilliantly with really spicy Asian cuisine but it drinks fabulously on its own as well. Priced at around 13€ it offers excellent value from money and gives you a great insight into one of Mosel’s most underrated vineyards.
As you might know, I’m not a massive fan of tradition. I think that the best things in life are done by putting the most amount of effort into something with the best ingredients at the best time – tradition doesn’t play a role unless you want to sell something. Nowhere is this more appropriate than in the wine branch. Many hundreds of wineries get dogged down in the world of tradition and, when their product style falls out of fashion, they struggle. In Germany, thousands of wineries have struggled over the years with the relaunching of their image – many stay up to date through intelligent market research and sufficing their customer groups’ needs, however many don’t and find themselves sitting on thousands of litres of unsold wine. Particularly in the domestic white wine branch in Germany, tastes have been changing for years now: we've seen a huge rise in top-end dry wine together with the introduction of the almost Burgundian classification system for the best of the best dry wines: Großes Gewächs.
Some companies don’t change though. Their binding to tradition is somehow so important to their product, to their market that they’d never be able or indeed need to throw in the towel when it comes to satisfying a market screaming out for their products: Egon Müller for example – never could this winery resist from producing its legendary Scharzhofberger Prädikatsweine: Even the producers of (mostly) dry wine such as Schloß Johannisberg or Koehler-Ruprecht would never be able to change their product – something which the latter of the two named wineries has had to deal with recently – leaving the prestigious VDP to protect its most valuable, traditional assets: Kabinett Trocken and Spätlese Trocken.
Another such traditional winery is Joh. Jos. Prüm of the Mosel. This company doesn’t even have a functional website (it’s homepage is a landing page with contact information only). Whereas the majority of neighbouring wineries also make dry wines to satisfy market demand, I’ve never seen a dry wine from Joh. Jos. Prüm. Which is just as well, because this stuff is awesome as it is.
Very light white gold appearance in the glass.
On the nose is rather a lot of stone fruit: white peach but also vineyard peaches and canned peaches as well – as if they were sweetened. There is a hint of citrus: orange peel and pink grapefruit but this is way behind all the other notes. An underlying vegetative scent is apparent at all times and it brings with it a note of sage.
First on the scene is the pink grapefruit but it is neither sharp, nor bitter. It goes on to that promised stone fruit which is warming, bright peach with a hint of nectarine and something citrus as well. There are fresh apples and pears and, presumably together with the low alcohol level (8% ABV), they taste rather juicy rather than sharp. The finish is a mineral touch of slate, a hint at wood (rather than of it) and some nice menthols too: eucalyptus with a dash of mint.
A cracker, seven years old and still drinking like it was bottled yesterday although it has nothing left to hide behind its youth. It’s fluid and full of juicy, sweet fruit and yet the finish is decent and rounds off the whole thing making it feel finished. The clean-cut structure of Riesling is there but the wine reminds me more of Monbazillac or young Tokaji with its expressing fruit and such clarity.
If you have 30€ to spend, it’s hard to think of a better way to do it…
I’ve gotten into German Kabinett recently. Whilst I’ve spent the best part of five years telling people that Germany is about more than just sweet Riesling with little alcohol, sometimes these wines are those that characterise a region. Whilst the Mosel valley is famed for such wines, they do occasionally appear in other parts of Germany as well: the Rheingau for example.
In the Rheingau one winery is making more waves than any other: Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim. With one of the widest portfolios in all of the Region, this VDP winery is both modern and traditional at the same time: its wines are both quintessentially Rheingau and yet have a unique modern appeal: an approach that very few Rheingau producers have actually incorporated.
This Riesling is no exception to that rule – sourced from the monopole holdings of the VDP ERSTE LAGE® Schloss Reichartshausen vineyard, the wine grows on soils characterised by chalky soils that grow close to the banks of the Rhine ensuring cooler climatic conditions.
Very pale peachy-yellow.
Lots of fresh fruit on the nose in the way of stone fruit, citrus and apples – the citrus peel was gentle and discreet and allowed both apples and peaches to come thorough nicely. A herbal and floral note was to pick out, so too was freshly cut grass.
On the rather sweet and smooth attack was lime and lemon juice but nothing sharp and overly strong. This gave way to a fantastic sense of cloudy, freshly-pressed apple juice. A peppery note finished the wine and brought with it a thick feeling of fresh mint and sage.
A very nice and smooth Kabinett, this wine makes use of the Rheingau feeling (those spices and herbs on the finish) and is still remarkable fruity, floral and light. The residual sugar, which can often feel poorly worked in with such wines, was very well integrated and the whole thing felt rather refreshing: somehow the finish remained both smooth and short making you temporarily forget that this wine has so much sugar in it.
It was time to make a return to my beloved Rheingau: the true home of Riesling. Rather than the fragrant, balanced wines of the Mosel and the sour, acid-driven wines of the Pfalz, the Rheingau is all about spice and minerals. Riesling is pretty much the only varietal that grows in the Rheingau (although a splash of Pinot Noir is made in and around Assmannshausen) which makes the winemakers there experts with the stuff.
Prinz von Hessen is one such winery: based in the picturesque commune of Johannisberg, the producer makes a whole host of wines based on Germany’s favourite grape. One such product is the interestingly named “Dachsfilet” – literally fillet of badger. Don’t worry, there are no tender cuts of game meat in the wine: it simply refers to the individual parcels of land within the Dachsberg vineyard from which this wine is made.
And what a wine it is…
Satin gold with a faint green hint – very youthful despite its age.
The nose is buzzing with citrus: lemon juice, grapefruit, orange peel and lime. There is also gooseberry and a faint feel of wet rock in the background: it’s very nice though.
On the attack is lemon, grapefruit and rhubarb. This is wonderfully tart and excellently leads the wine onto a body of stone fruit: particularly peach but also citrus and red fruit (redcurrants and raspberry). The finish is long, smooth and a peppery rock note appears but slides gently back into place.
With 12.5% alcohol by volume, I’m guessing this wine comes fairly close to dryness but the thick fruit suggests a higher level of residual sugar and it feels a bit like a Mosel Kabinett at times – there is no declaration on the bottle which suggests it is probably “feinherb”. With that extra thickness, a lot of the harshness so commonly associated with Rheingau wine is taken away which leaves this bottle refreshing and addictively drinkable.
I’m a fan of Saarburger Rausch – I won’t lie. I reviewed the 2011 a few months ago and was lucky enough to get my teeth into the 2013 as well. The Devonian slate-dominated Rausch Grosse Lage, close to the commune of Saarburg, is one of the Saar valley’s finest. It might not be as internationally known as Scharzhofberger but it continually produces some of the best Kabinett wines German has to offer.
Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken is a legendary producer of this kind of wine: thick, sweet, fresh and attractive Rieslings that appeal on every level. This wine benefits from a few years in the cellar. It can be drunk young (as I did) but the acidity is better on the palate over time.
Gold with a hint of green.
Sweet lime, gooseberry, eucalyptus, fresh mint, peach and hard candy (pear drops/ Eisbonbon).
The attack is of the sweetest lime cordial and goes on to freshly squeezed apple juice with a hint of gooseberry and than a mineral finish which brings fresh eucalyptus, sage, mint and basil.
Over time, the petrol note so commonly associated with Riesling will smoothen the acidity and the sharper notes of the fruit making it more fluid perhaps. Nevertheless, this wine is already showing fantastic drinking right now and, if you are into this kind of beverage: thick, low-alcohol, syrupy Riesling, it’s hard to imagine a better wine out there. The score is high but, I can imagine it’d get even higher over the years. For me this is one of Germany's consistently good, high-quality off-dry Riesling wines and remarkably well-priced too!
I’ve spent years going on about how Germany is so much more than just off-dry Riesling from the Mosel. Recently though, I’ve realised that this sector probably still is its most important export and, if it’s done well, Feinherb Riesling can be especially good. The Majority I try, don’t make the blog because I find them forgettable or not worth mentioning.
This one was different though. Produced in the wonderful commune of Trittenheim using grapes from three vineyards in and around Trittenheim itself, the wine contains 10% alcohol by volume and expresses the slatey-soils of the steep valley sides better than most non single-vineyard wines I’ve ever tried.
Lots of citrus: orange peel, pink grapefruit and lemon and limes – also a unique slatey-smoky note.
On the attack is fresh grapefruit, lime and green apple. The body is dominated by lemon and orange peel and the finish hits the body with slate, smoke and fresh herbs. The finish is so impotant that it almost cancels out the fruit immediately making you forget for a second that this isn’t a dry wine. The acidity to fruit and sweetness ratio is close to perfection.
The wine doesn’t feel like a “generic” slate-soil wine but shows a great deal of individuality. Often “slate” wines from a collection of vineyards show very little of the region itself: it can be hard to detect whether they come from any particular production region or any of the others. This one though really does feel like a special single-vineyard wine. The balance is almost completely perfect and the way the fruit is met by the acidity and minerals, it really takes away the residual sugar’s harshness – something that often ruins a good mineral note – very highly recommended.
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
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-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry