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
I’ve covered almost the entire Schloss Johannisberg portfolio when it comes to dry wines over the years. Gelblack, Weisslack, Rotlack and even the prestigious Silberlack GG. What I’d never managed to try were the sweet wines: Rosalack and Rosa-Goldlack. Thankfully this changed a few weeks back and I was able to check out the 2012 Rosalack Auslese.
A few words to Schloss Johannisberg: the Rheingau estate is one of the world’s most prestigious wineries and is widely accepted as the oldest Riesling-winery in Germany. Its Schloss Johannisberg vineyard is a Grosse Lage (Grand Cru site) and the wines that emerge from it often act as the flagship products of the entire region. Whereas a handful of other Rheingau estates have catered for modern, changing tastes over the years, Johannisberg has been able to stay true to its traditional approach to winemaking alongside perhaps only three or four other German wineries: all of those in the Mosel.
The Schloss Johannisberg vineyard is a completely south-facing slope with the highest amount of sun hours and sun energy in the Rheingau. Protected by woodland in the North from cold winds, the vineyard’s quartz-laden soils are able to soak up the sun and moisture and store it making this a prime location to grow Riesling. The Rhine runs along the southernmost perimeter of the vineyard.
Lemon yellow with a shiny gold tint.
Once you get past the woody, rocky aroma that lies on top of the wine for a few minutes after opening, a world of citrus fruit is waiting to be discovered. Lime cordial was the first thing I was reminded of – sugary lime syrup. There was also lemon peel, grapefruit and a whole host of exotic spices to discover: cinnamon, coriander and cloves – a bit Christmassy I suppose.
The attack was quick strong and very citrus-driven. The lime didn’t come through as much as the lemon and a thick sense of sweet lemon juice and Clementine took the wine onto a smooth, sweet, balanced body of yellow fruit: quince, pear and even a touch of something exotic: mango. The acidity was there but was excellently balanced with the fruit. The finish was long and sweet and only contained a very faint hint of wood – this contained the spice elements from the nose and played, thankfully, only a background role.
As avid readers will already know, I’m an impatient man – this isn’t a wine to be opened now and, being completely honest, I wouldn’t normally be able to afford such luxuries – (nearly 40€ for a 375ml bottle). There is a great deal of aging to happen here which will relax the fruit, moderate the acidity even more and push those spices even further into the background. There are signs that this will, in eight-ten years, be one of the best sweet wines from the Rheingau. It’s brilliant now but will be even better then. Such finesse and balancing of fruit and acidity is rare in such a young wine and hopefully, in 2025, I might be able to try it again!
There are wineries that produce a few decent wines and a whole bunch of mediocre ones. Even some of the biggest and finest names in wine produce a handful of dull bottles with little appeal other than the name and yet Markus Molitor doesn’t. Alongside some of the best value-for-money in German wine, I’ve never tried anything from Molitor that isn’t, at least, fantastic. From the basic entry-level Riesling through to the ***Goldkapsel wines, Molitor is host to an impressive portfolio and is fast becoming one of both Germany and the Mosel’s most important names – all that without the VDP!
This rare dry Auslese is sourced from the little-known Herrenberg vineyard in Niedermennig close to Konz where the Saar and the Mosel meet. Unfortunately, Molitor no longer cultivates vines here so the bottles that are still out there in the shops are the last ones making them rather rare and yet, typical for Molitor, completely affordable even still.
Clear satin gold.
The nose immediately reminds of freshly-pressed apple juice made using the apples growing in your garden. There is a hint of quince and also lovely ripe pear with a slight touch of stone fruit: perhaps peach but it isn’t really that defined thanks to the wine (still) being very closed.
The attack is of awesome quince juice – that really expensive stuff that costs about the same as wine and fresh apple pie: the apples are so solid and juicy that it seems a shame that they are still so closed inside this prematurely-opened bottle. The finish is impressive and combines both slate and mint with a splash of eucalyptus oil.
The potential enclosed in this wine is heartbreaking – heartbreaking that it was opened so soon. I reckon this wine needs another five years to open up completely and yet it still offers more than impressive drinking right now. If you have a bottle or two of this, please don’t be tempted to open it now: Auslese trocken is getting rarer by the day and this wine isn’t even close to entering the drinking phase just yet. To find a simile, it's like a beautiful symphony orchestra playing your favourite Debussy piece....behind closed oak doors, half a kilometre away.
Whereas German wine classification is very similar to that of the French region of Burgundy when it comes to top, VDP-member produce, one Rheingau winery also makes a high-quality Riesling based on the ideals of Bordeaux: the best fruit is selected from the winery’s vineyards regardless of which individual site it came from. This wine has a bit of a cult following. Through its reliance on high-quality fruit rather than being linked to one high-quality site, the wine is much larger than any single-estate wine might manage.
In fact the very name of the wine “Riesling Spätlese Trocken” is frowned upon by the VDP elite. Whereas it is perfectly just to name this wine so (it isn’t derived from one single site or commune officially making it a VDP Gutswein), the VDP is doing its best to rid dry wines of Prädikat declarations and wants to label all dry wines (regardless of fruit quality) Qualitätswein Trocken.
The nose is full of sweet and sharp yellow fruit: lemon, apples, apricot, banana, pineapple and more. There is a unique feel of eucalyptus and green tea in there as well.
The attack is characterised by sharp lemon juice but quickly goes on to lots of fruit: apple then pear then stone fruit in the way of both nectarine and apricot. The finish is rather large: lots of minerals including quartz, granite and some wet wood.
This is a great wine: I’ve always been a big fan of Geheimrat J but after the thinner, more-composed elements of single-estate wines, it is a welcome reintroduction to the theoretical power of Riesling. Amazing with even the hottest of Asian foods, this wine earns its cult following.
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.
Riesling with residual sugar is what the Mosel and indeed Germany is best known for. Alongside those cheap, sickly-sweet wines found in supermarkets the world over, there are a number of wineries which produce very high-quality bottles which range from 7% to more than 11% ABV and from a dash of residual sugar right up to syrupy concoctions enough to make your teeth bleed.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt is a Mosel winery with vines in some of the region’s best sites: particularly in the Saar valley. One of their monopole sites (only they have vines there) is Josephshöfer in the Middle Mosel. Characterised with very steep inclines and a Devonian slate-dominated soil, this tiny parcel of land (about four hectares) is the site of a former monastery and located directly between the legendary Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Graacher Domprobst vineyards.
Wines with residual sugar carry their Prädikat and the VDP Grosse Lage declaration meaning that it is a prime site for the cultivation of vines. Dry wines from here are forced to drop their Prädikat and carry the titles “Qualitätswein Trocken” and VDP Grosses Gewächs.
Straw yellow with a faint hint of green.
Lots of yellow fruit: yellow plum, apricot but also yellow apples and pears. Tropical notes of pineapple were also to detect and so too was a note of slate coupled with fresh mint and eucalyptus.
The acidity on the attack is rather refreshing and brings with it apples, pears but also some lemon peel. The body is sweet, sweet and oily and finishes with the slatey minerals, a hint of pepper and fresh aromatic herbs. The sweet fruit lies on the tongue long after swallowing but is composed and delicate rather than overpowering and out-of-place.
I like this kind of wine: it’s not something you can drink regularly but it is both fresh and fruity – the mineral notes play a background role whereas I find them more prominent in drier wines. The fresh eucalyptus was a highlight for me: I particularly like this note in the wine. I must say that I’ve have better Kabinett wines from the Mosel valley but, at just over 10€, seldom are they so well-priced.
Contact O.W. Loeb & Company in the UK for information regarding the availability of this wine.
With 98 hectares of vineyard, the Bischöfliche Weingüter of Trier are by no means a small producer. Formed in 1966 with the coming together of three producers: the Bischöfliche Konvikt, the Bischöfliche Priesterseminar and the Hohe Domkirche, all three producers had strong ties with the Catholic Church. This is a bond that still exists today.
The producers have holdings in several of the Mosel’s finest vineyards: Piesporter Goldtropfen (Mosel), Kanzemer Altenberg (Saar) and Scharzhofberg (Saar) to name but a few. The majority of wines produced are based, of course, on Riesling.
Trittenheimer Apotheke is one of the regions’s finest vineyards and this wine of Spätlese quality is great at expressing the blue-slate soil of the terroir. Even although the BWT’s (Bichöfliche Weingüter Trier) three predecessors were some of the founding members of the Mosel VDP, BWT isn’t a member – this means it isn’t able to decorate its wines with the Große Lage or Großes Gewächs titles.
Shiny gold with a hint of green.
Stone fruit and sweet lime are the first notes to pick out but there are hints at elderberry and gooseberry. The wine gives off a slight honey feel too alongside wet rock.
On the attack is citrus: lemon peel and lime cordial but also a hint of green apple. The body is filled in with mineral notes of slate and pepper but also peach and apricot. The finish is long, sweet and brings with it a metallic sense: iron and the slate returns.
The higher level of residual sugar allows the slate notes to take a background role and the fruit emerges far more prominently than it would in a simple Qualitätswein. Trittenheimer Apotheke is a fantastic site and this wine really gives a brilliant insight as to what is possible on such steep, mineral-intense vineyards. It might not be the finest and most-balanced wine the Mosel has to offer but is nonetheless very impressive.
(Saar) Mosel, Germany
Wow, that’s quite a name for a wine, let me break it down for you: 'Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken' is the winemaker, 'Saarburger Rausch' is the vineyard, 'Riesling' is the grape and 'Kabinett' is the classification level (click here). To confuse matters even further, this wine is sourced from an ‘Erste Lage’ vineyard – a Premier-Cru location (click here), it isn’t a Großes Gewächs though (Grand Cru) because it isn’t a dry wine. Still with me? All you really need to know is that this is a prime example of some of the delicious, high-quality, off-dry wines that emerge from Germany. I know I only really ever talk of the dry ones and dissuade consumers to buy the sweet stuff but this is an exception to the rule.
Along the banks of the river Saar (now part of the larger Mosel production region, Saarburger Rausch is a vineyard mainly made up of Devonian slate. True to traditional Saar wine heritage, wines here are especially mineral-laden with discreet but composed fruit. Whereas some of the region’s wines express minerality in their dry outfits, some benefit from a higher-than-usual amount of residual sugar to really show off their best sides - an explosion of fruit.
Straw yellow with a slightly darker amber colour in there as well.
Lots of sweet yellow and tropical fruit: particularly mango but also some ripe green pear. Banana wasn’t a million miles off and neither was apricot.
A lot of fruit on the initial attack; mango, pineapple and banana were the first on the scene followed interestingly by a whole orchard of stone fruit and then a citrus finish. Interestingly, the citrus and fruit elements of the body work excellently well together and create a very harmonious finish which is long, sweet and very fulfilling.
One of the better off-dry Rieslings the Mosel has to offer. Proof again that, when done properly, Saar wine is some of Germany’s best, if not the best. Taking on a completely different role than many of its dry wines do, this wine was bold, big, expressive but surprisingly elegant.
-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