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
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!
Van Volxem is undoubtedly one of Germany’s finest and most famous wineries. It is, of course, famed for its single-vineyard Riesling wines in the wonderful Saar valley but alongside these products and a handful of estate, varietal wines, the company also produces a fantastic sparkling wine: 1900 Riesling Brut.
There was a time when sparkling Saar Riesling was just as sought-after as Champagne in Germany: unfortunately, these days are long gone and only a few producers still make sparkling Riesling of the highest standard. The motto of Van Volxem is that only prime grapes (from the coldest parts) are used in the making of this wine: fully ripe grapes from high-quality vineyards on the steep slopes of the Saar Valley. The wine spends a long time in the bottle before being released for sale and some of the base wines are also aged in oak before the second fermentation begins: what happens is that a fantastic ripe and not overly-sour sparkling Riesling emerges: far more delicate than a great deal of other wines produced in a similar way and far more drinkable thanks to the balanced taste.
Straw gold with a compact mousse.
The wine gives off a citrus and stone fruit aroma but also the feel of freshly-baked fruit loaf: there’s also a unique smoky feel too.
The attack is surprisingly youthful: fresh citrus in the way of lime and lemon but also pink grapefruit and sprinkling of stone fruit: particularly peach. The body is rather creamy and the finish both floral and mineral-laden: slate, smoke and a touch of wood for elegance. The finish is long and the fruity notes stay on the palate for a while after swallowing.
A Riesling Sekt with class is Van Volxem’s 1900: easy to drink, delicate and elegant with all of the notes of classic, high-quality bubbly but a unique Saar-like feel: if you know the still wines of Van Volxem, the feel of the base wines is to be expected although the minerals are not as pronounced – the final effect is a wonderful sparkler that offers much better value for money than the majority of Champagne’s available in this price bracket (25-30€).
Van Volxem requires no introduction, still I’ll do my best anyway. The winery is one of Germany’s finest and constantly produces some of the best Rieslings to originate from some of the best winegrowing-terrain the world over. Alongside a handful of other Großes Gewächs (Premier Cru) wines, Van Volxem produces this VDP Grosse Lage Goldberg.
Großes Gewachs (dry Grosse Lage wines – click here for more information) make up Germany’s best and are designed to be enjoyed years after bottling – in their early stages they often feel closed and, with a splash of age, they develop aromatic and complex qualities.
The Saar is, alongside the other Mosel regions and the Rheingau, prime Riesling ground. In good vintages Saar Riesling is often better than the (continuously good) Rheingau at producing complex and very delicate white wines based on this varietal.
Pale, bright gold.
On the nose are lots of fruity notes but they are covered by a mineral-edge that introduces itself slowly but eventually takes main stage. Alongside pear, nectarine and apricot are slight vegetative and floral notes but the slatey, stoney note is a character definer – the lasting impression this wine leaves behind.
Closed now, the fruit promise is wonderful: nectarine, pear, peach and even some lovely, sweet citrus in a way that introduces little acidity but a great deal of drive. The body is uncomplicated and smooth and the finish incredibly fresh and racy (with a residual amount of lemon and pear sticking around).
A class act! Unfortunately I opened it way too early and the fruit was still a little closed up – the minerals promise fantastic drinking for years to come. Almost no sign of aging was present in the wine and its compactness together with the mineral-driven finish leave it on the tastebuds long after swallowing.
(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.
Riesling and Mosel are almost synonymous. I’ve mentioned before that, if one of the words is mentioned, the other is likely to follow suit in the same sentence. As Germany’s most-famous production region and undoubtedly also one of the prettiest, the valleys of the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer rivers produce what is some of the world’s best white wine.
The Saar sub-region is home to several of the country’s most famous single vineyards with Gottesfuß, Altenberg and Goldberg being some of the finest terroirs for the growing of Riesling the world over. Of the wineries situated here, two stand out: Von Othegraven and Van Volxem.
Wiltingen’s Scharzhofberger is one of Germany’s finest vineyards, dry wines produced here from certain wineries are allowed to be labelled as Großes Gewächs (Grand Cru) and they are sought-after all over Europe. Van Volxem is one of the wineries allowed to do so.
Please note that this wine was tasted in November 2013, a very young age for a single-vineyard Grand Cru from Germany.
Pale amber in colour although very bright showing its youth.
First on the nose was citrus, full and intense but perfectly crafted lemon marmalade (the expensive sort). This lead on to stone fruit notes: particularly white peach and nectarine. Exotic fruit was in there too, especially pineapple and all of this bright yellow fruit was brought together by a vegetative (grass and lavender) and mineral (copper, slate) feel.
An elegant attack of lemon compote and white peach body lead into intense and (rather extreme) notes of copper, tin and wood. The body was long and yet clean, crisp and bold emphasising good things to come. The fruit body, with its stone-fruit and citrus was tame and yet floral, exciting and reserved – the lemon touch was composed in a way that the big minerals on the finish weren’t overwhelming and despite the ‘size’ of the wine, nothing was too bold, too out-of-place and too much.
A top-class Riesling which can only improve over the next five to six years: fantastic on its own and awesome with poultry and seafood dishes.
9.4/10 Points (+)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the best wines to originate from the Mosel production region of Germany come, in my opinion, from a subregion called Saar. A few years ago, the whole region was known as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer but, in the interest of making the product easier to understand for the consumer, the Mosel name remained and the others fell away.
The Saar valley is dictated by slate: blue, green and red. Some of the best-known vineyards in Germany are found on these slate soils in the Saar Valley – Wiltinger Gottesfuß, Scharzhofberger and Kanzemer Altenberg to name but a few.
Riesling is pretty much the only varietal on offer here and two of the major wineries in the valley make nothing else: Von Othegraven and Van Volxem.
This wine is sourced from Van Volxem’s various vineyards but only those which grow on slate soils. It is a simple Gutswein according to the guidelines set out by the VDP – find out more by clicking here.
Bright yellow with faint sense of luminous green.
Sweet, fresh citrus with profound notes of green apples and sweet lime – lots of strong mineral notes.
The wine is very fresh on the palate with an attack of sweet lime, green apple but also lemon zest and a decent helping of stone fruit – particularly peach. Gooseberries and pineapple are in there too and when this rich, smooth fruit eventually gives way to a body of spice: particularly pepper, paprika and even a sprinking of salt, the whole thing is finished off leaving a very clean-cut and balanced impression.
A fantastic Saar Riesling both traditional in the way of spice and fruit but modern thanks to the expertly-crafted mineral element which really feels clean, refreshing and still very bold. The Cuvee is obviously lacking in single-vineyard character but a great typical Saar wine incorporating every aroma slate-soil wine is known for.
When it comes to Mosel, many think of the wines sourced from the main river valley, particularly those found in and around Bernkastel-Kues, Ürzig, Piesport and Erden. The insider tip though is that, whilst aforementioned wines are fantastic, the best wines of the region come from the Saar Valley – one of the River Moselle’s many tributaries. In the communes of Wiltingen and Kanzem, close to the ancient Roman city of Trier, lie some of the world’s best Riesling Terroir with blue, green and red slate soils every Riesling vintner fantasizes about.
The Saar is, like most German wineries, most famous for its Grand Cru wines – (Wiltinger) Scharzhofberger, Wiltinger Gottesfuß and Kanzemer Altenberg are probably the three best (in my opinion) Riesling Terrior in all of Germany, certainly the best in the Mosel region.
Von Othegraven is a traditional winemaker and a member of the prestigious VDP. It has remained in the family for many generations and today’s owner is A-list German celebrity and TV Presenter Günther Jauch – a household name in every home across the country.
Whilst I promise to bring you reviews of the ‘more interesting’ and exclusive wines of this and other producers in the region, this review is of the entry-level Riesling sourced from several of the company’s vineyards all over the Saar Valley. It retails for around 10€ in Germany.
Golden Yellow, very shiny.
Cooking apples were the first thing I sensed on the nose – an overly sour sense of very acidic (not ripe?) apples. Eventually slightly fresher green apples did come through with a lemon peel aroma which was finished off with pine wood, verbena and a faint touch of peach.
What was most astonishing was how quickly this wine had aged – I could have given it another five years. The fresh citrus and sharp green apples were in there but so were the telltale woody notes of not holding out for much longer. There was a blunting brass finish to the body and strangely some large vegetative notes – very untypical of Riesling and the Saar. Nevertheless, the fresher notes prevailed.
Possibly I had a badly aged bottle – it wasn’t over the turning point but pretty well close – for a 2010 that I know has been stored well, I was expecting ripeness and little-to-no sign of aging. However, the sign of a decent Riesling is one that shows its age (if not a little premature) in its best form – combining luscious, vivid notes of green apple and fresh lemon peel with the herbal and vegetation notes of not being as young as it should be any more. I’ll bring you a review of the 2012 VO Riesling sometime soon to see if I just had a rough bottle.
-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