As the Saar slowly and majestically meanders on its journey North to join the Mosel, it passes several of Germany’s most-famous and prized vineyards. In Wiltingen; Scharzhofberg, in Saarbrücken; Rausch, In Ayl; Kupp and in Kanzem; Altenberg. The rolling hills and sleepy communes perhaps disguise the fact that these are some of the world’s finest vineyards when it comes to the production of white wine, specifically Riesling.
With parcels of vines in many of the above-listed vineyards, Weingut Van Volxem is one of the region’s biggest names. With so much of its vineyard space in Grand Cru (Grosse Lagen) sites, it has one of the largest portfolios of top wines: no less than six top dry wines and a handful of sweet wines sourced from the same sites.
Perhaps it is the Scharzhofberger wines that Van Volxem is best known for: its dry Scharzhofberger is a truely fantastic wine that drinks well young and even ten years later. This legendary site is probably Germany’s most famous vineyard and the one most commonly associated with the Saar region as a whole: whilst part of the Mosel production region and the reliance on slate-soils, Saar wines are often very different to those of the more widely-known Mittelmosel.
However, it isn’t just the winery’s top wines that impress: whereas entry-level estate wines (Gutswein) are the calling-cards of every winery and the ones they makes most money with, several top German producers release dull, lacklustre wines in this market segment. This is not a practise that Van Volxem is familiar with: its “Saar Riesling” and “Schiefer Riesling” (from purchased grapes) wines are both remarkably good and, just like their big brothers, keep for the best part of a decade, if not longer. The secondary tier too is fascinating Alte Reben, Rotschiefer and the Wiltinger-village wines are all very good and offer fantastic value-for-money. It’s even worth mentioning that the winery’s two non-Riesling wines are also some of the best non-Riesling wines from the Saar altogether: the producer’s Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) is a thrilling take on the Devonian slate soils without the piercing acidity of Riesling. It is perhaps only topped by the winery’s Windvogt made of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc sourced from a unique parcel in Wawern with a micro-climatic situation leading to successful cultivation of Chardonnay in what is a cold-climate production region.
The top Riesling wines are so very good though and Van Volxem has so many of them: besides the above-mentioned Scharzhofberger, the winery produces some of the finest wines from the other top Saar vineyards: Ockfener Bockstein, Wawerener Goldberg, Wawerner Ritterpfad, Kanzemer Altenberg, Wiltinger Gottesfuß and Wiltinger Kupp. All of the wines express the sites expertly and yet all of them have a very similar set of winemaking characteristics: The Van Volxem style.
The Van Volxem Style
Whereas many other Mosel and Saar producers opt for medium wines with medium bodies and a high amount of residual sugar, the majority of Van Volxem's wines are dry in style. Again, dry Mosel wines have a recent tendency of wanting to hide their acidity and yet the Van Volxem wines make use of this acidity rather than attempting to hide it behind over-obtrusive fruit. The wines are also fairly unique in colour with a much deeper pigementation than many other producers' products in the region. A spice structure holds the wines together, joined with the acidity, and it leads them feeling rather fuller - perhaps even Burgundian in style - despite being completely different in taste. The dryness is approachable and sometimes hovers close to the beginning of medium or halbtrocken despite never crossing that boundary in the single-vineyard wines. Whereas the winery does produce two Kabinetts, an Auslese and a Beerenauslese, its competence lies with dry wines and they are undeniably stamped with the Van Volxem style - a set of characteristics that exists in the top-wine: The Scharzhofberger P right down to the simplest manufactured wine: "Schiefer Riesling" - this style is even applicable for the winery's fantastic "1900" Brut Sekt - an hommage to the Saar-sparkling wines of the days gone by, where Saar bubbles were favoured over the wines of Reims, Ay and Epernay.
It also belongs to the Van Volxem Style to recultivate historic sites. In 2015 and 2016, Van Volxem has worked together with Mosel producer Markus Molitor to revive the historic Ockfener Geisberg vineyard - the first wines should be available in the 2019 and 2020 vintages.
A selection of recent Van Volxem wines
Purchasing these wines where you live
All of the Van Volxem wines are widely available in Germany and Austria although the top wines from 2015 are mostly sold out already. In the UK, Berry Bros. and Rudd has a good selection of Van Volxem wines (click here). In the US several retailers stock the wines - if you have any trouble finding a retailer, please get in touch and I will gladly assist you in getting hold of the above-mentioned wines.