Update from Europe 2018 | Germany
Fesq & Company's manager of European wines, Julia Weirich, meets each year with our partnered wineries from Germany - St. Urbans-Hof in Mosel, Von Schubert/Maximin Grünhaus in the Ruwer, and JuWel in Rheinhessen.
These notes are a brief overview of the visits in May 2018.
A little geography lesson. It’s best to think of the “Mosel” as three sub regions; Mosel “proper”, (ie., the actual Mosel river), the Saar and the Ruwer, (both tributaries that run into the Mosel). Regarding the Mosel river vineyards themselves, most experts then divide this into the upper Mosel, middle Mosel and lower Mosel.
It’s an unhelpful reality that few experts agree exactly where these distinctions lie along the river, but, it’s agreed that the very best wines tend to come from the middle Mosel.
South of the Mosel lies the flatter, broader region of Rheinhessen, (fed by the mighty Rhein river, which the Mosel meets as it heads to the North Sea). The Rheinhessen has a long history of producing high-yielding white varieties of middling quality. It’s only in recent years it has become a white-hot spot for hyper-conscience, quality driven producers creating wines that are often dry, powerful and more structurally driven than the finer, aromatic Mosel wines.
The Mosel is peppered with beautiful towns that conjure all the romantic images of German wine country. As a river, you can start at one end and gently meander down.
A word on recent vintages. The 2016 vintage, many of which have recently arrived in Australia, are considered very good, in a classic way. Concentrated without being weighty, fine, but with power.
On this trip, we look predominately at the upcoming wines from 2017. The initial consensus is that 2017 was a very good vintage for much of the Mosel, notable for the extreme frosts that limited yields in Spring. This has led to wines that are richer than 2016 in many cases, yet also with strong, almost pronounced, acidity. As per usual, the best Estate’s tend to trump vintage generalisations, and the reverse is true of lower performers.
We start in Reinhessen, with the delightful, modern wines of Juliane Eller. Since taking over her parent’s estate, it has been considered a blast of fresh air through the region. Clean, focussed wines, elegantly packaged and marketed globally. Juliane is a lovely presence and clearly has an eye for the fine details in grape-growing, winemaking and presentation.
From the Juwel vineyards, you need to head north to find the meeting point of the Saar and the Mosel. This is where you find St Urbans-Hof, in the town of Leiwen.
In Eric Steinberg’s book, Wines of the Mosel, he describes the remarkable rise of the St. Urbans-Hof estate, “the rise of the Weis family’s winery...... constitutes one of the great success stories in the recent history of the Mosel".
If, as I maintain, one can usually judge an estate by the quality of its “lesser” wines, this must surely be among the region’s best, since its estate Riesling, which combines Mosel and Saar fruit, is a wonderful wine, perhaps the most consistent value in Mosel wine.“
Nik Weis himself is an erudite, modern leader in the German wine industry. To see the revival of vineyards in their care, including the iconic Goldtröpfchen in Piesporter, is a privilege and shows his influence in the area. It is now one of the largest, quality estates in the Mosel.
To quote Eric Steinberg again, he calls Von Schcubert/Maximin Grunhaus his “desert island” wines. “This is probably the greatest name among Ruwer estates, with a history of viticulture of well over 1,000 years...At their best they are unsurpassed by any German wine…."
He writes of the prefect combination of the finest Mosel aromatics, the power and age worthy pedigree of the house style, and the reality that they may be the best vineyards themselves in the region, certainly the Ruwer. Having been farmed as vineyards since the 10th century, it’s hard to argue with any of that.
We were blessed to walk the ancient abby halls, the 500+ meters of subterranean caves, the Roman cellars, and of course, the great vineyards of Abstberg, Herrenberg and Bruderberg.