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  • February 3, 2017
  • A Selection of 2016 Saar Rieslings from Hofgut Falkenstein

  • by Lars Carlberg

The cellar at Hofgut Falkenstein.

The Weber family farms about 8 hectares of mainly old Riesling vines—over 40 percent ungrafted—in a side valley of the Saar, known as Tälchen (“little valley”). In 1985, Erich Weber and his wife, Marita, built up the property of the then-dilapidated Falkensteinerhof (established in 1901) from scratch. All the Riesling grapes are hand-harvested and the whole grapes are gently pressed in a pneumatic press for two to three hours. The musts are left overnight to settle naturally and are vinified with ambient yeasts in old oak 1,000-liter Fuder casks. Their top vineyard sites are located on various south-facing hillsides, including the once highly prized wines from Niedermenniger Herrenberg, Niedermenniger Sonnenberg, Krettnacher Euchariusberg, and Krettnacher Altenberg. The soil is primarily gray slate, with some quartz. The father-and-son team of Erich and Johannes Weber don’t use herbicides and believe in low yields (one flat cane per vine) to produce an array of green-tinted, light-bodied, high-acid, unchaptalized dry (trocken), off-dry (feinherb), and sweet Saar wines—all of which are cask-by-cask bottlings. Below is a selection of 2016 Saar Rieslings, with a few short descriptions of each wine.

2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken
Fuder Egon: brioche, herbs, orange skins, bright, light, zappy, and dry.
Fuder Mutter Anna: fennel, anise, lovage (herbal), crisp.

2016 Oberemmeler Karlsberg Riesling Kabinett (halbtrocken)
Fuder Oberemmel Carlberg: raw, smoky, yeasty—invigorating (ca. 13 g/l RS).

2016 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Muny, Kleiner Klaus: sponti, steely, gunflint, grapefruit, bone-dry, and pure.

2016 Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Altenberg: quince, pepper, elderflower, tart, taut.

2016 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Lorenz Manni: (place-name in Altenberg) ripe apple, structured, salty, and fine.

2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb
Fuder Meyer “Nepal”: floral, apple, peach, spicy, Saar.
Fuder Onkel Peter: (old, ungrafted vines in Zuckerberg) aromatic, high-toned, light-bodied.

2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb
Fuder Meyer “Nepal”: lean, pear, and nervy.
Fuder Palm, Deutschen: violets, lime, crystalline, electric.
Fuder Meyer “Sydney”: berry-toned and perfectly balanced.

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Klaus “Lang”: green apple, wet slate, delicate, spritzy, light.
Fuder Kugel Peter: dried-fruit aromas, essential oils, piquant, and lemony.

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett “Alte Reben”
Fuder Gisela: (old, ungrafted vines) herbs, mirabelle plum, hemp, and tea leaves.

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Spätlese
Fuder Stirn, Mammen: bright, velvety, and gossamer.
Fuder Ternes: smoky, dark fruits, elegant, nervosité or lift.

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
Halbfuder Forster: (500 liters) compact, complex, and long—an Auslese for drinking.

The new vintage will be bottled under Rich Xiberta (RX) corks that have been tested for TCA. Except for magnums, the bottles will have capsules, rather than the distinctive paper strips. In most cases, the names (nicknames) on the casks are the former owner of the parcel. All the wines come from old vines, even if the Webers chose to designate the one 2016 Euchariusberg Kabinett as "Alte Reben." ♦

  • After much thought, we decided to switch from our distinctive paper strips to capsules this year. (The only exception is magnums.) We were considering the idea of having the strip only running up to the ring of the bottle neck. But it makes no sense to have strips that don’t go over the top of the corks to provide a “seal of approval.” But the self-adhesive strips, which we have used the last couple of years, are still put on by hand and are difficult to remove from the lip and ring of the bottle—often sticking to fingernails or to the knife of corkscrews.

    Another drawback is that the strips are easily soiled if a drop of wine seeps out due to poor storage. We also don’t want to go back to applying the strips, much less the labels, with glue. This is even more time-consuming, and the labels slid off in ice water. At the same time, we feel that a bottle without a strip or capsule doesn’t look complete, even if some private clients and importers don’t mind. The main advantage of having capsules is that these can be put on by adding a device to our small labeling machine. It would save us precious time that could be better spent in the vineyards. It also gives some clients the feeling that the corks are better protected and stay clean under capsules, especially for cellaring.

    Weiser-Künstler recommended an Austrian manufacturer of Polycap. Ours will be the same color as the label. We’ll have a slightly darker font on the labels, which have been tweaked a little more to highlight the vineyard site. The Sekt bottles will continue to have no caps.

    This year, we will use a special Rich Xiberta (RX) cork that has been tested for TCA, rather than the Extra grade from Amorim Cork, which is used by many top producers, such as Maximin Grünhaus, Peter Lauer, VOLS, and Weiser-Künstler, among others. As a new client of Amorim Cork, we didn’t care for some of the batches that they supplied us and we will therefore stick to RX instead. Egon Müller also uses RX.

    We are very excited about the young wines. They are finer than ever before. There will be plenty of light, bright Kabinett and Spätlese wines—dry, off-dry, and sweet. The must weights and residual sugar are, for the most part, lower than in the last few vintages.

  • The Webers have also recently signed a long-term lease for an ungrafted old-vine parcel in Kleinschock. On Clotten’s 1868 Viticultural Map of the Saar and Mosel, this south-to-southwest-facing hillside is listed as “Schock.” This is the Webers first parcel in Kleinschock. It now gives them three distinct plots of ungrafted old vines, to go along with vineyards that have a mix of ungrafted vines.

    Kleinschock is located close to Euchariusberg. The main south-facing Euchariusberg hillside has the place-name Großschock, where the Webers have various contiguous parcels that pretty much cover the entire dark-red section on the map.

  • Below are most of the AP (lot) numbers—which truly indicate an actual single cask instead of a blend:

    2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken
    Fuder Mutter Anna: AP Nr. 1
    Fuder Egon: AP Nr. 19

    2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb
    Fuder Onkel Peter: AP Nr. 4

    2016 Oberemmeler Karlsberg Riesling Kabinett
    Fuder Carlberg: AP Nr. 17 (ca. 13 g/l RS)

    2016 Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
    Fuder Krettnacherberg: AP Nr. 7

    2016 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese trocken
    Fuder Lorenz Manni: AP Nr. 18

    2016 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
    Fuder Muny, Kleiner Klaus: AP Nr. 9

    2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb
    Fuder Palm, Deutschen: AP Nr. 3
    Fuder Meyer “Sydney”: AP Nr. 15
    Fuder Meyer “Nepal”: AP Nr. 11 (also in mags)

    2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett
    Fuder Gisela: AP Nr. 8
    Fuder Kugel Peter: AP Nr. 12
    Fuder Klaus “Lang”: AP Nr. 13

    2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Spätlese
    Fuder Stirn, Mammen: AP Nr. 6
    Fuder Ternes: AP Nr. 14

    2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
    Halbfuder Forster: AP Nr. 5

    2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Weißburgunder Spätlese
    Fuder: AP Nr. 2

    2015 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Rotwein trocken
    Fuder: AP Nr. 16

    2015 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Rotwein trocken
    Fuder: AP Nr. 10

    2015 Saar Riesling Sekt brut
    Fuder: AP Nr. 20

  • The 2016 Euchariusberg Kabinetts from Hofgut Falkenstein are three separate Fuder casks—hence the different AP numbers. All three are from old vines in the original south-facing slope of Euchariusberg, also known as Großschock. This sector dates back a long time ago and is colored dark red on Franz Josef Clotten’s 1868 Viticultural Map of the Saar and Mosel. (Some parts of the Scharzhofberg, such as Pergentsknopp, weren’t even planted until the late 19th century.) The Kabinett AP number 8 (Gisela), with the words “Alte Reben” on the label, designates a block of old, ungrafted vines. This has a more herbal aroma than the other two. The Webers and I judge this to be the most impressive of the three. The AP number 12 (Kugel Peter) is an old-vine plot adjacent to Gisela. We’re very excited about the quality of the 2016 vintage across the board.

    The 2016 Euchariusberg Spätlesen and Auslese come from a higher and steeper section of Großschock.

  • Mosel Fine Wines “were simply blown away this year by the quality of the 2016 vintage at Hofgut Falkenstein!” Before the rave reviews from Jean Fisch and David Rayer came out yesterday, Hofgut Falkenstein was already getting plenty of hype in Germany from the Mythos Mosel event and the BerlinKabinettCup. Most of our merchants in Germany are already sold out of the 2016s.

    For what it’s worth, the 2016 Euchariusberg Kabinett AP Nr. 12 (Kugel Peter) came in third place at the BerlinKabinettCup tasting of 47 Kabinetts. Mosel Fine Wines rated the 2016 Euchariusberg Kabinett Alte Reben AP Nr. 8 (Gisela) as “one of the very best young Kabinett we have ever tasted and a great tribute to this uniquely light and elegant style of Riesling!” Just to put this in perspective, they rated Egon Müller’s 2015 Scharzhofberger Kabinett Alte Reben AP Nr. 3 with the same score of 95 points the year before. That wine costs a fortune.

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