twitter facebook instagram

Weiser-Künstler

In 2005, Konstantin Weiser and Alexandra Künstler began from humble beginnings leasing just 1.8 hectares in Enkircher Ellergrub. At the time, Konstantin was doing an apprenticeship in New Zealand. He formerly worked as the winemaker at Immich-Batterieberg and had earlier stints at Leitz and Minges in the Rheingau and Pfalz, respectively. (Perhaps it's only a coincidence, but both Leitz and Minges have slate soils, too.) Konstantin hails from Bavarian Swabia, and Alexandra from Franconia, but the pair met in the Mosel Valley.

Today, they hold 4.2 hectares now, all Riesling, in Enkircher Ellergrub, Zeppwingert, and Steffensberg, as well as Trabener Gaispfad (spelled Geispfad on old maps) and Wolfer Sonnenlay. (In 2016, they acquired new holdings in Trarbacher Schlossberg and Taubenhaus.) After the 2016 harvest, the latest additions are a couple of steep parcels in Trarbacher Schlossberg and Taubenhaus. As in Wolfer Sonnenlay, these vines are trained on wire trellises. All of Weiser-Künstler's holdings have mostly old, wurzelecht—or ungrafted—vines, as none of their main vineyards were replanted because of remodeling, called Flurbereinigung. In addition, the vines are in sites that were highly rated in the 1897 Mosel-Weinbau-Karte, the Prussian viticultural map of the Mosel for the administrative district of Koblenz.

Trabener Gaispfad is adjacent to Ellergrub on the same, stony, southwest- and west-facing escarpment, known as the Starkenburger Hang. (Starkenburg is the name of a village on the high ridge of this craggy slope that stretches from Traben-Trarbach to Enkirch.) This stellar 0.5-hectare plot consists of mostly old vines. The slate soil here has more iron oxide than Ellergrub and is some redder slate, along with gray-blue slate and quartz.

Steffensberg, on the other hand, is a south-facing hillside vineyard in a side valley. It's at the lower end of the Ahringsbach, behind Enkirch, where the deep topsoil has plenty of iron oxide. Steffensberg reminds me a little of Dhroner Hofberg in appearance, though the wines from each site taste quite different.

Their choice parcel, however, is in Ellergrub—a top vineyard site in the Middle Mosel. This steep, terraced slope consisting primarily of blue and gray slate, along with quartz, is the heart of the Weiser-Künstler property. The ungrafted Riesling vines located here are up to 100 years old.

In the vineyards, Weiser-Künstler—affectionately called "Wei-Kü" by some of their friends—uses no herbicides or pesticides. They are in the process of being certified organic. Because of the dry stone walls and the steepness of the sites, all the work has to be done by hand, with a hoe, or occasionally with a Wingertsknecht (“vineyard farmhand”), an antiquated tool with a two-stroke engine and winches, which is used to smooth and break up the soil.

In the beginning, Konstantin and Alexandra leased a cellar floor at their good friend Daniel Vollenweider's, although they used their own equipment. In 2007, they purchased a 19th-century house, now painted blue, across the river from Vollenweider. It's situated on a sharp curve of the main road in Traben, not too far from the Jugendstil Hotel Bellevue.

Today, the wines are primarily fermented by ambient yeasts in a deep, cool cellar underneath their property. Weiser-Künstler uses a combination of stainless-steel vats and old oak Fuder casks, along with some second-hand barriques. "Stainless steel better keeps the acidity, and wood helps to round it out," Konstantin says. Although their focus is on delicate Mosel Rieslings with noticeable residual sugar, they make excellent dry and off-dry Rieslings as well.

They are always very careful in selecting their grapes during the harvest, even for Kabinett. Depending on the vintage and wine, they will either do a light crushing and gentle pressing or direct whole-bunch pressing in an old, well-kept, cream-colored Willmes pneumatic press. "The best old bladder presses are from Willmes," Alexandra says. "You can manually control them and the pressing is quite gentle."

The owls on their tastefully done Jugendstil, ribbed-paper labels (now on the capsules, too) represent, weise, or wisdom, a reference to Konstantin's last name, Weiser. You might come across some older bottles of the 2005 vintage that are simply labeled “Weiser,” as Konstantin initially made wines on his own for the first vintage, even though they started the winery together. Moreover, they choose to bottle all of their wines in the modest 330-mm antique-blue Schlegel bottle, except for their GE, or Grosse Eule ("great owl"), a playful reference to the VDP's GG, or Grosses Gewächs, that is in an extra-tall 350-mm bottle.

Weiser-Künstler uses a different label for the top dry and off-dry wines in order to highlight the site names for these bottlings. The color and paper are the same, but the label is smaller, and the vineyard name, without the village, is more prominent. These come with back labels. (Nowadays, the trend is more and more to smaller front labels with accompanying back labels. I like large front labels.)

Weiser-Künstler is a member of Der klitzekleine Ring, the "teeny-weeny circle" of growers, which show their wines together and share their time and labor in saving plots of old, precious Riesling vines on steep slate slopes from being cut down.

Wines

Weiser-Künstler's wines are classic Mosel, from dry to nobly sweet, and have a sappy, creamy, old-vine quality, too, and not just the Spätlese or Auslese, but also the Kabinett wines and Gutsriesling, or entry-level "estate" Riesling. The extra depth comes from the naturally low-yielding old vines. The fruity Rieslings are reminiscent of Willi Schaefer. In addition, both estates are modest and small.

Weiser-Künstler's Enkircher Ellergrub Kabinett has become a benchmark, but so, too, has their old-style, light-bodied, dry Trabener Gaispfad Kabinett trocken. The off-dry Gutsriesling is tops for its category as well.

In the beginning, they exported 80 percent of their production. It's more like 60 percent now. Most of the wines go to Switzerland, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and the United States.

Konstantin says that for vinifying sweet Mosel Riesling, the winemaker must find the right moment to stop fermentation, yet not oversulfur the wine. Their Auslese wines are only from botrytized berries, not dried ones.

Weiser-Künstler has dropped the term "feinherb" for its entry-level wine and other bottlings in both the domestic and foreign markets, owing to the confusion expressed by many clients.

From 2005–2007, they whole-bunch pressed the grapes for Ellergrub Kabinett. From 2008–2011, they crushed and pressed. Alexandra explains that the grape skins have potassium, and the increased skin contact—which comes from crushing, pressing, and macerating (on the grape skins)—helps lower the acidity. Of course, it depends on the vintage and the grapes.

The Trabener Gaispfad Kabinett trocken comes from vines lower down the slope, whereas the former Trabener Gaispfad Spätlese trocken/feinherb—which is now called, simply, Gaispfad—is from higher up and from older vines. Konstantin usually just crushes and presses the Kabinett trocken, whereas the Gaispfad has some skin contact before pressing. He seeks tannins for his dry wines.

After giving back their terraced, old-vine parcel in Zeppwingert to Immich-Batterieberg a couple of years ago, Alexandra and Konstantin have now acquired another old-vine plot in Zeppwingert. This steep parcel is located a little closer to Enkirch. They plan to use the grapes from these vines for their Sekt, or sparkling wine. They also have a well-placed, south-facing parcel in Wolfer Sonnenlay, a vineyard in a side valley of the Mosel.

2016: Yields were low. There will be no 2016 Enkircher Ellergrub Kabinett or Trabener Gaispfad Kabinett trocken. But they were able to produce both a 2016 Wolfer Sonnenlay Kabinett trocken and Kabinett from different plots in this side-valley hillside. The dry Kabinett has only 9.5 percent alcohol! Konstantin said the residual sugar is about 4 grams. It was a single Fuder cask. The residually sweet Kabinett was raised in both cask and tank. The 2016 Estate Riesling, which was recently bottled, is excellent. The wine has circa 13 grams of sugar per liter. It's a blend of 8,000 liters, mostly coming from an organic grape grower with holdings in Steffensberg.

2015: In this vintage, I really like Weiser-Künstler's new wine—the 2015 Wolfer Sonnenlay Kabinett, which has about 50 grams of sugar. It has a marked herbal, piny note and goes down well. The 2015 Trabener Gaispfad Kabinett trocken is fuller than the previous year. The wine has a golden rather than green color and more phenolics, which Konstantin likes for his dry Rieslings. I was most impressed by the 2015 Enkircher Ellergrub Kabinett, which was raised in Fuder. In past vintages, this wine was fermented in a stainless-steel tank. (See "A Visit to Weiser-Künstler" for more details.)

2014: This is another very good vintage at Weiser-Künstler, maybe even great. The 2014 Gaispfad Kabinett trocken has around 84 degrees Oechsle, 9 per mil acidity, with 10 percent alcohol. This bone-dry wine is one of my favorites. Konstantin crushed and pressed the grapes, before fermentation in Fuder. This was picked a little earlier than the higher-end 2014 Gaispfad, which had about 12 hours of skin contact, before pressing, and was aged in smaller secondhand barrels. This wine has closer to 87 degrees Oechsle and only 7.6 per mil acidity, because of the maceration on the skins, but it still tastes fine. The entry-level 2014 Riesling (ca. 13 grams of sugar) and 2014 Enkircher Ellergrub Kabinett are both delicious. The latter has marked sponti aromas early on, whereas the basic Riesling has really improved in bottle by January 2016. The 2014 Steffensberg is very fine. Alexandra says that the wines from this vineyard are getting better each year.

2013: The 2013 Riesling (screw cap) is, once again, a very good value. The grapes come mainly from Wolfer Sonnenlay, which is a south-facing side-valley site. The vines are trained along wires, which makes the work much easier to do. The 2013 Riesling was raised and wood and has marked acidity, even though Konstantin lightly de-acidified the must with calcium carbonate. He did the same for the 2013 Trabener Gaispfad Kabinett trocken. The other wines had no de-acidification.

In August, I re-tasted the 2013s and really liked them, including Ellergrub Kabinett. At ProWein 2014, in March, I had tasted barrel samples of Weiser-Künstler's 2013s and came away impressed.

On November 11, 2013, I spoke with Alexandra Künstler about the 2013 harvest. She says that it was extremely difficult. In the summer, they had great expectations. Yet the harvest was very trying, as many of their grapes either fell to the ground or were affected by rot. "It was a mini-yield," Alexandra says. "We're pleased with the quality that we brought in, but the quantity is as low as 2012."

Some favorites: The 2013 Gaispfad ♥♥ is an early favorite. This dry-tasting wine is brisk, saline, and light-bodied (only 10.5 percent alcohol). Alexandra says that they decided to remove the terms "Spätlese" and "feinherb," as they don't chaptalize any of their wines and this one is always at or above the minimum must weight for Spätlese and tastes fairly dry. (See my write-up on 2013 Gaispfad for more details.) The 2013 Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Spätlese ♥♥ is a stunning wine. It has about 80 grams of sugar per liter, which is the lowest amount ever for this bottling. They produced an Auslese and Trockenbeerenauslese from this site, and the GE is from Ellergrub, too. As the wines keep changing over time, I'm starting to like the 2013 Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Kabinett ♥♥ more than I did before. It has about 55 grams of sugar. The same can be said of the excellent 2013 Steffensberg ♥♥.

2012: Like the VDP's 2012 GGs, Weiser-Künstler's 2012 GE, which is from Ellergrub this year, will be released in September 2013. It needs extra time in bottle, as it's still backward but quite promising. The 2012 Steffensberg, on the other hand, is rounder.

Some favorites: 2012 Trabener Gaispfad Riesling Kabinett trocken ♥♥ is light, briny, and delicious. This fermented almost completely dry (just 2 grams of sugar) in an old Moselfuder and is well balanced. It reminds me of a mountain spring. For this wine, they harvest the sections that are less drought prone. Hence, more yields. The site has a lot of iron as well. The 2012 Trabener Gaispfad Riesling Spätlese feinherb ♥♥♥ impresses, too, and is closer to trocken (dry) with just 10 grams of sugar per liter, yet it remains light. Last year, it was labeled GE. On August 25, I blind-tasted a bottle and found it delightful. On the palate, I notice a touch of (used) small wooden barrels. This aged mostly in Fuder, however. It deserves another heart—my first three-heart wine. The bracing 2012 Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Kabinett ♥♥ is a little over 50 grams of sugar (less than in previous vintages), with about 10 per mil acidity and comes off almost dry. The fresh, light 2011 Riesling ♥♥ (screw cap) is mainly from old, low-yielding vines in Wolfer Sonnenlay and Dhroner Hofberg. The growers formerly sold their grapes to the co-op. This has about 18 grams of residual sugar per liter and was fermented in stainless steel.

2011: My first tasting of the 2011s was in mid-January 2012 in the cellar, some notes follow. Along with A.J. Adam, it was one of most impressive collections that I've tasted from casks and tanks.

"Phenomenal vintage," Alexandra says in reference to the 2011s. The harvest began on October 3 (German Unity Day) and had tiny, loose berries from low yields of 30-35 hl/ha, which is normal at this estate. Overall production, however, was higher than in 2010. Nonetheless, I agree with Alexandra—the quality level of 2011 is exceptional.

The 2011 Enkircher Ellergrub Spätlese trocken (cask) was recently sulfured and is to be bottled at the end of April after one filtration. This had 12 hours of skin contact; no racking, known as abstechen in German, and left on the gross lees. Konstantin does some bâtonnage, about once a month, for this wine. There's one extra barrel in a separate cellar room.

Another 2011 Enkircher Ellergrub Spätlese trocken had a light-golden color. This has very good cut and a medium body with a salty, briny character and good acidity. It animates. It comes from 55- to 100-year-old vines, growing on stony, blue slate terraces. "It's fruitier, spicier," Konstantin explains, when talking about the 2011 Gaispfad Kabinett trocken. A sample of 2011 was still quite leesy. It comes from a mix of red and blue slate from mainly 60-year-old vines, all ungrafted. They picked it at 82 degrees Oechsle. The alcohol is 11 percent. It's salty, mineral, and pure.

A sample of 2011 Trabener Gaispfad GE is from their warmer cellar room. It's less fruity with a stinky (sponti) aroma. This will be bottled in September and had no maceration. It's maturing in an 11-year-old French barrique, more oxygenation, which also gives it a more golden color. This is dry and really dances across the palate. Pointed. They're seeking structure in this wine.

A 2011 Trabener Gaispfad GE from a batch in their cooler cellar room has a lighter color. The total amount of GE will be from four separate barrels from Messmer, all between 8 and 10 years old, two in each room. The samples from the cooler room are more reductive and lively. The wine is on its gross lees and has a lightly creamy taste, with a hint of vanilla.

The 2011 Enkircher Steffensberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb comes from a 1,000-liter stainless-steel tank. The grapes were harvested earlier than usual and were put in the press whole—i.e., without crushing. "A little grapefruit, yellow citrus," he says. Steffensberg has lots of water reserves and a finely weathered slate soil. The wine has about 20 grams of residual sugar per liter. It comes from 32-year-old vines. It's more plush and a good wine with food.

In the past, Weiser-Künstler's entry-level Riesling was produced strictly from their own grapes, yet the production costs for such a wine were too high for the price and the output was too limited. Beginning with the 2011 vintage, they found a couple of sources where growers farm top steep slope sites with old vines and sell them the grapes rather than to the co-op.

A sample of 2011 Riesling from a 2,000-liter stainless-steel tank is their Basiswein, or generic wine. This was recently sulfured and will be bottled at the end of February. It has a wonderful Mosel green tint and will be blended with another 1,000-liter stainless-steel tank after some aging in wooden casks. This comes from purchased grapes of old vines in Dhroner Hofberg and Wolfer Sonnenlay. "Invigorating," Konstantin says. It has good acidity and will be bottled in early March. It's also sponti and zesty with herbal notes.

The 2011 Enkircher Ellergrub Kabinett has a typical stinky nose. Underneath this sponti tone, it becomes clear and fruity. This is in a 2,000-liter tank. There are two more 500-liter tanks of this wine, and it has about 60 grams of sugar per liter with 8.5 per mil acidity.

The 2011 Ellergrub Spätlese (tank) had 92 degrees Oechsle. It has a sponti nose, too, with about 85 grams of sugar, 15 percent noble rot. It tastes very good.

Steffensberg Auslese 2011 is a botrytis selection, with no dried raisins and a sweet, fruity, and fine flavor. It's from a 250-liter tank and will bottled at the end of April.

The 2011 Ellergrub Auslese has a lightly sponti aroma and is more delicate, very good indeed. The 2011 BA is of high quality, too.

Some favorites: The 2011 Trabener Gaispfad Riesling Kabinett trocken ♥♥ is an underrated wine at this address. It's a lightly effervescent, deliciously pungent, salty, light, pure, and dry Mosel wine (if not for everybody). Their 2011 Riesling ♥♥ (screw cap), also coming from old vines, is an invigorating off-dry Mosel wine with an excellent quality-price rapport. The grapes were lightly crushed before a gentle pressing. It was fermented in stainless steel, raised in Fuder, and bottled under screw cap. Year after year, their sponti, fruity-sweet Kabinett is one of the best wines. And it is no different with the 2011 Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Kabinett , even though it comes across sweeter than the excellent 2008 vintage of this bottling. To my surprise, the 2011 Steffensberg (feinherb) ♥♥ tastes much better now (Oct. 12). It's close to dry and it fermented in cask. The wine has lost its baby fat and is delicate with a slight spritz. It just needed time to evolve. An early judgment, much less a point score, would have missed this development. In cask, it still had some rough edges.

Weiser-Künstler

Wilhelmstr. 11

56841 Traben-Trarbach

+49 (0)6541 819943


Vineyard area: 3.3 hectares

Top sites: Enkircher Ellergrub, Enkircher Steffensberg, and Trabener Gaispfad


http://www.weiser-kuenstler.de/