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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 1 hectare 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 1,000-liter old oak 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 (AP 19): brioche, herbs, orange skins, bright, light, zappy, and dry.
Fuder Mutter Anna (AP 1): fennel, anise, lovage (herbal), crisp.

2016 Oberemmeler Karlsberg Riesling Kabinett (halbtrocken)
Fuder Oberemmel Carlberg (AP 17): raw, smoky, yeasty—invigorating, ca. 13 g/l RS.

2016 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Muny, Kleiner Klaus (AP 9): sponti, steely, gunflint, grapefruit, bone-dry, and pure.

2016 Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Altenberg (AP 7): quince, pepper, elderflower, tart, taut.

2016 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Lorenz Manni (AP 18): ripe apple, structured, salty, and fine.

2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb
Fuder Onkel Peter (AP 4): aromatic, high-toned, light-bodied.

2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb
Fuder Meyer: lean, pear, and nervy.
Fuder Palm, Deutschen (AP 3): violets, lime, crystalline, electric.
Fuder Meyer Sydney (AP 15): berry-toned and perfectly balanced.
Fuder Meyer Nepal (AP 11): floral, apple, peach, spicy, Saar.

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Klaus Lang (AP 13): green apple, wet slate, delicate, spritzy, light.
Fuder Kugel Peter (AP 12): dried-fruit aromas, essential oils, piquant, and lemony.

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett “Alte Reben”
Fuder Gisela (AP 8): herbs, mirabelle plum, hemp, and tea leaves.

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Spätlese
Fuder Stirn, Mammen (AP 6): bright, velvety, and gossamer.
Fuder Ternes (AP 14): smoky, dark fruits, elegant, nervosité or lift.

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
Halbfuder Förster (AP 5): compact, complex, and long—an Auslese for drinking.

(For the AP numbers, which were determined later, jump to the comment below.)

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 slide 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 called Im 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, listed as “Schock” on Clotten’s 1868 Saar and Mosel map, is a hillock located close to Euchariusberg and is offically in a part of the enlarged post-1971 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg. The main south-facing Euchariusberg hillside has the place name Großschock, where the Webers have various contiguous parcels that cover about 1.8-ha of the 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 1
    Fuder Egon: AP 19

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

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

    2016 Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
    Fuder Krettnacherberg: AP 7

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

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

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

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

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

    2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
    Halbfuder Förster: AP 5

    2016 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Weißburgunder Spätlese
    Fuder: AP 2

    2015 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Rotwein trocken
    Fuder: AP 16

    2015 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Rotwein trocken
    Fuder: AP 10

    2015 Saar Riesling Sekt brut
    Fuder: AP 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 prime 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.

  • Jean Fisch and David Rayer of Mosel Fine Wines “were simply blown away this year by the quality of the 2016 vintage at Hofgut Falkenstein!” Before the rave reviews from Mosel Fine Wines 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 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 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 3 with the same score of 95 points the year before. That wine costs a small fortune.

    All the 2016 Euchariusberg wines—the Kabinetts, the Spätlesen, and the Auslese—are from different old-vine parcels in Großschock. The Webers have pretty much the entire core part of this south-facing hillside. Their holdings are contiguous in this old sector (Großschock III. and IV. Peil on the cadastre map). The Spätlesen and Auslese come from separate plots, picked en bloc—as all their wines—in the steeper section of Großschock (IV. Peil). The plot of old, ungrafted vines for the Kabinett designated “Alte Reben” (Gisela, AP 8) is located in Großschock III. Peil (block numbers 92, 93, and 94); the AP 12 (Kugel Peter) comes from a parcel adjacent to the ungrafted vines.

  • Below are some old books that list Euchariusberg among the best sites on the Saar:

    In Das Weinbuch by Wilhelm Hamm, printed in 1874, he ranks the vineyard sites (villages) as follows: “First Class: Brauneberg, Pisport, Laurentiusberg, Trarbach, Zeltingen, Oligsberg, Dusemont [Brauneberg], Berkasteler Doctor, Trier (Thiergärtner, Avelsbacher, Olewig-Neuberger in the city district; in the administrative district: Rauler, Agritiusberger, Krettnacher, Könener [red], Euchariusberger, Caseler, Josefshöfer), Grünhäuser. Second Class: Wehlen, Graach, Erden, Thronerhofberger, Uerzig, Kröver, Kienheim.”

    In Moselwein (1897), Karl Heinrich Koch wrote “[t]he valley that stretches east from Wiltingen, the Oberemmeler Valley, is also very important. The valley cuts a wide swath through this landscape, which the geologist [Heinrich] Grebe conjectures constitutes the primordial riverbed of an arm of the Mosel that flowed through here in prehistoric times. Along this stretch belong the sites of Oberemmel, with the renowned parcels Rosenberg [Rosenkamm], Agritiusberg (at the church), Raul, Lautersberg, and Junkerberg; Krettnach; as well as Ober- and Niedermenning with the excellent sites of Euchariusberg and Zuckerberg.”

    In Die Weine im Gebiete der Mosel und Saar, Friedrich Wilhelm Koch (1898) cited, in this order, “Bockstein, Geisberg, Scharzhofberg, Scharzberg [now a part of the enlarged Scharzhofberg], Raul, Oberemmel, Euchariusberg, Wawerner Herrenberg, and Ayler Kupp.”

    “The finest vineyards of the Saar are on the right bank of the river, from Geisberg in the south to Euchariusberg in the north,” André L. Simon wrote in Wine and the Wine Trade (1921).

    In the Fourteenth Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 15 (1929), there is the following passage in the entry on Mosel wines: “The Saar joins the Moselle a few miles above Treves; its finest vineyards are those of Scharzhofberg, Bockstein, Geisberg and Euchariusberg; very fine wines are also made at Scharzberg, Agritiusberg, Wiltingen and Oberemmel.”

    In The Wine Connoisseur’s Catechism (1934), Simon wrote: “The best wines of the Saar Valley are those of Geisberg, Euchariusberg, Bockstein, Scharzberg, Agritiusberg, Wiltingen, Oberemmel, and the finest of all, Scharzhofberg. The best wines of the Ruwer Valley are the wines of Maximin Grünehaus [sic], Eitelsbach, and Casel.”

    In Zeitschrift des Königlich Preussischen Statistischen Bureaus: 1871: “Among the best sites on the Mosel and the side valleys, one considers in the Trier district: Thiergärtner, Avelsbacher, Olewig-Neuberger; in the Trier rural district: Oberemmeler (especially Rauler, Agritiusberger), Krettnacher, Niedermenniger (Euchariusberger); in the Ruwer Valley: Grünhäuser, Kaseler, Eitelsbacher; in the Wittlich district: Piesporter, Ürziger, Kinheimer, and Kröver; in the Bernkasteler district: Oligsberger and Neuberger, Brauneberger, Doctor by Bernkastel, Josefshof by Graach, Wehlener, Erdner, and Zeltinger. On the Saar and its side valleys in the Saarburg district, the better sites include Wiltinger (especially Scharzhofberger), Ockfener, Schodener, Ayler, Kanzemer, Wawerner.

  • For those who have Instagram, I tagged myself on the photo of Euchariusberg in the old, ungrafted plot nicknamed Gisela for the Kabinett Alte Reben (AP 8). The rows run in a slightly different direction. The adjacent plot is Kugel Peter (AP 12) Kabinett. The plots above these are for the Spätlesen and Auslese. To the far left, just after the new planting, is an excellent plot that made the Klaus “Lang” (AP 13) Kabinett. All of these various parcels have old vines. The Webers own in one continguous block about 1.5 ha in Großschock.

  • Euchariusberg had a class 3 rating for the tax on wine. The Scharzhof (and Grünhaus) had class 1. No other village on the Saar was higher than Euchariusberg. Ayl, Saarburg, and Wawern were rated class 4. These taxes on wine were used as the basis for Clotten’s 1868 Viticultural Map of the Saar and Mosel.

  • In addition to Mosel Fine Wines rating Hofgut Falkenstein at or near the top in virtually every category for the 2016 vintage (including the best Kabinett and the three highest-rated off-dry Rieslings), the former team at Gault&Millau Weinguide Deutschland is now at Vinum and recently published a new wine guide that rated Falkenstein’s 2016s as one of the most impressive collections of the vintage, with seven wines placing in the following top-ten lists, which includes all of Riesling Germany:

    Riesling feinherb
    1. Niedermenniger Herrenberg Spätlese feinherb AP 3
    3. Niedermenniger Herrenberg Spätlese feinherb AP 11
    6. Niedermenniger Herrenberg Spätlese feinherb AP 15

    Riesling Kabinett
    2. Krettnacher Euchariusberg Kabinett Alte Reben AP 8

    Riesling Spätlese
    2. Krettnacher Euchariusberg Spätlese AP 14
    4. Krettnacher Euchariusberg Spätlese AP 6

    Riesling Auslese
    4. Krettnacher Euchariusberg Auslese AP 5

    Johannes, his older brother, Franz, and I will attend Rieslingfeier in NYC on January 27. We hope to see some of you there.

  • A number of you have asked me why the Spätburgunders are now labeled as “Red Wine.” The authorities decided that a high level of shikimic acid in the 2015 reds means that it can’t be Spätburgunder. The Webers don’t want to bother with this and chose to simply label the wines without the grape variety. But they don’t believe that it’s a mutation. This affected a number of producers that sold Pinot Noir to the co-op.

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