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  • January 7, 2019
  • A Selection of 2018 Saar Rieslings from Hofgut Falkenstein

  • by Lars Carlberg

The cask of 2018 Euchariusberg Kabinett Alte Reben.

The Weber family farms about 9 hectares of mainly old Riesling vines (over 1 hectare ungrafted!) in a side valley of the Saar. All the Riesling grapes are hand-harvested and the whole grapes are gently pressed for two to three hours. The musts are left overnight to settle naturally and are vinified with ambient yeasts in 1,000-liter oak Fuder casks. Their top vineyard sites are located on various south-facing slopes, including the once highly prized wines from Euchariusberg. The soil is primarily gray slate, with some quartz and quartzite-bearing sandstone. The father-and-son team of Erich and Johannes Weber don’t use herbicides and believe in low yields (one Flachbogen, or "flat cane," per vine) to produce an array of dry (trocken), off-dry (feinherb), and fruity Saar wines—all of which are cask-by-cask bottlings. Below is a list of the 2018 Saar Rieslings, with a few short descriptions:

2018 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken
Fuder Egon (AP 19): pepper, umami, piquant, shellfish, cool, saline.
Fuder Mutter Anna (AP 1): quince, lime, delicate, and gulpaple.
Fuder Schilly (AP 21): pear, anise, fennel, and almost bittersweet.

2018 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Munny (AP 9): apricot, mirabelle, ripe apple, steely, and mouth-watering.

2018 Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb
Fuder Altenberg Weiher (AP 22): sponti, well-balanced, cool, lean, fine.

2018 Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb
Fuder Altenberg (AP 7): brioche, stinky, yeasty, and salty.

2018 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb
Fuder Kleiner Herbert: apple, citrus, and herbs—a country wine.
Fuder Kaselshaidchen (AP 15): grapefruit, gooseberry, good grip.

2018 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb
Fuder Deutschen, Herbert (AP 23): peach, lime, subtle, fine.
Fuder Onkel Peter (AP 4), Kleiner Klaus (old vines): simply divine.
Fuder Palm, Meyer Sydney (AP 3): green apple, clementine, very fine.
Fuder Deutschen (AP 21): cool, minty, pear; perfect sweet-acid interplay, dusty.
Fuder Zuckerberg (old vines): peach, apricot, lime, creamy, with good acidity.
Fuder Meyer Nepal (AP 11): cloves, ginger, mint, hay, icy, and crystalline.
Fuder Udo, Kleiner Meyer (AP 27): reductive and intriguing roast aromas.
Fuder A-Stamm: melon, ginger, citrus, breadcrumbs, and lean.

2018 Niedermenniger Im Kleinschock Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Kleinschock (AP 20): floral, elderberry, chamomile, juicy.

2018 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese
Fuder Lorenz Manni (AP 18): orange, well-proportioned, good bite.

2018 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Kugel Peter (AP 12): wild strawberry, almond; light, floating, multifaceted.
Fuder Kugel Peter, Gisela, Mammen: mirabelle, acacia, discreet.

2018 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett “Alte Reben”
Fuder Gisela (AP 8): radiant, pure, lean—sublime.
Kleinfuder: Gisela/Lars (AP 13): no notes yet.

2018 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Spätlese
Fuder Klaus Lang (AP 6): blossoms, spicy, juicy, creamy, light, and bright.
Fuder Förster, Ternes (AP 14): citrus, smoke (gunflint), spice—very fine.
Fuder Ternes, Mammen (AP 24): light, fine, wonderful drinkability.

2018 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
Fuder Großschock Kupp (AP 5): dried fruits, no botrytis—a drink Auslese.

The AP numbers (with the bottling or batch number in a large, bold print) specify the individual casks, which, for the most part, are nicknamed after the former owner of a given plot; a few are old site-specific names, such as Ober Schäfershaus or Im Kleinschock (listed as "Schock" on Clotten's 1868 Saar und Mosel Weinbau-Karte). Depending on the size of the parcel and the yield, some casks comprise the grapes from two or more parcels in a given sector. It needs to be enough for one press load. Almost all the wines—which are bottled straight off of the gross lees—come from old vines.

The Webers neither chaptalize nor de-acidify any of their wines (including trocken and feinherb), and thus indicate this as a Prädikatswein (Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese), which, pre-1971 Wine Law, was called a Naturwein, or "natural wine." They also eschew yeast nutrients and cultures. That's why so few wines fermented dry this vintage because of the long, hot summer, which depleted the nutrients for the yeasts. In addition, the Webers avoid artificial fertilizers and over-tilling the soil.

When Jean Joseph Tranchot and his team mapped the region between 1803 and 1813, as instructed by Napoleon, Euchariusberg, listed as "Kruschock," had only about 5 hectares of vineyard. The Webers now hold slightly over 2.8 hectares, all in one block, on this prime south-facing slope of Euchariusberg (also known as Großschock), long considered one of the best sites for growing grapes on the Saar. In other words, their contiguous holdings are located in the heart of Euchariusberg. ♦

  • Despite the long, hot summer with little rain, the Webers had relatively good yields. The drought conditions, however, depleted the nutrients for the yeasts, so they are still not sure how many casks will ferment legally dry, or trocken. It should be noted, too, that the Webers only have one flat cane (Flachbogen) per vine, which reduces yields from the start. Many producers seek higher yields with two long arched canes or half-arched canes, also known as a Pendelbogen or Halbbogen, respectively. They also avoid fertilizers and overly tilling the soil, two measures that can cause too much vigor and rot. In the cellar, they eschew enzymes, fining agents (such as charcoal), cultured yeasts, and diammonium phosphate (DAP), a yeast nutrient, which also helps fermentation.

    The key factor for the 2018 vintage was picking ripe fruit while keeping acidity, which meant not waiting too long with the start of the harvest or pressing the grapes too hard. The Webers are excited about their 2018s and feel this is yet another vintage that will separate the wheat from the chaff.

  • Niedermenniger Herrenberg (including Zuckerberg), Niedermenniger Sonnenberg, Krettnacherberg (Krettnacher Altenberg), and Euchariusberg were all well-known sites in the late 19th century. On Clotten’s 1868 Saar und Mosel Weinbau-Karte, Krettnacherberg and the original Euchariusberg (also known as Großschock) were colored dark red and classified higher than most other sites on the Saar. Euchariusberg was one of the few Saar vineyards, with the exception of Bockstein and Scharzhofberg, that was listed without village attribution. More specifically, Großschock designates the top south-facing slope of Euchariusberg, which was the original part of the hillside that was planted to vines. Almost all the top sites were located on the right bank of the Saar in side valleys.

    Below are some old references that list Euchariusberg among the best sites on the Saar (and Mosel):

    In the official 1830 summary of tax rates by vineyard throughout Prussia (Amtsblatt für den Riegerungsbezirk Köln, published in 1831), Euchariusberg is highlighted as one of the very few special areas for wine production, along with Scharzhof and Grünhaus.

    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.” On the Saar, he lists as the most famous and best wines: “Scharzhofberger and Scharzberger (near Oberemmel) and Bockstein (near Ockfen).”

    Best sites on the Saar according to the official catalog of the Centennial Expostion of 1876 in Philadelphia, the first official World’s Fair in the United States: Scharzhofberg, Bockstein, Wiltingen, and Euchariusberg.

    In Thiel’s landwirtschaftliches Konversations-Lexikon, printed in 1878, there is the following entry on Euchariusberg: A first-class Mosel wine from the district of Trier.

    In the Trier weekly Der Winzer from November 1, 1896, an article lists some of the best sites on the Saar: “Scharzhof with its very fine sites [namely, Scharzhofberg and Scharzberg]; Wiltingen; Oberemmel with the outstanding Agritiusberg, Raul, and Rosenberg; Ober- and Niedermennig with Euchariusberg; in the area of Saarburg, Ockfen with the first-rate sites of Geisberg and Bockstein; on the left bank [of the Saar], Wawern with the superb Herrenberg; Canzem; and Ayl with Neuberg.”

    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.”

    Dronke’s Guide on the Mosel and Saar, through the Eifel and Hochwald-Hunsrück (1902): “To name are Ockfen with Bockstein and Geisberg—the State also planted vineyards here—Ayl with Herrenberg, Wiltingen with the sites Scharzhofberg and Scahrzberg, Canzem with Kelterberg, Wawern with Herrenberg. In the Oberemmel Valley, east of Wiltingen, are Oberemmel with Rosenberg, Agritiusberg, Raul; Crettnach; Ober- and Niedermennig with Euchariusberg and Zuckerberg. Cönen produces a popular red wine.”

    “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 says in Wine and the Wine Trade (1921). “Not far from Geisberg is Bockstein, and a little further on the famous Scharzhofberg, the finest growths in the Saar valley.” He goes on to say that “[i]n the valley of the Ruwer, some very delicate and fascinating wines are also made, none better known nor more excellent than those from the ancient ecclesiastical vineyards at Grunehaus [sic].”

    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.

    In Das Moselthal zwischen Zell und Konz, by Christian von Stramberg, (1837), he highlights the nectar from Euchariusberg.

  • Andrew Bair says:

    Hi Lars,

    Thank you for the great writeup on the Falkenstein 2018s – a lot to look forward to here. Is there a reason that some of these fuders were not assigned AP numbers (yet?)?

    Additionally, I saw that Falkenstein will not be at Rieslingfeier this year. Do you plan to come, or are both you and Johannes taking the year off? If you are going, I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.

    • Thanks, Andrew! Yes, we just haven’t assigned AP numbers to those Fuder casks yet. In the previous vintages, we didn’t have so many different casks.

      We weren’t invited to Rieslingfeier this year. It’s good that other producers can partake in the event. I will travel to Central Texas instead. Johannes plans to visit Tokyo in March.

  • Andrew Bair says:

    Hi Lars,

    Sorry that I won’t see you this coming weekend. Hope you enjoy your trip to Texas, and that Johannes has a good time in Tokyo later this winter.

  • Several of the Trier charities made great wines back in the day. Friederich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium once owned 36 hectares of vineyard in 21 sites spread throughout Zeltingen, Graach, Bernkastel, Dhron, Neumagen, Trittenheim, Klüsserath, and Mehring, as well as Falkenstein, Oberemmel, and Wiltingen on the Saar. The wines were vinified individually and cellared in 400 oak casks. The Falkensteiner Hof (today’s Hofgut Falkenstein), established in 1901, was one of their press houses. The grapes from the Falkensteiner Hofberg vineyard were pressed and fermented there. They had another one in Oberemmel. The casks were later transported to the main cellar in Trier. The neighboring 98-hectare Bischöfliche Weingüter Trier (Bischöfliches Konvikt, Bischöfliches Priesterseminar, and Hohe Domkirche) still has some of the best sites on the Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer.

  • The magnum bottling is AP 11 (Meyer Nepal) for the 2018 vintage.

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