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  • January 12, 2021
  • A Selection of 2020 Saar Rieslings from Hofgut Falkenstein

  • by Lars Carlberg

The Weber family farms about 13 hectares in a side valley of the Saar known as Konzer Tälchen. All the grapes are hand-harvested (including those grapes, mostly from young vines, that are sold in bulk to the local co-op). The Riesling grapes are gently pressed for two to three hours, and their musts are left overnight to settle naturally, before being racked and fermented with ambient yeasts in 1,000-liter ancient oak Fuder casks (Fuderfässer) and a couple of 500-liter Halbfuder, the traditional fermenting and aging vessels for Mosel wine.

Their vineyards are located on various south-facing slopes, including Niedermenniger Herrenberg—listed as “Zuckerberg” on Franz Josef Clotten’s 1868 Saar und Mosel Weinbau-Karte—and the once highly prized Euchariusberg. The soil is primarily iron-rich gray slate, with some quartz and quartzite-bearing sandstone, along with a vein of diabase in the choice western flank of Krettnacher Altenberg (called Silberberg in the mid-20th century).

The father-and-son team of Erich and Johannes Weber don’t use herbicides and believe in low yields—just one short “flat” or non-arched cane (Flachbogen) per vine—to produce an array of dry (trocken), off-dry (feinherb), and fruity Saar wines, which represent true cask-by-cask bottlings. Below is a select list of the 2020 Saar Rieslings with short descriptions:

2020 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken
Fuder Mutter Anna (old vines): limy, stony, zippy, chilly, crunchy, and lean. AP 1
Fuder Egon (old vines): minty, fresh, crisp, lemon, salt, brioche, savory. AP 19

2020 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken
Fuder Munny (old vines): gunflint, sea breeze, oyster shell, seamless. AP 9

2020 Krettnacher Auf dem Hölzchen Riesling Kabinett trocken
Fuder Auf dem Hölzchen (old vines): elderflower, gooseberries, and wet stones. AP 21 (new)

2020 Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Altenberg (old vines): peach, juniper, cilantro, structured, energizing. AP 7

2020 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Lorenz Manni (old vines): lime, pineapple, tart, tense, tight, saline. AP 18

2020 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb
Fuder Kleiner Herbert, Nepal (old vines): quince, ginger, rosemary, and pine needles. AP 15

2020 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb
Fuder Johnes, Kleiner Klaus (old vines): pepper, green apple, leafy, and brisk. AP ?
Fuder Meyer Nepal (old vines): grapefruit, citrus peel, icy, juicy, electric. AP 11
Fuder Palm, Meyer Sydney (old vines): musky, stony, tangy, racy, classy, and silky. AP 3
Fuder Onkel Peter (ungrafted old vines): floral, herbal, white peach, chiseled. AP 4

2020 Niedermenniger Im Kleinschock Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Kleinschock (ungrafted old vines): nutmeg, green onions, fleshy, and wispy. AP 20

2020 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Kugel Peter (old vines): citrusy, flinty, spicy, nippy, and salty. AP 12
Fuder Förster (old vines): violets, tobacco, zappy, chalky, and creamy. AP 5 (Auslese in 2019)
Fuder Klaus (old vines): closed, reductive, violets, and delicate. AP 6 (Spätlese in 2019)

2020 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett “Alte Reben”
Fuder Gisela (ungrafted old vines): steely, stony, snappy, stately, and straight. AP 8

2020 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Spätlese
Fuder Ternes (old vines): elderflower, sage, willowy, and creamy. AP 14
Fuder Mammen (old vines): smoke, tobacco, svelte, and length. AP 13 (choice parcel above Gisela)

2020 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
Fuder Marlies, Marx (young vines): herbs, honeydew melon, and lavender. AP 21 (Jungfernwein)

The AP numbers (with the bottling or batch number in a large, bold print) specify the exact cask, or Fass, which, for the most part, is nicknamed after the former owner of a given parcel; a few casks are named after old site names or place-names, such as the new acquisition in Auf dem Hölzchen—which, like Ober Schäfershaus, is in the prize Silberberg sector of “Crettnacherberg”—or Im Kleinschock, marked as “Schock” on Clotten’s 1868 Viticultural Map of the Saar and Mosel. Depending on the size of the parcel and the yield of the vintage, some casks are from two or more parcels in a given sector, which the Webers harvest en bloc, or all at one time. There needs to be enough for one press load. Almost all the wines come from old vines. The Webers could easily make an entry-level or a village-level wine fermented in stainless-steel tanks rather than oak casks from what is sold in bulk to the local co-op and buy more grapes from other growers to increase their production, but they choose not to.

The Webers neither chaptalize nor de-acidify any of their wines (including trocken and feinherb), and thus indicate all of these as Prädikatsweine (Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese), which, pre-1971 Wine Law, were called Naturweine, or “natural wines.” They also shun cultured yeasts and yeast nutrients. (That’s why so few wines fermented dry in the 2018 vintage.) The Webers never use artificial fertilizers or green waste—only cow dung with straw—and are cautious of over-tilling the soil, two measures that can cause too much vine vigor and eventually lead to rot at harvest time.

In the cellar, they eschew enzymes, fining agents (such as bentonite and charcoal), cultured yeasts, as well as thiamine (vitamin B1) and diammonium phosphate (DAP), two types of yeast nutrients widely used to encourage fermentation. They don’t even have a chamber filter press for filtering the dregs after sedimentation. Instead of hiring a contract bottler, the Webers prefer to bottle their wines themselves, cask by cask, straight off the gross lees with no prior pumping, racking, or filtering. During bottling, they neither use a vacuum pump nor an absolute cartridge membrane filter, and they never inject carbon dioxide, such as Carbofresh, at bottling. Their wines have a natural spritz, which is preserved in the bottle.

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 ha of vineyard and was the only area on that hill and neighboring hills to be planted to vines. The Webers have the best part, about 2.5 ha, all in one block, on the prime south-facing slope of Euchariusberg (also known as Großschock), one of the top sites for growing grapes on the Saar. Beginning with the 2021 vintage, the Webers have acquired a couple more old-vine parcels in Niedermenniger Herrenberg (where they have the most vineyards) and two well-placed parcels, totaling 0.30 ha, in the original Ockfener Bockstein, which, along with Scharzhofberg, has long been considered to be one of the two or three best sites on the Saar. This gives the Webers yet another top site, to go along with their expanded 0.75-ha block in the place-names Auf dem Hölzchen and Ober Schäfershaus. They now have several prime vineyards that were classified in the higher tax brackets and colored dark red on Clotten’s Prussian tax map of the Saar and Mosel for the administrative district of Trier. ♦

  • Niedermenniger Herrenberg (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, the original Euchariusberg (also known as Großschock) and a part of Krettnacherberg were colored dark red and classified higher than most other sites on the Saar. Zuckerberg and Schock (Kleinschock) were colored light red.

    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. Most of the top sites were located on the right bank of the Saar in side valleys.

    Below are some old references that list Euchariusberg, in bold print, 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 Mosel and Saar according to the official catalog of the Centennial Expostion of 1876 in Philadelphia, the first official World’s Fair in the United States: in the district of Bernkastel, the Doctor, Josephshof, Oligsberg, Brauneberg, Zeltinger Schlossberg, and Throner Hofberg; in the district of Treves, Thiergarten, Grünhaus, Casel, Oberemmel, and Agritiusberg; in the district of Saarburg, 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 (villages and vineyards) 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 excellent 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, Erdener, 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 Christian von Stramberg’s 1837 Das Moselthal zwischen Zell und Konz, he highlights the nectar from Euchariusberg.

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