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  • January 4, 2022
  • A Selection of 2021 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 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 rated Euchariusberg. The soil is primarily iron-rich gray slate, with some quartz and quartzite-bearing sandstone, along with diabase intrusions 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 2021 Saar Rieslings with short descriptions:

2021 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken
Fuder Mutter Anna (AP 1): green apple, mints, pure.
Fuder Egon (AP 19): brioche, steely, light, and fine.

2021 Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken
Fuder Munny (AP 9): tobacco, dusty, flinty, clear-cut.

2021 Krettnacher Auf dem Hölzchen Riesling Kabinett trocken
Fuder Auf dem Hölzchen (AP 21): smoky, sea breeze, salty.

2021 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Lorenz Manni (AP 18): hay, herbs, citrus, salt, pointy, very fine.

2021 Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
Fuder Altenberg (AP 7): grapefruit, gunflint, plus barely ripe mirabelle.

2021 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb
Fuder Herbert (AP 15): minty, spicy, and crunchy.

2021 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb
Fuder Meyer Nepal (AP 11): peachy, juicy, and chilly.
Fuder Palm (AP 3): stones, violets, plus essential oils.
Fuder Onkel Peter (AP 4): flowery, flinty, minty, smoky, and zesty.

2021 Niedermenniger Im Kleinschock Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Kleinschock (AP 20): floral, nutmeg, with a hint of wild strawberry.

2021 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Bockstein: breadcrumbs, herbs, wet stones, black pepper, brisk.

2021 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett
Fuder Arthuro: peppery, stony, dusty, and zippy.
Fuder Kugel Peter (AP 12): peach, quince, crunchy, seamless.
Fuder Ternes (AP 14): airy, flinty, and steely.

2021 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett “Alte Reben”
Fuder Gisela (AP 8): spicy, tart, chalky, cut.

2021 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Spätlese
Fuder Klaus (AP 6): bright, stony, subtle, and distinguished.
Fuder Förster (AP 5): red grapefruit, peach, mountain stream.

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 Auf dem Hölzchen—which, like Ober Schäfershaus, is in the prime 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. Most of the wines come from old vines.

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 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, thiamine (vitamin B1), and diammonium phosphate (DAP). 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 also acquired two well-placed parcels, totaling about 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 numerous vineyards that were classified in one of the highest tax brackets and colored either light or dark red on Clotten’s map for the administrative district of Trier. ♦