Mosel

The world's finest fruity Rieslings from steep, slate-covered hillsides

A. Pies Söhne, Bernkasteler Kurfürstlay Q.b.A., 1979

This wine is one of two bottles that found their way to me under somewhat mysterious circumstances. As I have covered this elsewhere, let's for the moment focus more on the "what" than on the "how". And that in itself makes for an interesting case. As is common knowledge (even among non-wine drinkers) wine ages. Now, for most wines that just means a constant progression to a state of vinegar. Some will age for a few years without problem, but only a few do improve with ageing. And even among those thirty years is a respectable age.

It would be even more respectable for a wine that back in the day cannot have been very expensive and may very well have been relatively cheap, mass-produced as this blend of unspecified grape varieties from the Mosel. Is it actually still drinkable?

Martin Müllen, Kröver Paradies, Riesling Kabinett, 2002

I'm always honoured when people who have stumbled onto this blog contact us for expertise on German wine, even while I find myself guiltily hoping that we are not the only source that they rely on, given the patchiness and dabbling character of this our whole undertaking. But here is a piece of advice that I guarantee you will not regret following: When looking for mature-ish Mosel Riesling in great drinking condition, look no further than the 2002 vintage, underrated in many quarters, but in my humble experience as safe a bet for lively, nuanced wines as you are going to find.

Martin Müllen's 2002 Kabinett from the aptly named Paradies ("paradise") vineyard is a case in point. Over and beyond being a minor classic of the neo-traditional style of Mosel winemaking (whatever the hell that is supposed to be), it also has a long and distinguished history in this Wine Rambler's cellar, being one of the very first wines ordered directly from the producer. And I'm happy to report it has never before tasted this good:

Between sweetness and acidity: 2010 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer tasting in London

One of the pleasures of living in London is the vibrant wine trade and more wine-related activities going on than a Wine Rambler can participate in. I try to cover what happens in German wine though, and so earlier this month I set out to a Mosel-Saar-Ruwer tasting in the Great Hall at One Great George Street in Westminster. I had visited this fantastic location previously, for instance for the recent English Wine Producers tasting.

On 4th July it was not English but German wine in my glass, and from Germany's most famous wine region - a chance to try some of the off-dry and sweet Riesling from the 2010 vintage. And to be presented with an apple, the most unusual tasting gift so far.

Heymann-Löwenstein, Kirchberg, Riesling, 2008

Looking back over the last few weeks of wine rambling, I realise it has been a little while since we have reviewed a dry Riesling. As certain standards need to be upheld (and the world reminded that Germany defines itself more and more about dry), a bottle of dry German Riesling was uncovered from my wardrobe cellar.

As it happens, it was a dry Mosel Riesling, made by winemaker revolutionary Reinhard Löwenstein.

Schloss Lieser, Brauneberger Juffer, Riesling Kabinett, 2005

The Schloss Lieser estate, dear readers, is the one winery that has had more of their bottles consumed chez Mr. Munich Wine Rambler than any other I've never told you about (except very briefly here). Admittedly, this also involves an order I placed twice in considerable confusion, but mostly, it is because Ute and Thomas Haag have been offering arguably the most consistent value in fruity and sweet Riesling for the last seven or eight years. Thomas Haag is known to Mosel afficionados as the son of Wilhelm Haag from the Fritz Haag estate, wine being a family affair in that part of the country. The 2005 Kabinett from the iconic Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr vineyard was the first of their wines I ever got to taste, four or five years ago.

So how has it been holding up?

Reinhold Haart, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Riesling Auslese 1999

Even Wine Ramblers do have a birthday. Just recently, it was the birthday of THE Wine Rambler and also of my co-Rambler Julian. My birthday is already a few months past, but there is still something to report on: When I met our Munich branch as part of my birthday celebrations, I found myself presented with a special gift.

Co-Rambler Julian likes to hunt for aged wines on eBay (great if you are in Germany, imppossile in the UK because of legal restrictions), and for my birthday he managed to find a bottle of a suitably aged Riesling from a Mosel winery that has my personal seal of approval.

Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, 2006

"Gold, gold, gold - molten gold flowing into our glasses." That was the impression Markus Molitor's late harvest Riesling had left when I first tried it in the summer of 2008. Now, opening my last bottle, I had the same, most pleasant sensation, just enhanced with a little more wisdom of age (the wine I mean, certainly not me).

Late harvest (Spätlese) Riesling from the Mosel to me is one of the most exciting manifestations of wine, ideally light, elegant, full of character and with the right dosage of residual sugar to tempt you for yet another glass without cloying you with too much sweetness.

Schlosskellerei von Schubert, Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg, Riesling Kabinett trocken, 2008

If there was a branch of wine journalism that reviewed wines on the merits of their labels alone, then, for my money at least, the delightfully old-fashioned classics from this great Ruwer estate would be hard to beat. Now, the good news is not just that the Wine Rambler, for one, will not give up on sampling the contents of wine bottles as well.

More to the point, the good news is that the stylishness of this particular wine now before us does ample justice to the lovingly crafted quality of the packaging:

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Ürziger Würzgarten, Riesling Spätlese, 1993

The Mosel, Germany's best known wine region, hosts many styles of Riesling winemaking: There are the modernists, there are the traditionalists, there are the ultra-traditionalist. And then, there is Jos. Christoffel Jun. The winery's website nicely underscores their brand of conservatism, in that there isn't one. If you want to get your hands on any of the older vintages (back into the 80s, rumour has it) they still have on offer, get your ass down to the Mosel. Or else get lucky on eBay, like your undeservedly fortunate correspondent. For about 12 €, shipment included, I got this Spätlese from the year Frank Zappa died.

Heymann-Löwenstein, Röttgen, Riesling, 2008

Reinhard Löwenstein is a well known and, at least for some, controversial German wine figure. A communist in his youth, he is among the few writing winemakers (and not afraid to quote Marx) and also a vocal proponent of the idea of terroir in Germany. On his steep Mosel vineyards he almost exclusively grows Riesling, often substantial wines that need time to develop their potential.

I mention this because when the other day I wanted to introduce a friend to Löwenstein Riesling I only had a 2008 to hand and was a little concerned about opening the wine so early.