The wines of Germany's Saar region are best defined by expressions from its greatest heroes, Egon Müller and Hanno Zilliken. For over 2,000 years Riesling from steep slopes above the Saar tributary has been known for delicacy, finesse, and sharp clarity. These two renowned ambassadors over the last century have relied on ample residual sugar for their snap-shop of vineyard and vintage. The young Florian Lauer has a very different perspective on the Saar, and he's not been shy about it.
Today, I'm happy to offer one of my favorite wines released in 2018, and as I see it, the single greatest value in German Riesling, The 2016 Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp "Senior" for $30 per bottle, and down to $27.95 on orders of 3 bottles or more!
Lauer's departure from the Müller and Zilliken mold can be found in two areas that stand out the most at first glance. His wines focus on a dry-tasting style, and the Saar's conventional "lightness of being" is traded for an unapologetic, deep textural symphony. One with a saturating grip that calls to mind Metallica more so than Mozart. THIS is Florian Lauer's Saar today. And it is awesome.
I've given up trying to count the number of times a Lauer wine has been poured for a drinker not particular fond or familiar with Riesling only to have them change their tune immediately. Florian's wines have a way of flipping preconceived notions upside down in a flash. They are radical, yet engage us all with their purity, detail, and site specificity.
Increasingly warmer temperatures in the Saar now allow for this dry-tasting style to excel - it's one that would've been teeth-chattering just a couple decades ago. The magic of Lauer, and his home village of Ayl. comes from old, un-grafted vines worked entirely by hand. Within an exceptional range of wines all worth our attention, it's his Ayler Kupp Fass 6 "Senior" that stands as the proverbial whisper within the world of collectible German Riesling.
Kupp is the greatest vineyard of Ayl, and here 70-yr-old un-grafted vines are tapped for a wine whose name comes from a special portion of the vineyard that Florian's grandfather was enamored with. This western-most parcel would regularly end up in the Fass 6, a specific fuder that the patriarch would write "Senior" on to mark it strictly for personal consumption. Thankfully, today Florian is more into sharing.
$30 per bottle puts Senior on my short list of the great values in the entire world of wine. Truth be told, I promise to cellar this wine each vintage, and each year I fail miserably in this pledge. Last year at our annual champagne and fried chicken party in San Diego it was a magnum of Lauer's Senior that emptied before any 750ml bottle -the truest testament to a wine's greatness.
2016 is a vintage truly defined by its perfect, exquisite balance. Everything is in its right place. There's no shortcoming on ripeness. There's no element of acidity that stands out. Each component melds perfectly with its partners. If you're fond of Riesling or maybe been hesitant due to levels of sweetness, this is the perfect bottle to display the noble variety's prowess in the best hands from the best site.
While Summer of Riesling always pulls me towards this noble variety from corners of France, Germany, and Austria, there's just something extra clarifying about the diamonds from the former Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. Last night was the first of the year at home where the open windows and doors didn't quite do the trick, so I reached for a 2013 A.J. Adam Dhroner to pour alongside the local San Diego sea bass, and all was right in the world.
These three zones in western Germany are where Riesling is endowed with the most cut and precision. Residual sugar often provides the ideal balance to counter the wicked high acidity. Though, warming temperatures have meant the dry and more off-dry styles are far more charming today than the teeth-chattering dry wines from decades past.
The list is Mosel-heavy today, with superb value gems like the beautiful clarity found in all of the Weiser-Kunstler and Julian Haart bottlings. And, the greatest dry Riesling you've never heard of, Ulli Stein's Alfer Hölle "1900", from both 2015 and 2016 - and, yes, those vines were planted in 1900! Saar's lineup is comprised of only two names. The legendary Egon Müller and today's younger rockstar, Florian Lauer. Chopin-to-Brahms, as I see it.
And per usual, our Willi Schaefer lineup is so deep I thought it easier to embed a link to direct you to that list of dozens of wines.
"[Mineral] not only lives up to its name but also offers excellent price-quality rapport...The bell-clear finish vibrates and tugs at the salivary glands even as it delivers consummate refreshment."
- David Schildknecht of Vinous (04/19)
In Germany's dry wine hierarchy the Nahe's Emrich-Schönleber joins Keller, Dönnhoff, and Schäfer-Fröhlich as the countries most noble estates. And within the "villages"level realm I don't really see much confusion on where to turn first. Annually, my obsession continues to be with the "Mineral" Riesling Trocken. For drinkers who regularly turn to Chablis at this price point, I strongly urge you to take a walk on the dry side.Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 Emrich-Schönleber "Mineral" Riesling Trocken for $44 per bottle.Today, there's a focus on a range of styles at Emrich-Schönleber, but it's their dry wines that have pulled me in over the years the very most. While their Grosses Gewachs (GG) wines come from undisputed "Grand Cru" sites Halenberg and Frühlingsplätzchen (offered below), the Mineral is, and forever will be, among the most reliable and complete dry Rieslings on earth. As top GG's now stretch over $100 per bottle, the brilliant value with "Mineral" (sourced from young vines within Halenberg and Auf der Lay) cannot be overstated.
This spring in Los Angeles I tasted dozens of dry Rieslings from the 2017 vintage. Thus far, 2017 seems to be fit squarely between 2015 and 2016 in style. It has a deep texture and breadth closer to 2015, but shows more nervy energy. But, that tension and "minerality" doesn't come across nearly as obvious and straight-line as 2016 has. Frank Schönleber and his father Werner see 2017 resembling the 2002 vintage, one that has proved over time to be brilliant, especially for the dry style.The Emrich family began growing Riesling vines on the treacherously steep slopes along the Nahe river in the mid 1700's. It wasn't until the 1960's that the family could focus entirely on viticulture and winemaking, a risky proposition until that time to have your livelihood be at the will of nature so directly. From 1965 to 1985 the estate steadily grew from 2 hectares to 10. I can beat the drum for dry Riesling as much as possible, but sadly it's a category that falls way behind in the broad consciousness of US drinkers, with Chablis and Sancerre still garnering much more attention. If there's one estate to introduce yourself to the most regal and profound dry Rieslings in the world, Emrich-Schönleber's"Mineral" would be it.
Today's offering from France, Italy, and Germany was inspired by some very special new back-vintage arrivals. Some wines are not posted online yet, so please reply to this email with any order requests. 2002 Champagne is highlighted today with value plays like Lanson's two late releases, and Jacquesson's Dégorgement Tardif and Bollinger's R.D.
Burgundy is lead with new arrivals of 1966 Mongeard-Mugneret Grands Echezeaux and 1969 Rousseau Clos de la Roche. Values here can be found with Moillard's 1983 Malconsorts and Daniel Rion's Beaux Monts. Germany features only two producers, Egon Müller and Klaus-Peter Keller. Rhône and Loire Valley are deep with Chave and Clos Rougeard. And finally, Italy features deep selections from the 60's and 70's, along with newer releases from Giacomo Conterno and brand new winery release of Emidio Pepe's 2010 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.
Magical is a word that adequately sums up the Koehler-Ruprecht estate in Germany's Pfalz region. But, when we are talking about the super rare reserve bottlings, "R" and"RR", we've entered another dimension of dry Riesling.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2007 Koehler-Ruprecht Saumagen Riesling Auslese Trocken "R" and "RR" for $119 and $149, respectively. This is the only listing for any vintage of either wine in the entire U.S.
The "R" and "RR" come from a special selection of the smallest, golden berries harvested in the Saumagen vineyard. The "RR" is differentiated partially by its extra aging in barrel as compared to the "R". 2007 saw near perfect balance for the whites in Alsace, and much like in Burgundy, there's a freshness to this vintage that continues to appeal to more classic-leaning palates.
The wines of Koehler-Ruprecht bear little resemblance to those of neighboring producers, nor to those next door in France's Alsace. Though Riesling is the focus here, a super-natural element exists within all of their wines that make them stand out among their contemporaries. These are some of the very most fascinating wines on earth, and it's the extreme hands-off approach here that's largely responsible for that singular quality.
The winemaking has remained about the same since the early 18th century when the domaine was established. Ferments occur completely naturally. Aging takes place in larger old German oak barrels. The vineyards are worked without herbicides, pesticides, or irrigation. The sweet spot of the holdings comes from Kallstadter's famed Saumagen vineyard, which translates to "pig's stomach" due to its shape. The Pfalz is home to an amalgamation of soils. But, here in Saumagen, it's limestone that takes center stage and bears the most responsibility for this site's crystalline nature, and peerless transformative abilities in bottle.
Koehler-Ruprecht produces Rieslings dry, off-dry, and sweet, but it's their trocken (dry) bottlings that really hit the mark for me. With age these begin to convert into absolutely mystical wines. Their calling card is a cotton candy note that slowly develops. The protective influence of the Vosges mountains to the west gives the Pfalz the lowest amount of rainfall in Germany. This abundance of sunlight gives ample texture and full-throttle ripeness. Finding wines from the Pfalz that avoid getting a little chunky can be challenging. Koehler-Ruprecht's dry versions always carry a flashy mineral streak that brilliantly juxtaposes with the golden apple, sweet corn, ginger, and quintessential cotton candy note.
I was thrilled to receive this quad of Saumagen bottlings. Each vintage offers a perfect illustration into how all these elements balance together, unfolding slowly over time.The wines are pure, textured, with a laser-cut focus to them - Riesling at its most enchanting.
The different designations like Kabinett and Auslese refer to the ripeness level at picking. Auslese, picked later, will show more weight, and power. While Kabinett will show more delicate and agile. Each wine is fermented completely dry.