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.
"[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.
"The 2017 Felseneck Grosses Gewächs is yet another utterly brilliant young wine...with a rock solid core, laser-like focus and great cut and grip on the complex, long and utterly seamless finish. This is pure magic."
- John Gilman of View from the Cellar
To nobody's surprise, Tim Frölich has yet again set the bar for dry Riesling in 2017 with his Felseneck GG. Today I'm happy to offer both the 2017 and 2016 vintages with special pricing on mixed 4-packs.
The Felseneck is a prime 7.5 hectare vineyard composed of an unusual mix of blue Devonian slate, basalt, and quartz. Within the range of GG's from Fröhlich it's the Felseneck that has always been the most uncompromising in its rigor and incisive mineral thread. It's built upon grace not reliant on showy tendencies of forward ripeness, instead displaying its white stone fruit in a velvet glove and relentless sense of grip.
The descriptors may give the impression of serious austerity in Felseneck, but all these elements are prerequisites for the intense and driving finish that puts this bottling in a category unto itself.
There's no producer in Germany who's seen a meteoric rise to stardom like that of the Nahe's Tim Fröhlich. In 2005 he was named Newcomer of the Year by Gault-Millau, and in 2010 their Winemaker of the Year - the youngest ever to receive the honor. The range at Schäfer-Fröhlich has somehow continued to improve even from the estate's magical vintages produced over the past decade.