For the first time on my trip, I feel totally out of my depth in the Mosel Valley. Having started my wine career in the Yarra Valley, and working for a sparkling producer, means that I am very familiar with the varieties of Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley. When it comes to Riesling, I am a little bit out of my element. I have gained some familiarity with the wines of such regions as the Clare Valley and Eden Valley, and also other emerging regions in Australia and New Zealand. Visiting Alsace in 2010 helped a lot, but of course Riesling isn’t necessarily the focus. German rieslings, particularly the wines of the Mosel, are in an entirely different league. This is of course why I have come to the region; to gain familiarity and experience.
|On top of the world, looking down on creation!|
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt is possibly one of the oldest winery in Germany, dating back to 1349. The von Kesselstatt family were elevated to the status of Reichsgrafen (imperial counts) by Josef II in 1776, having served the court as sommeliers for many centuries. This pedigree in wine meant that quality was a focus, and as such the noble variety of Riesling was of utmost importance, as was selection of the finest vineyard sites. Whilst the historic heart of the empire was in Trier at the Palais Kesselstatt, the headquarters have been in Schloss Marienlay since 1999, on the banks of the Ruwer River. The business has been owned by the Reh family since 1978, and the head of the business is Annegret Reh-Gartner, who now runs it with her husband Gerhard.
|Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt headquarters in Marienlay|
I was fortunate enough to have Annegret herself take me through a very comprehensive tasting of both finished wines, and then 2011 wines from tank along with winemaker Wolfgang Mertes. The winery has the benefit of owning some of the finest vineyards throughout the entire Mosel region, extending into the Saar and Ruwer Valleys. It was fascinating to compare wines not only from different vineyards but also from different sub-regions. Being a member of the VDP, Kesselstatt categorise their vineyards to the sites inherent quality, and classify the best as Erste Lage. `The Saar and Ruwer Valleys are further south and slightly higher in elevation, which means they are always a few degrees cooler than the Middle Mosel Valley. Click here to read my notes on the tasting.
|That’s not lees, its acid!|
My afternoon appointment was back in the village I am staying in, at Traben Trarbach, with a Weingut that was at the other end of the spectrum in terms of age. After being introduced to a particular wine made by Mosel legend, Egon Muller, Swiss-born Daniel Vollenweider pursued a career as a Mosel winemaker. He first established in 2000, but at a very small level, and for the first few years was also working for Dr. Loosen in Berkastel-Kues. He now owns 4.5 hectares of vineyards (not exactly large by New World standards), which he tends with attention and respect. Daniel is part of a new wave of winemakers in the Mosel region, introducing traditional practices with modern ones, to create wines of precision and harmony.
For the tasting I was joined by Lars Carlberg, a Texan of Swedish origin, and his friend Per Linder. Based in the Mosel, Lars previously ran a business importing wines from the region into New York, but has since started a project constructing a comprehensive guide to the wines of the Mosel Valley. Having this group made for fantastic conversation , as it provided many different perspectives. Daniel pulled out all the stops in showing us a range of his trocken, kabinett, spatlese and auslese 2010 wines. Amazingly Daniel did no de-acidification, which was apparently pretty rare in the region for that vintage. They were all sensationally balanced wines, but continued to show the concentration and depth of wines from 2010. The Beerenauslese, which is made from a selection of fully botrytised fruit in the winery rather than in the vineyard, was simply stunning. We then had a look at some older wines, a few blind, and also a 1975 Auslese (obviously someone elses), but it was sadly corked.
|Daniel, Lars and Per|
Daniel then took us down into the modest cellar to show us a few wines from the 2011 vintage, and you get to see how small the volumes he is working with are. He keeps the trockenbeerenauslese in the office where it is a little warmer, to encourage the fermentation to continue in such extreme sugar levels. I was then taken up river to his vineyards, where the roads were a little icy by that stage. The snow that had fallen over night had begun to melt, and as it got colder in the afternoon it made it a little treacherous winding our way up the steep hill. But once up there it was worth it. You can see the red slate influence here, which provides a distinct minerality in the wines. That evening I joined Daniel and a winemaker friend of his for dinner, and got some great insights into wine and food in the region and Germany on the whole.
Click here to see more photos from Day Two of the Mosel Valley.