Carl Loewen Laurentiuslay Riesling Spatlese 2018

£25.95

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“Grapefruit, lime and orange mingle with Persian melon and mango on the nose and the lusciously citric, brightly juicy yet subtly tropical palate. The feel is polished and, for all of the wine’s animating brightness, also subtly creamy. The finish offers a vibrant and engaging interaction of crystalline, stony and citrus fruit elements. Allowing this wine to ferment to 9% alcohol had a salutary effect on its balance, rendering sweetness discreet (even though there are 60 grams of residual sugar), but without sacrificing a sense of levity. For my taste and from my historical perspective, this is a perfectly balanced Mosel Spatlese. Yet Karl Josef Loewen related that “in early summer [2019], this is the wine that most disappointed me. At that point I wasn’t happy with the aromatics or the integration of sweetness.” Incidentally, the wine was picked very early in October and a full week ahead of the corresponding (also highly successful) dry “AIte Reben” bottling. Drinking window: 2020-2045. 93 points

Karl Josef and Christopher Loewen only began their 2018 harvest (with Pinot Blanc) in the last days of September, and only picked the first Riesling on October 1, citing as reasons for this relatively late start the emerging aromatics and extremely stable, healthy fruit, because Leiwen largely avoided the early September rain experienced in many sectors of the Middle Mosel. But that is not to say that father and son were unconcerned about capturing acidity before it was lost, and for that reason, they completed this harvest, in nearly record time, by October 20. Despite an overall paucity of botrytis, two Ausleses were selected, and in keeping with a long Loewen tradition, grapes were left hanging for Eiswein. By the time frost finally materialized on January 21, 2020, the Loewens realized that the results lacked Eiswein character, and released the wine as Beerenauslese. “But a Beerenauslese by conventional means would have been impossible for us,” noted Loewen senior, “because select as we might, there was just not much in the way of shriveling or botrytis, so harmoniously ripe and healthy were the grapes. In those respects, 2018 reminds me of 1997.” In the last several years, the Loewens have significantly enhanced their already fine reputation, especially thanks to the high regard in which their dry wines are held among German critics and oenophiles. The dry 2018s were bottled before midsummer. The relevant sector of the cellar had been warmed slightly to promote relatively complete fermentation (particularly for lots that resided in tank rather than cask), and the Loewens did not want to risk any of the wines undergoing malolactic transformation. That having been said, Karl Josef Loewen acknowledges that levels of malic acid in this vintage’s fruit have to have been very low, and in fact, he emphasizes the critical importance of acidity in 2018, not just quantitatively but also qualitatively speaking. All of the fermentations this vintage were spontaneous, which likely exerted a moderating effect on alcoholic conversion as well as paying aromatic and textural dividends. “It was really only in July that the wines started to exhibit clear and pleasing personalities,” noted Karl Josef Loewen, “so that we could truly gain an impression of 2018’s vintage character.” The Loewens continue to purchase Slovenian oak casks, with the result that dry wines continue to sometimes show overt wood influence. And for all of this talk focused on their dry wines, it is in the realm of residual sweetness where the Loewens’ 2018s strike me as demonstrating their greatest progress. (For extended accounts of this estate, its methodology, its labeling practices and its vineyards – some of which Loewen has almost single-handedly rescued from unjust obscurity – consult the introductions to my reports on its 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintage collections.)”

David Schildknecht, Vinous (11/20)