Egon Muller Scharzhof Riesling QbA 2020

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“Apple seed and apple wood accents lend decisive counterpoint on both nose and palate to the 2020 Riesling Scharzhof’s dominant, crunchy apple and zesty lemon fruit. Suggestions of apple blossom hover throughout. The feel is firm, and the lingering finish offers refreshment as well as stimulating cut and piquancy. (The source vineyards for this large cuvée are once again largely Saarburger Rausch, Wiltinger Braunfels and Oberemmeler Rosenberg.) Drinking window: 2021-2029. 89 points

Harvest in 2020 began here only on September 20 – one week before the arrival of rain – but that represents an early commencement date for this estate. The fruit during that first week was deemed ideal for Kabinett, as indeed the finished results testify. The rain made for a stop-and-go subsequent harvest, and also triggered botrytis, but none of it dried sufficiently until mid-November for Müller to finally feel confident in selecting for an Auslese, which was designated “Goldkapsel” and sold at auction. “Certainly, it was a warm vintage when one considers summer temperatures,” noted Müller’s commercial director Veronika Lintner, with whom I tasted, “but average temperatures through the whole growing season were much lower than in 2019 or in 2018, and one can certainly sense that in animation and a cooling cast to the wines.” That very much applies to the Spätlesen even though these also exhibit very ripe fruit flavors and subtle botrytis influence. Thanks to an absence of spring frost, a good set, little of the sunburn that had been experienced in 2019, and scant botrytis, 2020 recorded a relatively large crop by estate standards.

The May 2019 frost reached into even upper sections of the Scharzhofberg, and summer sunburn took a further bite out of yield that nature had already predetermined would be small. And that was before a harvest that demanded selectivity, which at this address is notoriously scrupulous. Picking did not begin until September 30, so Auslese was already being selected even as the fruit for Kabinett was brought in. A second wave of rain and botrytis was accompanied by gradual diminution of acidity, leading to an intensely active second week of October and an October 18 completion date. A tiny amount of TBA was rendered, but no BA or Goldkapsel Auslese. Cellarmaster Heiner Bollig (about whose arrival I wrote in the introduction to my report on Egon Müller’s 2018s) essentially debuted in 2019 and was, one presumes, also behind the decision to attempt Grosse Gewächse (about which I also wrote in my last report). Veronika Lintner confirmed on the occasion of my November 2021 visit that release of a 2019 Grosses Gewächs is indeed planned – which would be the first dry wine from this estate in several decades – but that it’s been decided to give it another year or two in the bottle first. Speaking of future releases, Müller plans to continue his justly attention-getting series of auctioned Kabinett Alte Reben bottlings, but there will never again be more than one bottling meriting that designation or one fuder’s worth – and quite possibly less. For several years, the estate’s remaining share of ungrafted vines has displayed visible signs of phylloxera incursion, and after 2020, a significant share of those that informed the Alte Reben bottlings were ripped out and replaced. In addition to the aforementioned, as yet unreleased TBA and Grosses Gewächs, there are ten vintage 2019 bottlings, of which I was able to taste four, the others being the generic Scharzhof, a Braune Kupp Auslese, and pairs of “regular” Kabinett and Spätlese.

David Schildknecht, Vinous (05/22)