“Gooseberry and crab apple on the nose turn tart, prickly and piquantly seed-tinged when they reemerge on a bracing, firm palate. This is not one of the many easygoing, generous, slightly soft 2018s! The finish is cheek-tugging, mouthwateringly salt-tinged and highly invigorating. (The source vineyards for this large cuvée are Saarburger Rausch, Wiltinger Braunfels and Wiltinger Rosenberg.) Drinking window: 2020-2027. 89 points
Scharzhof’s 2018 harvest commenced September 24 and lasted exactly four weeks. Müller reported not having wanted to jump the gun, because while acid levels were hardly unusually elevated, it tasted to him in the third week of September as though the share of malic acidity was still high. That phenomenon doubtless correlates with periods of metabolic shutdown during the height of summer 2018’s drought and heat, on which Müller’s assistant Veronika Lintner had commented during my visit late that year. The 2018 starting date followed three days of rain which, noted Müller, triggered what botrytis there would end up being, much of it in the form of individually shriveled berries. “I think that in the first three days of picking, we brought in a third of the entire harvest,” remarked Müller, adding that the best botrytized material was selected by early October, since at that point neither the quantity nor the quality of botrytis appeared to be improving. He drew parallels between 2018 and 2011, though he hastened to note that the 2018s are livelier, no doubt in significant measure due to their relatively low pH.
Egon Müller characterized 2018 yields as “normal,” but from a vintage in which at some estates I encountered the largest number of bottlings I had ever experienced, his is among the smallest collections I have encountered at Scharzhof. The reason is twofold. First, as already noted, there was a relative paucity of botrytis to inform upper-Prädikat bottlings. Additionally, when it came to Spätlese level, Müller didn’t deem any specific lots worthy of smaller, separate bottlings, but was instead happy to amalgamate the potential candidates into just a single Scharzhofberger Spätlese and a single Braune Kupp Spätlese. This much having been noted, the brevity of my tasting list below is still a bit misleading. The German “grapevine” was buzzing in early 2019 with rumor of a Scharzhofberg Grosses Gewächs, notwithstanding Müller’s familiar arguments for eschewing trocken Riesling. This alleged development was connected in many observers’ minds with the departure of Stefan Fobian, cellarmaster since 2000, and his replacement by young Heiner Bollig who (in fact, quite like Fobian) lacks the academic oenological training that has long since become nearly de rigueur at German wine estates. Two fuders of Scharzhofberg Riesling (reflecting harvests at 92 and 94 Oechsle) were indeed allowed to ferment to dryness – which took some nine months – and when I met with Müller on the last day of August 2019, he was prepared to reveal that one of these would be released in some form at some point, while the other will likely be reserved for “winery internal use.” Apropos of which, there are also two fuders of 2018 Scharzhofberger Kabinett Alte Reben, which, as he did in 2015, Müller bottled separately. But one of those (the A.P. #10, which I have not tasted) is also expected to stay within the walls of the estate. (“Most of the 2015 A.P. #3,” noted Müller with a smile, “is still here. We did sell some of it, but that’s not an experience I’m anxious to repeat.”) Lastly, there were also two lots of TBA not presented to me, one of which was still fermenting at the time of my most recent visit. Müller joked that the latter might end up getting stuck in the legal limbo of “partially fermented grape juice” – or the two lots might end up being joined. (For much more about this fabled estate and its Le Gallais sister – whose bottlings are treated for purposes of the Vinous database as a subset of Egon Müller Scharzhof – consult the introductions to my accounts of their 2014s, 2015s, 2016s and 2017s.)”
David Schildknecht, Vinous (07/20)