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  • Egon Muller Scharzhof Riesling QbA 2018

    £43.99

    “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)

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  • Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese 2017

    £499.95

    “While this Auslese harbors marginally less acidity than its Spätlese counterpart, there is a blazingly bright, invigorating, almost severe sense of grapefruit, pineapple and lemon concentrates, along with piquancy of zests and seeds that engenders a near-indelible palate impression. The wine’s citricity is beautifully complemented by creamy-richness of texture as well as by flavors of quince preserves, white peach syrup and white raisin. A vibrantly sustained finish is at once invigoratingly tangy and envelopingly rich. Drinking window: 2019-2050. 94 points

    Müller’s losses to frost were largely in the Saarburg vineyards that are the mainstay of his basic Scharzberg Riesling – with the consequence that its production volume did not even equal that of this year’s Scharzhofberger Kabinett. “Any losses we experienced in Wiltingen,” opined Egon Müller’s assistant Veronika Lintner, “simply helped with concentration,” and this year’s wines certainly don’t lack that! Egon Müller indicated not the least displeasure with the rain that fell in September 2017, since it triggered the botrytis he looks for, so that despite this having been (after 2003) his estate’s earliest recorded harvest – commencing on September 25 – he ended up with a glorious collection of nobly sweet wines. “We had beautiful botrytis right from the beginning,” related Lintner, “and we didn’t miss a day doing selection.” By October 15, harvest was over. “It was very warm during midsummer,” noted Lintner, “but not so warm as [in 2018]. We anticipated a collection rather like 2011 – lovely, if perhaps wanting a bit for acidity. But [instead] the cooler weather as harvest approached, especially at night, locked in acids.” When pressed on the matter, she acknowledged that shutdown in the vines during midsummer might also have contributed to the higher-than-anticipated acid levels. “There was one really hot period,” she recollected, “though not as long a one as [in 2018], when there was definitely shutdown.” Lintner perceives 2017’s combination of high ripeness and high extract as having conduced to “relatively muscular, weightier wines than in 2016, when the wines were unusually slim and filigreed.”

    The 2017 collection here includes a Trockenbeerenauslese that Müller elected not to auction but instead (as he has done once or twice before in the recent past) to sell directly to his importers and other agents as an opportunity and token of gratitude. This had for me the unfortunate consequence that I could not taste that wine when I visited as usual in late summer. “We also picked and vinified in anticipation of a Beerenauslese,” explained Lintner, “but there was a very tiny potential volume, and in the end we decided to split it up, part going to the eventual gold capsule Auslese and the other to the Trockenbeerenauslese.””

    David Schildknecht, Vinous (10/19)

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  • Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett Alte Reben 2017

    £299.99

    “This year (unlike in 2015 and 2016) only a single fuder from some of Müller’s oldest vines was bottled as “Kabinett Alte Reben” and sold at auction, limitations that the estate expects to perpetuate in future vintages. The contents originated not just (as in past years) with the single-post-trained vines in the Im Breiten Weg Gewann that adjoins the winery, but also with some old vines high up on the Scharzhofberg hillside in a section known as Knipp. On paper, acidity and residual sugar are almost identical to those of the “regular” Kabinett, but the sensory upshot is almost dry. White peach and pear are garlanded in mint and bittersweetly perfumed flowers on the nose, then inform a glossy but buoyant, silken-textured, lusciously juicy palate. As with other Müller 2017s, there is an invigorating bite of cress that, along with suggestions of lime zest and fruit kernels, serves for delightful counterpoint, here reaching a mouth-shaking degree of vibrancy. Yet all the while, there is also a soothingly cooling aspect to the wine’s green herbal inflections and inner-mouth floral perfume. Salts and iodine add intrigue and saliva-inducement to the bell-clear, superbly penetrating and persistent finish. Drinking window: 2019-2036 94 points

    Müller’s losses to frost were largely in the Saarburg vineyards that are the mainstay of his basic Scharzberg Riesling – with the consequence that its production volume did not even equal that of this year’s Scharzhofberger Kabinett. “Any losses we experienced in Wiltingen,” opined Egon Müller’s assistant Veronika Lintner, “simply helped with concentration,” and this year’s wines certainly don’t lack that! Egon Müller indicated not the least displeasure with the rain that fell in September 2017, since it triggered the botrytis he looks for, so that despite this having been (after 2003) his estate’s earliest recorded harvest – commencing on September 25 – he ended up with a glorious collection of nobly sweet wines. “We had beautiful botrytis right from the beginning,” related Lintner, “and we didn’t miss a day doing selection.” By October 15, harvest was over. “It was very warm during midsummer,” noted Lintner, “but not so warm as [in 2018]. We anticipated a collection rather like 2011 – lovely, if perhaps wanting a bit for acidity. But [instead] the cooler weather as harvest approached, especially at night, locked in acids.” When pressed on the matter, she acknowledged that shutdown in the vines during midsummer might also have contributed to the higher-than-anticipated acid levels. “There was one really hot period,” she recollected, “though not as long a one as [in 2018], when there was definitely shutdown.” Lintner perceives 2017’s combination of high ripeness and high extract as having conduced to “relatively muscular, weightier wines than in 2016, when the wines were unusually slim and filigreed.”

    The 2017 collection here includes a Trockenbeerenauslese that Müller elected not to auction but instead (as he has done once or twice before in the recent past) to sell directly to his importers and other agents as an opportunity and token of gratitude. This had for me the unfortunate consequence that I could not taste that wine when I visited as usual in late summer. “We also picked and vinified in anticipation of a Beerenauslese,” explained Lintner, “but there was a very tiny potential volume, and in the end we decided to split it up, part going to the eventual gold capsule Auslese and the other to the Trockenbeerenauslese.” (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 and 2016s.)”

    David Schildknecht, Vinous (10/19)

    In Stock

  • Egon Muller Wiltinger Braune Kupp Riesling Auslese 2015

    £199.95

    “The 2015 Wiltinger Braune Kupp Riesling Auslese (AP #6) is very clear and aromatic on the flinty, elegant nose where ripe Riesling, some honey and botrytis flavors are displayed. Mouth-fillingly clear and piquant, this is a lush and generous Auslese that reveals a remarkable finesse and seductive intensity. This is gorgeous! Drinking window: 2017-2055. 95 points

    Egon Müller’s other estate, Le Gallais, has produced one Spätlese and three Auslesen from the Wiltinger Braine Kupp. Of the latter, two have been auctioned. Although the Gold Capsule is already a great Riesling, I feel in love with the pure, highly precise and delicate Auslese Versteigerung, which is Art Deco in bottles. If you ever have the chance to taste it, you shouldn’t miss it.”

    Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (230)

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  • Schloss Vollrads Schlossberg Riesling Grosses Gewachs 2018

    £31.49

    “Picked in five passages at the end of September and macerated on the skins for 48 hours before the fermentation (40% in oak and with 10% whole berries), the Schloss Vollrads 2018 Schlossberg GG is a powerful, intense, mouth-filling, lush and creamy-textured wine with fine tannins and a very long, intense and persistent finish. The good phenolic structure promises very good aging potential. An impressive Vollrads Riesling. Tasted at Schloss Johannisberg in August 2019. Drink: 2024-2034. 93 points”

    Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (01/20)

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  • Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2016

    £69.99

    “More marked by the herbal/smoky wild-ferment character than the von Hövel Scharzhofberger Kabinett 2016, a little peppery and that smoky reductive character but not without citrus fragrance under all that complexity. Juicy, gorgeously fruity on the palate. Rich and still so precise and utterly fresh. It is a great wine but commands such a high price now. Drink: 2018-2030. 17.5 points”

    Julia Harding, JancisRobinson.com (07/17)

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  • Egon Muller Wiltinger Braune Kupp Riesling Spatlese 2017

    £79.99

    “The 2017 Wiltinger Braune Kupp Spätlese (AP #4) is coolish, pure and stony on the crunchy and concentrated nose. Lush, sweet and round on the palate, with piquant, racy acidity and pervasive minerality, this is a complex and intense, lush and concentrated Spätlese with lingering salinity and a long, precise finish. A fabulous and promising Spätlese. Tasted in June 2019. Drink: 2030-2060. 94 points

    There are many days per year that start less spectacular. One morning in mid-June this year, I met Veronika Lindner at Egon Müller’s Scharzhof estate to taste the 2018s and what was left in the private wine library from the 2017 vintage that I didn’t manage to taste before. Except for the auctioned Scharzhofberger Kabinett, Veronika lined up the whole series of 2017s and all the 2018s. Only the Grosses Gewächs from the Scharzhofberg, which was not yet ready to taste. “It has not even been decided when or if we are going to bottle it,” she disclosed. “We will release the wine when Mr Müller is totally convinced about the quality.” I asked her if it will be a really dry wine or an off-dry Grosse Lage, and she said, “The wine tasted from the barrel was delicious with 13 to 14 grams of residual sugar, but Mr Müller wants to have a really dry wine—’If I produce a dry Riesling from the Scharzhofberg, it should be a really dry Grosses Gewächs.’ He is really curious and wants to know how it tastes.” I had to smile about this, because I remember a noteworthy sentence Egon Müller once said to Roman Niewdoniczanski about van Volxem’s dry “P” (Pergentsknopp): “It’s a remarkably good wine. However, can you imagine how good your Scharzhofberger could have been if it had at least some grams of unfermented sugar?”

    Back to the wines that do exist, starting with the 2018s (even though I tasted the 2017s before the 2018s). “From today’s perspective, we can say it was important to start the harvest early enough in 2018. We began on September 24, one day earlier than in 2017, and finished on October 19.” The harvest started in the Rosenberg, went on in the Braunfels, then in Saarburg before the harvest team picked alternating in the Wiltinger Kupp and the Scharzhofberg. “The first three days we picked for the Scharzhof QbA,” said Veronika. “The quantity was really excellent: After the first couple of days, we had as many fuders as we had in 2017 in total,” she explained (51 hectoliters per hectare in 2018 versus18 hectoliters per hectare in 2017). “On day five or six, we already started sorting botrytis berries. We didn’t have many botrytis infections, but we had them, and the shriveled berries were perfectly healthy. In the end, we produced two TBAs. The last selection for TBA was on October 13, and after that we only picked for Auslese. The weather was perfectly dry, and the acidity levels remained stable. So, there was no stress and enough time for selections.”

    The result is the estate wine, three Kabinett selections (including one from the Kupp), one Spätlese and one Auslese from the Kupp and the Scharzhofberg, two golden capsuled Auslesen from the Scharzhofberg (one of which will be sold at the auction in September). There is no BA, and neither fo the TBAs are yet in the market. The fortune of the GG candidate was still unsettled. The wines were bottled early, as always: The QbA was bottled in late February, the Kabinett and Spätlese Rieslings in the middle of March and the Auslese selections in April this year.

    The 2017 quantity was very low due to the frost in April, which caused a loss of 30%. The natural reduction had a positive effect during the summer, which was even drier than in 2018, but there was no lack of water. There was quite a lot of botrytis but not as generous as in 1999, 2005 or 2006. The 2017s are firm and concentrated but still relatively closed compared to the charming 2018s. Which vintage gave the greater wines will be decided in years. However, there are fascinating wines from both years, but unfortunately you have to buy the highest predicates to get the finest wines. The excitement only starts with the Auslesen, and the Scharzhof QbA is rather disappointing compared to former vintages.

    Final note: Müller’s long-term cellar master, Stefan Fobian, left the Scharzhof at the end of last year and is followed by Heiner Bollig.”

    Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (244)

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  • J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2018

    £23.99

    “In a striking and delightful contrast to its superb Badstube counterpart, this Himmelreich Kabinett offers a cooling and overtly citric personality. Lemon and grapefruit are suffused with green herbal essences, accompanied by yeast and wet stone on the nose and an adjunct of juicy ripe honeydew on the polished, delicate, sorbet-like palate. Piquancy of citrus zest and seeds is restrained but invigoratingly efficacious, and the generously juicy finish is admirably transparent to underlying wet stone. Drink: 2019-2038. 92 points

    Starting the harvest just past mid-September 2018 was record-early at this estate, as at so many others. Also like many others, the Prüms reported a remarkably leisurely pace, since clement weather left them unfazed. They only finished up on October 20, with ample opportunity to make selections for nobly sweet elixirs right up to TBA, though precisely what would be declared “above” long gold capsule Auslese remained to be determined when I tasted in late November, and such wines are only released some years after bottling. Also as at so many estates, fears that the heat and drought of 2018 would result in wines resembling 2003s in their conspicuously low acidity and baked- or dried-fruit character proved unfounded. Instead, while analytically modest acidity as well as sheer ripeness conduced to a slightly stronger sense of sweetness than in some other recent vintages, even where the Prüm 2018 collection reveals a confectionary cast, this is balanced by freshness and nuanced piquancy, despite the relatively late finishing date for harvest. Relatively low acidity no doubt also contributed to the alluringly creamy textures that so many of the wines display. Moreover, in complete contrast 2003 – or, for that matter, 2005 – there is an abundance of Kabinett, and the personalities of each site tend to come through especially clearly. “We really made a changeover [Umstellung] after 2005,” observed Manfred Prüm. “Accepted wisdom was always to wait so as to harvest with maximum ripeness, but at that point we realized it isn’t always best to wait,” a realization never more applicable than in 2018. One aspect of these 2018s that is reminiscent of 2003, though, is that even at the level of gold capsule Auslese, the extreme ripeness and impressive concentration were achieved, the Prüms insisted, virtually without botrytis, which they report only came seriously into play with long gold capsule Auslese and beyond.”

    David Schildknecht, Vinous (08/20)

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  • J.J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2018

    £27.99

    “Heady scents of honeysuckle and heliotrope mingle with apple, quince and Persian melon. Succulent fruitiness and wafting perfume are complemented by a creamy feel on the delicate palate. Subtle nuttiness and discreet fruit seed piquancy serve for stimulating counterpoint, leading into a lusciously lingering, slate-lined finish. The exuberantly juicy, vibrant, bell-clear finish offers a lightly shimmering suggestion of fruit/stone interplay. At any given Prädikat level, the Prüms’ offering from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr – while in the long run often “best of show” – can frequently prove less expressive in its first year, but such is definitely not the case here! Drink: 2019-2040. 93 points.

    Starting the harvest just past mid-September 2018 was record-early at this estate, as at so many others. Also like many others, the Prüms reported a remarkably leisurely pace, since clement weather left them unfazed. They only finished up on October 20, with ample opportunity to make selections for nobly sweet elixirs right up to TBA, though precisely what would be declared “above” long gold capsule Auslese remained to be determined when I tasted in late November, and such wines are only released some years after bottling. Also as at so many estates, fears that the heat and drought of 2018 would result in wines resembling 2003s in their conspicuously low acidity and baked- or dried-fruit character proved unfounded. Instead, while analytically modest acidity as well as sheer ripeness conduced to a slightly stronger sense of sweetness than in some other recent vintages, even where the Prüm 2018 collection reveals a confectionary cast, this is balanced by freshness and nuanced piquancy, despite the relatively late finishing date for harvest. Relatively low acidity no doubt also contributed to the alluringly creamy textures that so many of the wines display. Moreover, in complete contrast 2003 – or, for that matter, 2005 – there is an abundance of Kabinett, and the personalities of each site tend to come through especially clearly. “We really made a changeover [Umstellung] after 2005,” observed Manfred Prüm. “Accepted wisdom was always to wait so as to harvest with maximum ripeness, but at that point we realized it isn’t always best to wait,” a realization never more applicable than in 2018. One aspect of these 2018s that is reminiscent of 2003, though, is that even at the level of gold capsule Auslese, the extreme ripeness and impressive concentration were achieved, the Prüms insisted, virtually without botrytis, which they report only came seriously into play with long gold capsule Auslese and beyond.”

    David Schildknecht, Vinous (08/20)

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