The Mosel river snakes its way between dramatically steep, slatey slopes from just south of the ancient Roman city of Trier to Koblenz to the north, where it empties into the Rhine. The valley is home to many of the world’s most famous Riesling vineyards. The wines are richly fragrant, pale to golden in colour and light-bodied with lively acidity. The slaty soil lends a distinctive taste to wines which range from fine and fruity to earthy or flinty, often with a hint of spritz. Dr Loosen, Heymann-Löwenstein and Ansgar Clüsserath are our Mosel producers.
Weingut Ansgar Clüsserath in Trittenheim on the Mosel has been owned and operated by the family since its founding in 1670. But once again, it came to us through a CellarHand 'family' connection. In charge of winemaking these days is Ansgar Clüsserath’s daughter Eva, who happens to be married to 2014 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year, Philipp Wittmann. Like Rheinhessen superstar Wittmann, Eva is a member of Germany’s new generation of winegrowers committed to traditional, ecologically sound viticultural practices as well as forward-looking methods.
Some 97% of the vineyards are planted to Riesling. The Clüsseraths have ramped up their emphasis on canopy management for fruit health and ripeness, and harvest all grapes by hand in several stages. Between crushing and pressing, the grapes are left on skins for up to 48 hours. The cool, damp cellar is the ideal setting for its 50-year-old Füder, the traditional round-bellied, 1000-litre casks in which the must undergoes a slow, natural fermentation. Afterwards the wines are left on lees, receiving no treatment except a single filtration prior to bottling.
Reinhard and Sarah Lowenstein
While unfettered pleasure is the reflex response elicited by classic Mosel Riesling, the often overt power and disorienting range of Heymann-Löwenstein tends to be more thought-provoking. Reinhard Löwenstein views his craft as a creative interplay between climate, soil, vine and grower, culminating in wines that are singular, authentic and complex. The wines he makes with daughter Sarah never fall short on that count, and the 2012s are the most complete we’ve seen.
The descriptor trocken is banned from his vocabulary and anybody foolish enough (not me!) to enquire about levels of residual sugar is duly and properly chastised. He probably considers the alcohol content another irrelevant detail in the greater scheme of things, but the law is an ass and requires that information to be given. What matters to Löwenstein is terroir, and tasting his wines from different plots within the same vineyard, his credo is convincing. Michael Schmidt, jancisrobinson.com
Dr Loosen has been in the same family for more than 200 years and its present guardian, Ernst Loosen, is one of the great characters of the wine world. He assumed ownership of the estate in 1988 and immediately realised that, with ungrafted vines averaging 60 years old in some of Germany's best-rated vineyards, he had the raw materials to create stunningly intense, world-class wines. To achieve this, Erni dramatically reduced his crop size and ceased using chemical fertilisers, preferring only moderate use of organic fertilisers. And, most importantly, he turned to gentler cellar practices that allow the wine to develop to its full potential with a minimum of handling and technological meddling.