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.
Cornelia and Reinhard Löwenstein were ahead of their time when they founded their estate in 1980. Eschewing the so-called classics of the relatively recent Prädikat system, they picked ripe grapes from their towering vineyards of the Terrassenmosel, and ferment to dryness or as far as the wine would go. Numbers and lab analytics are anathema; this estate is all about slate and the senses.
Viticulture is organic and painstaking on the back-breaking slopes, and long, slow, natural ferments in steel and Fuder are the go. Ripe, integrated phenolics and a colourful fan of flavours are the result, always animated by acidity and slaty minerals. With daughter Sarah and long-standing winemaker Kaddi Höhler leading the way, the estate is in great shape. The wines have edged towards a level of precision over the past decade that has taken nothing away from the visceral pleasure of drinking them.
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.