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The skies were holding back rain as we approached the periwinkle-hued house of Konstantin Weiser and Alexandra Künstler. This year Germany (and much of Western Europe) has been host to one of the rainiest Junes on record. Many winemakers stated that they have already seen more rain in 2016 than the whole of the previous year.
After a lovely lunch, we set out for the vineyards. Alexandra led us to the Ellergrub, its dark blue and gray slate still wet from the morning rain -- a contrast to the vibrant green of the rapidly growing vine shoots and encroaching grasses. We ascended, ever so cautiously, up the side of the sporadically-terraced mountain, the switchbacks punctuated by tiny, stone steps. Of all the vineyards seen during the trip, this was one of the most breathtaking, and one where you really begin to consider the level of dedication needed to grow grapes in the Mosel.
Konstantin and Alexandra do not come from winemaking families. After stints at wineries in Germany and abroad they came together to be stewards of a landscape that takes true grit and gumption to work, all the while abstaining from using herbicides or pesticides. They currently work less than 4 hectares in total -- the terracing and natural undulation of the mountainside makes for a range of micro-climates, and the vines’ ungrafted roots run deep, with many vines around 80-100+ years old.
With slopes at this grade, the grapes must be hand-harvested. In the cellar below their house, the natural flow of water coursing through the walls fosters ideal cool-temperature conditions for winemaking.
Fermentation is spontaneous, and is only ever stopped for the sweet wines by a rapid cooling followed by racking, which helps reduce the need for high sulfur levels. Elevage is in a mix of old Fuder and used barrique along with stainless steel tanks, depending on the wine and the vintage.
Weiser-Künstler make wines that have so much to give and say, but aren’t shouting about it. The vibrant balance of the 2015 vintage is beautifully expressed in the wines, posessing fruit and acidity with verve and structure, complexity and nuance. During our visit we were also able to try some very promising barrel samples of the 'grand cru' single-vineyard dry wines, to be released at a later date. All of the dry and dry-tasting wines had no botrytis, and the sweet wines that did had an incredible purity of fruit. Alexandra described the affected grapes as ranging from pink to gray in color and having a "zipper of botrytis" running along the face of the grape -- a clean botrytis, if you will.
During and long after our visit, I found myself reflecting on the importance of partnerships at Weiser-Künstler. Not only the strong, respectful partnership between the two, but also the relationship between Konstantin, Alexandra, and their work. The wines display such a unique level of sophistication, as if they have been working these parcels for decades. Their level of intuition and natural talent just keeps getting better with each passing vintage. We are very lucky to have a chance to drink these wines, as they currently only produce around 20 thousand bottles annually. Cari Bernard
This is Riesling in the key of classic Mosel dry-style. Gaispfad has both blue and red (iron oxide) slate with vines up to 65 years-old, most are ungrafted. Konstantin Weiser explained that in 2015 the grapes were harvested ripe, but were still green in color. Herbal, white blossoms and wet stone come through on the nose; the palate is tart and salty like lemonade, with floral elegance, a slate-driven minerality and an overall lightness of being followed by a long finish. Cari Bernard
The Wolfer Sonnenlay is a south-facing vineyard, located in a side valley adjacent to the Mosel. This is the first vintage that Weiser-Künstler has done a Sonnenlay Kabinett, and I couldn't be more excited. The nose is very vegetal and floral, like standing in a field of white flowers, with wet stone with moss. Almost too easy to drink; at first soft and fruity with red peach and mango, then a cleansing acidity washes over the palate, readying you for the next sip. Drink now and often! Cari Bernard
The Ellergrub is a top-tier vineyard site with an extremely steep grade and ample amounts of dark blue and gray slate at various states of erosion. The old vines here give grapes that are perfectly suited for wines that exemplify Weiser-Kunstler's pursuit of tension and structure. This year's Ellergrub Kabinett struck me as one with incredible aging potential. A bit more serious at first taste than the Sonnenlay, with not only more residual sugar, but also a striking acidity. Aromas of kumquat skin, lager, and flower petal give way to a palate of wild green strawberries, green apple skin, and the tiniest whisper of white peach. The complexity is there; with patience, you will be dearly rewarded. Cari Bernard
This year's feinherb comes from both old and younger vines mostly from Wolfer Sonnenlay and surrounding parcels. A touch spritzig upon opening, the freshness is delicate on the nose, being both fruity and floral. The palate is also delicate, but wows with great persistence of zesty acidity, herbal greenery, and essence of underripe nectarine. Cari Bernard