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Not being able to visit Germany this year to taste the new collections, I find myself grasping at straws (or in this case wine bottles) of the 2018ers to wrap my head around the story of the vintage. Being in the Saar valley during the summer of 2018, I do remember the heat and also the occasional threat of summer rain (or in some places, hail), but in contrast to 2016 and 17, the threat often turned out to be just that. Vines were already quite far along for early June, and I would later hear that the harvest (for many) was one of the earliest in memory. First news was that yields were high across the board and the grapes were ripe from the long, hot summer. The overall message was great, we finally have healthy grapes to make wine, a perfect vintage!
That being said, although there were good quantities, if the grapes weren't picked early enough, they were clocking in at very high levels of ripeness. This could lead to wines lacking acidity, showing a plusher, softer side. Even after a hustle to start harvesting early, some winemakers took further precautions, including fractioning at press time, which can involve lots of tweaking of pressure, and taking 'fractions' or cuts of the juice at each press round to preserve acidity and other desired elements of the future wine.
We've reached out to Johannes Weber and Lars Carlberg (who works with the Webers) to get more of an idea of how the vintage panned out for them. They were very careful to harvest wisely (and early), used very low pressure at press, and avoided maceration time with the skins to help keep acidity high in such a warm vintage. Fermentation took a touch longer than usual and only a few casks fermented fully (legally) dry; luckily for us lots of the wines come highly recommended: higher yields meant more fuders (~1000L barrel) from specific vineyards, hence why there are three different Herrenberg Spätlese Feinherb wines on offer (counting the magnum). For fans of Falkenstein, we've included the fuder names and AP numbers for each wine, taken from Lars Carlberg's listing on his website. Wines will be available starting Wednesday, 8/21. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Weber family's wines, please read on, tasting notes forthcoming!
The Webers have been making wine at the estate since the mid-eighties, with winzer (winegrower) Erich Weber now working with his son Johannes in the vineyards and cellar. No pesticides or herbicides touch the vineyards, and local grasses grow between the vines, helping with biodiversity, protection from erosion, and providing competition for water when necessary. In the warmer months, they resist the urge to de-leaf, which (aside from increasing risk of sunburned grapes) can cause thicker skins, and unwanted petrol flavors in the finished wine. The Webers have been accruing top plots from around the villages of Niedermennig and Krettnach and currently farm around 9 hectares, with a total of one hectare of ungrafted vines. Soil type in the valley is predominately grey slate and quartz at different levels of decomposition. Winemaking here is incredibly straightforward: a vineyard block is hand-harvested, the whole bunches are pressed gently, and juice flows via gravity into an old, wooden fuder to settle, followed by a racking into its specific fuder for fermentation and aging. Wines are bottled with low sulfur additions (lots of sulfur isn't necessary when your wine's pH hovers around 2.8). Each parcel has its own fuder (often named after previous owners of the specific parcel), making for truly terroir-driven wines. Depending on yields, some parcels will fill multiple barrels, and these will end up as two separate bottlings, all designated by AP number. Fans of the wines look to these numbers every vintage, as we all have our favorite fuders to check in on. There is always a common thread of clarity and electric verve to the wines,and with each passing vintage, they continue to demand our attention. We are pleased to offer the new arrivals from Hofgut Falkenstein! Cari Bernard
Yellow peach and blossoms on the nose, fruity and fun, perfect balance; the feinherbs from Falkenstein are often some of my favorite wines in the collection. This vintage is bursting with ripe nectarines, tangerines, green mango lemonade, and yes, residual sugar, but the acidity it poised to make this just the most refreshing and invigorating wine you never knew you needed. I love these wines because they are usually 10% alcohol, are incredibly affordable, and are the darling of any dinner situation they attend. Pair with Mexican food, Szechuan food, Thai, Indian, fried chicken and mac 'n' cheese, Schnitzel, most anything really, and come and tell me it's not the favorite wine of the night. Cari Bernard Fuder Palm
Fuder Meyer Nepal
The two different Euchariusberg Spätlese bottlings (AP 6 and AP 14) are sourced from two separate parcels, found further up the Großschock slope from the plots used for the Kabinett wines. CB Fuder Klaus Lang
Fuder Großschock Kupp
The Falkenstein Red is sourced from 25-year-old Pinot Noir vines planted near the estate on the Herrenberg. Grapes undergo spontaneous fermentation and the wine ages for 18 months (in Fuder of course) with enough natural acidity to stave off malolactic conversion; this makes for a fresh and bright red! Showing a subtle nose of red currants, cherries, and graphite, the wine is medium light in body with more balanced acidity than the 2016. Ripe red cherries and plum skin, raspberry coulis, blood orange and strawberries sustain on a lengthy finish. Enjoy with rustic mushroom dishes, roasted salmon, charcuterie platters, winter squash soups. Cari Bernard
Fuder Mutter Anna **wines available Wednesday, 8/21**