From 4.2 hectares in the Mosel, Willi Schaefer produces some of the finest sweet wines in the world. (Photo by Cari Bernard)

Roll in my Sweet Baby's Arms: In praise of Residual Sugar at Weingut Willi Schaefer

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It's no secret that the Rieslings of the Mosel (Saar and Ruwer) are some of the most articulate expressions of terroir in the world. At their finest, they are filigreed, detailed, mineral, and pure. The region is home to a number of sensational growers: J.J. Prüm, Egon Müller, Vollenweider, Von Schubert, Lauer, not to mention one of our favorites—Willi Schaefer. This 4.2 hectare estate in Graach produces some of the most poetic, age-worthy, terroir specific examples of Riesling from three vineyard sites. The blue Devonian slate vineyards of Graacher Himmelreich and Graacher Domprobst produce wines that are charmingly pretty and pungently mineral. Given the small size of their holdings (4.2 hectares), Willi Schaefer has an outsized reputation due to their mastery of pradikat Mosel Rieslings. Crystalline, pure,and filigreed are apt descripors for the wines. For those who love them, soulful often comes to mind and Schaefer's 2020s (not to mention 2019s) do not disappoint. And yes, these are wines with varying degrees of sweetness. But this residual sugar is not only balanced by pinpoint acidity, but in the wines of Will Schaefer stunning terroir precision. And bear in mind in the case of these pradikat wines over time the sugar esterizes lending aromatic and textural complexity to the wines and the nuance and intricacy can be breathtaking. John McIlwain

Schaefer, Willi 2019 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #11 375ml

The 2019 Graacher Domprobst Auslese #11 is filigreed and racy for the pradikat, showing all the verve and brightness of the vintage. The nose shows a touch of sponti, but time in the glass reveals pretty aromas of pear skin, orange blossom, peach nectar, and cool mint leaves. There's a delicate honeyed sweetness that dances across the palate balanced by pitch-perfect acidity and waves of luscious stone fruit and citrus flavors with a subtle herbal undercurrent. Framing this is a zesty, mouthwatering stoniness leading to impeccable balance even at this young age. This is already lovely, but this will dazzle when mature in 8-10 years and for decades beyond. An emotionally gratifying wine! John McIlwain

  • white sweet
  • 1 in stock
  • $54.99

Schaefer, Willi 2020 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett (AP03)

Given the small size of their holdings (4.2 hectare), Will Schaefer has an outsized reputation due to their mastery of pradikat Mosel Rieslings. Crystalline, pure,and filigreed are adjectives apt descripors and for those who love them, soulful often comes to mind and  Schaefer's 2020 Graacher Domprobst does not disappoint. Comprised of old vines growing in Devonian slate over water retaining clay soils, Domprobst is pungently mineral and perhaps a touch broader than its sister vineyard Graacher Himmelreich. And in the hands of the capable Christoph Schaefer has produced a number of delicious and ageaworthy wines despite the vagaries of the vintage. The 2020 Graacher Domprobst Kabinett offers a lifted nose of honeysuckle, spearmint, cardamom, and flint. The palate is concentrated and mouth-filling, but by no means heavy, with flinty stoniness framing pretty red apple, lime skin, and a kiss on sweetness on the almost creamy finish. With time in the glass, the wine gains structure and a brisk thread of acidity emerges buoying the ripe fruit and adding a sense of freshness. Truly lovey Kabinett and a prime candidate for cellaring. Very good now, but this has the potential to be excellent. John McIlwain

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $47.99

Schaefer, Willi 2020 Mosel Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese

A nearly crystalline expression of Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese, the 2020 has a pale greenish gold robe. There's a bit of reduction on the nose but with air cool green aromas of sweet herbs, red apple skin, and white cherry revealing themselves with air. Juicy, ripe stone fruits on the palate with a firm salty core and fine drive culminating in a lipsmacking finish. Pretty now, but a few years in bottle to allow the ripeness and structural elements to knit should great mineral depth. Lovely! John McIlwain (AP 08)

  • Out of Stock
  • white medium-sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $49.99

Schaefer, Willi 2020 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #10

The Graacher Domprobst Spätlese Ap 10 comes from selected parcels across the the vineyard. The deep clays beneath the weathered Devonian slate insure against hydric stress in warm vintages. The 2020 offers a bit of reduction upon opening giving way to intoxicating aromas of white peach nectar, Cara Cara orange peel, exotic spices, and smoke. Lush stone fruit and citrus oil flavors are underlain by a pleasingly zesty thread of acidity lending drive and energy to the layered and lingering finish. The complexity here is already impressive, but time in the cellar will reveal more stony nuance and fruit expression. John McIlwain

  • Out of Stock
  • white medium-sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $52.99

Schaefer, Willi 2020 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5

The 2020 Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Spätlese #5 comes mainly from the Gerdsgrub and Fergert sectors of the vineyard per Jean Fisch and David Rayer of Mosel Fine Wines. This displays more overt reduction on opening, with the smoky, flinty elements mingling with aromas of lemon oil, cherry blossom, and grapefruit peel. The palate is supple and creamy with lovely wild berry flavors and subtle spices radiating from a steely, stony core. There's excellent complexity here that will only gain from time in the cellar, but even now this seems like a master class in Spätlese Mosel Riesling--equal parts kaleidoscopic florals and a deep dive into geology. John McIlwain

  • Out of Stock
  • white medium-sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $59.99

Schaefer, Willi 2020 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5 1.5 L

The 2020 Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Spätlese #5 comes mainly from the Gerdsgrub and Fergert sectors of the vineyard per Jean Fisch and David Rayer of Mosel Fine Wines. This displays more overt reduction on opening, with the smoky, flinty elements mingling with aromas of lemon oil, cherry blossom, and grapefruit peel. The palate is supple and creamy with lovely wild berry flavors and subtle spices radiating from a steely, stony core. There's excellent complexity here that will only gain from time in the cellar, but even now this seems like a master class in Spätlese Mosel Riesling--equal parts kaleidoscopic florals and a deep dive into geology. John McIlwain

  • Out of Stock
  • white medium-sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $199.99

Schaefer, Willi 2019 Mosel Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #11

The 2019 Graacher Domprobst Auslese #11 is filigreed and racy for the pradikat, showing all the verve and brightness of the vintage. The nose shows a touch of sponti, but time in the glass reveals pretty aromas of pear skin, orange blossom, peach nectar, and cool mint leaves. There's a delicate honeyed sweetness that dances across the palate balanced by pitch-perfect acidity and waves of luscious stone fruit and citrus flavors with a subtle herbal undercurrent. Framing this is a zesty, mouthwatering stoniness leading to impeccable balance even at this young age. This is already lovely, but this will dazzle when mature in 8-10 years and for decades beyond. An emotionally gratifying wine! John McIlwain

  • Out of Stock
  • white sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $99.99