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An impossible to pronounce term? A ludicrously overplayed piece by Mozart? A clumsy oaf? No, it’s none of those things! It’s actually the kind of project we love here at Chambers Street Wines, a small group of growers (eleven to be precise) that have banded together to preserve steep hillside vineyards in one of Germany’s most historic districts, the Mosel. The playful name translates roughly to “The Itsy-Bitsy Group” and it’s a friendly poke-in-the-rib of other, more well-known grower associations that can sometimes be seen as taking themselves too seriously. While our protagonists in this case can certainly not be accused of that, they do take their work quite seriously, and we’re grateful they do.
All the members of the “Ring” work meticulously by hand in a single dilapidated vineyard plot, essentially nursing the ailing vines back to health. From 2006 on the group focused on a steep section of the Enkircher Ellergrub vineyard. They work the harvest together and each fall one grower is selected to vinify that year’s Riesling. In 2008 it was one of our favorites, Konstantin Weiser of Weiser-Kuenstler in Traben-Trarbach.
The name chosen for the wine is another tongue-in-cheek title, as “Bergrettung” also refers to the German and Austrian ‘mountain rescue’ team that helps hikers and skiers in peril. In this case, of course, it’s the mountain itself that needs to be rescued, and the Kiltzekleine Ring is here to help! Fortunately, the group’s efforts have been a success and this rejuvenated plot has been sold to a conscientious grower, making 2008 the final Bergrettung from the Ellergrub. Starting in 2009 they took on a section of the Trabener Zollturm, so hopefully their success will be repeated.
As for the wine itself? It’s got the classic purity of fruit and excellent length that we’ve come to expect from Weiser-Kuenstler, and it’s a delicious lesson in terroir to taste this alongside the Spatlese from W-K’s own plot in the Enkircher Ellergrub. When so many wines today are created as industrial products or treated as a commodity to be traded on the market, it’s a privilege to offer a wine that only exists because of a group’s commitment to their region’s 2000-year old tradition and heritage. You’ll notice below that we’ve decided to include some of our other favorite wines from Weiser-Kuenstler below for your perusal. Drink Mosel wine and help save these classic vineyards! -jfr
Chambers Street Wines U.S. Exclusive From a rescued plot in the Enkircher-Ellergrub, vinified by Konstantin Weiser. Intensely mineral, chalky, saline nose with just a whiff of lees and a far-off hint of white peach. There's some fruity sweetness here, but it's shockingly low given the listed abv of 7.5% and the wine's delicious sense of overall ripeness. Loaded with fruit for a 2008 and well-balanced with succulent, mouthwatering acidity, this lovely wine radiates purity and class (photo courtesy of Mosel Wine Merchant). -jfr
This is the Weiser-Kuenstler wine formerly known as "Feinherb." It still tastes decidedly off-dry even though the designation has been dropped this vintage. The aromas take a little coaxing to show up but once they do you're really rewarded for the wait with pretty, shimmering notes of citrus, rainwater and slightly exotic tropical fruit. Chiseled, filigree, mineral-laden and so very pretty. All the fruit comes from the Trabener Gaispfad and the Enkircher Ellergrub. -jfr
"The Wine of The Tour" of my weeks tasting in Germany came out of left field. Sure the benchmark estates and sites consistently deliver profound wines; but it's offerings like this that keep us on our toes, and remind us again of the potential for infinite nuance with the terroir-transparent Riesling. Ellergrub is composed of very defined blue slate, with small steep terraces that facilitate drainage, so the old vines struggle for water resulting in extensive root structure. Most of these vines are ungrafted (90-some%) and very old. Profound lightness — both in levity and luminosity, though this wine is not lack for fruit or flowers — iris, herbs, the purest sweetest lime zest persists alongside a chalky minerality to the endless finish. Juicy and crunchy — there's great love in this. rsg
Unlike anything I've ever tasted — this is how it is that wines from specific sites can so thrillingly speak with distinct voice and character. Creamy, deft, textured, structured, rightly sweet! Upstep the Kabinett in concentration, add another iris garden, some fennel, layers of citrus you can't get to the bottom of, and then draw your taste buds out on a line of chalk-minerality that simply doesn't end. rsg
Chambers Street Exclusive This wine is hip, cheeky — AND delicious! Not all growers are allowed to use the Grosses Gewachs designation (for that you have to be part of the Big Exclusive VDP Club), but many growers make wines of equivalent magnitude in the same style — but what to call it? Well, if you've got an Eule (or Owl) motif, than why not Grosses Eule? Thus we have the Weiser-Kuenstler "GE" (or "Great Owl") — the Spatlese Trocken from the Erkircher Zeppwingert site. Dry at 12.5% alcohol, this comes from a pure blue devonian slate site. There is more water retention here, so this wine has a little more fruit and body to play with, which balances the lack of RS. Lot of minerals packed in with a saline texture under the tropical fruits — still young, but looks to be going no where but great. rsg