Nearest Faraway Place: the Wondrous (and Wild) Wines of Jakob Tennstedt

3/16/22 -

Some email offers write themselves: wines you've drunk for years, maybe you've visited the growers, or it's a benchmark wine and the name alone will have people rushing to buy! buy! buy! Sometimes there's a wine that just needs a little more attention (and isn't this the year that Condrieu finally gets the love it deserves?). And then there are times where you taste a lineup of wines that so excedes your expectations (or even the genre) that you are compelled to order a bunch of bottles and hope your enthusiasm translates to the page—or screen, as it were.

Which brings me to the singular and frankly thrilling (albeit idiosyncratic) Rieslings of the young Jakob Tennstedt. He farms 1.4 hectares of essentially reclaimed vines located in a side valley off the Mosel behind Tarben-Trarbach. And the wines are majestic, unexpected, and certainly wild, each possessing stature and concentration along with a deeply savory character derived from a bit of skin contact, botrytis, and lengthy elévage.

While there are a number of fine young growers in the Mosel who are carrying on their family's work in exciting fashion with improved viticulture and fine-tuning, there's also a handful of outsiders who are reclaiming isolated and often abandoned vineyards as they are still affordable, but for the effort to farm them. In a forested side valley of the Mosel, Tennstedt is certainly putting in the work to create an exciting domaine. Viticulture is organic and biodynamic, with certification coming this year. The vines, nestled into the woods contain a riot of vegetation and flowers to encourage biodiversity and healthy soils. Farming is without any chemical inputs and the wines are made without the addition of sulfur.

And while these are natural wines made with extended aging and even a bit of skin contact, they don't seem to be "natty" or hew to the glou-glou aesthetic. Rather they are majestic and at times baroque expressions of Riesling and the blue slate terroir of this cooler side valley. Wine-making is more by intuition and taste than numbers with healthy botrytis encouraged even as the wines are fermented dry. And malolactic fermentation occurs by happenstance—neither encouraged, nor prevented. Likewise, bottling occurs when Jakob deems the wine ready, often after 2 years. The resulting wines aren't the filigreed and crystalline (not to mention sulfurous) expressions typically associated with  Mosel Riesling, instead rather deeply textured, profoundly savory, and layered. And while the wines are idiosyncratic, they are deeply affecting and I think truly great, even if I can't quite articulate why. John McIlwain

You have successfully subscribed!
This email has been registered