Paul Furst - The Greatest German Winemaker You Have Never Heard Of

11/1/2007 -

Paul is a brilliant winemaker and the Furst winery has a stellar reputation inside of Germany and justifiably so. The Furst winery is located in Franken in Southern Germany and has been involved in viticulture since 1638. The winery is housed in Burgstadt and that is where their main vineyard is, the great Burgstadter Centgrafenberg. They have 27 acres in the Burgstadter Centrgrafenberg and another 10 scattered among other sites. In Franken the winters are by far the most severe of any region in Germany and there used to be a fear of a spring frost. But now the vines are pretty much all grown in areas where there is not much risk of frost which can severely lower yields. In 1985, for example, yields were 13hl/ha due to frost. But not to worry as Franken now is enjoying a string of great vintages and due to global warming there should be no more frost worries.

Paul went to viticulture school at Geisenheim in the Rheingau and suddenly in 1975 his father died and Paul had to take control of the estate. He immediately left Geisenheim. The rest is history. Today this estate is arguably the number one estate in Franken and is renknowned inside of Germany for their tremendous and ageworthy Spatburgunders. The white wines have a crystalline purity that is almost awe-inspiring. The minerality in these wines is what I like to call crunchy in that it has a texture akin to rock candy. Paul also seems to have the magic touch with every varietal he touches. Spatburgunder, Fruhburgunder, Weissburgunder, Muller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Riesling all receive the royal treatment here and are benchmark examples of their varietal. They are all planted in the Burgstadter Centrgrafenberg which is semi-steep south facing slope. There is lots of sandstone and loam in the vineyard which is different than the normal Franconian soil makeup which is marl and gypsum. This is easily one of the great vineyards in Franken, if not all of Germany.

Paul treats his vineyards with great care and farms as close to organic and natural as possible. One day he hopes to go 100% organic but as of now he is very happy with the way things are going. There is huge filler growth between the vines and the health of the vineyard is apparent. I have been lucky to visit the Rudolf Furst winery the past two summers and each time it has been a thrilling experience. I have tasted the 2005 and 2006 vintages in full and each was extraordinary. I feel the ‘06's from Furst are superior to the ‘05's. The ‘05's were a touch fat but the ‘06's are a return to the steely, austere, concentrated ageworthy style this estate is known for. The Muller-Thurgau redefines what can be done with the varietal. Elegant, mineral, slightly tropical and wonderfully concentrated with some structure for aging. The Silvaner from the Burgstadter Centgrafenberg is a thrilling wine and is equal to the great Silvaners from Wirsching. The nose is all mineral with a hint of smoke. There is wonderful fruit on the palate and crunchy acidity. Concentration is amazing for such a humble varietal but then again this is Franconia and Silvaner is world famous here. I can see why. Stunning. I am offering two Rieslings from Paul Furst in the 2006 vintage. The first is in his "pur mineral" series which are Paul's introductory wines for each of his white varietals that, as hinted by the name, are very mineral wines. The 2006 is lovely and a true value in dry Riesling. My note says very steely with a nice sweet green herbal element and serious crunchy acidity with a whopping mineral backbone. The nose is wonderfully floral too.The final Riesling is Furst's top Riesling bottling from the Burgstadter Centrgrafenberg. The surname of the bottling is "R" which stands for reserve. My note for the 2006 from my visit at the estate in August was very positive. I said the nose was young and showing all primary fruit. Mostly stone fruits. More elegant than the '05 with a touch less concentration but still has a wonderfully viscous texture and palate-staining extract on the epic finish. Lovely wine in need of four or five years in the cellar.

The reds are actually from the 2005 vintage and 2005 is easily the best Spatburgunder vintage I have ever tasted. The wines are also the most complete Spatburgunders that I have ever tasted. Noble aromas, rich sweet fruit, ripe tannins, perky acidity and wonderful concentration are the hallmarks of Paul Furst's amazing 2005 Spatburgunders. They are amazing wines. He has three levels. If you were to compare them to Burgundy, his Tradition would be his village level, his Burgstadter Centgrafenberg is his "1er Cru" and his Burgstadter Centgrafenberg "R" would be his Grand Cru. Amazing wines and anybody who likes world class Pinot these are the bee's knees methinks.

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