It’s a much more typical Schaefer vintage than 2021 was, though it’s fair to say that ’21 was atypical for most Mosel growers in various ways. That said, I don’t see 2022 as being among the quintessential vintages for the family, and as I consider that I find I have….”thoughts.”
Most of my favorite Schaefer vintages among the 45 I’ve tasted (and drunk) in detail have been from warm, ripe years. Willi’s wines – and now Christoph’s and Andrea’s – excel in a lucid clarity which is driven in part by a vivid acidity. In years like 2003, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2018, they are sleeker than the norm, and their typical grip is thus welcome and refreshing. Indeed 2011, a vintage no one talks about these days, was as fine a collection as Schaefer ever offered, wines with both power and calm.
The family have always had a sparing approach to sweetness. At times I’ve wondered whether it was too sparing (for example, in 2001), a tendency most evident in acid-driven years. I respect a moderate approach to RS in principle, but in some years the result can be overly salient acidity. This presumes one doesn’t relish acidity, and some tasters would claim Schaefer’s best vintages are the ones I have doubts about. Such doubts, I must emphasize, are both gentle and provisional; call them working hypotheses. The matter is complicated by an otherwise desirable facet of my friends’ wines; they age very slowly. You can’t taste them in five years and say “Ah, the acidity is more integrated now” because it takes (at least) fifteen years before these wines reach even a surmise of a tertiary stage.
I have to underscore that point. Among the many hundreds of Willi Schaefer wines I’ve known, I have never had a bottle that was over the hill or otherwise decadent. I’ve had mature ones – the 2003s are ravishing exactly now – but never a wine I thought “It’s too late for this guy.” This means that whatever hypothetical view I’ve formed about a Schaefer vintage is unlikely to be proven or disproven for a long time. My experience is worth something, but it isn’t worth everything. My guesses are educated but a key element of that education is to realize how easily I can be mistaken.
But I am entirely certain that 2021 was freaky, and I’m reasonably confident that ’22 brings us closer to the Schaefer norm. Acidity is again prominent, the source of the niggling doubts I harbor, but I think I’m in a minority in that respect. Be that as it may, I come back to an ur-principle as a taster, which is: If a component in a wine sticks out, there is too much of it. The ensemble of flavors cannot be harmonious (let alone seamless) if one note is too loud. This doesn’t mean the wine is “bad;” it means it is inelegant, and potentially unbalanced. If the suit is handsome but the necktie is gaudy, try another tie, Ace. You screwed up the look.
I prefer not to view anyone else’s notes until I’ve neared my own conclusions, but at times I am so surprised by my antipathy towards a wine, I check to see whether I’m an outlier. In the case of 2021 in general and Schaefer in particular, it’s clear I was. I got all the things the other tasters thought were fabulous, and I found them dramatic and remarkable, but I also wondered – truly wondered – that no one commented how caustic the wines were. They must have liked them that way. I wish I could have.
I mentioned 2001. This vintage recalls that one to me, in the way it behaves on the palate. There is a quietude around the fruit of a classic Schaefer wine. Even in an energetic structure, the fruit is often limpid. I’d argue it’s why we’re so fond of them. The ‘22s show that beloved fruit, encased in an acid structure that flirts with excess but (mostly) stops short. If you’re a Schaefer buyer you should buy the ‘22s, bearing in mind that they are rather serious as a group – especially the auction wines. Those have a little crust of ice still on their surfaces, but all the wines tend to be snappy.