It slipped my mind how much I love these wines. Shame on me!
When I first met them, and Willi himself, it was 1978 and Willi’s first vintage was ’71. I didn’t know his father’s wines, and only later tasted them as “old” wines, though everything at Schaefer seems preternaturally youthful. Willi gave way to Christoph, seamlessly, and I can’t say the wines have changed – nor did they need to. And even if they had changed, most of it would have been due to climate change or other external factors. Here, we see a reassuring continuity.
We also see a pronouncedly lucid style of wine, with flavors both polished and limpid, transparent but never brash, full of ease yet also full of energy. They are ur-Mosel but differently than Selbach or Merkelbach. They are incredibly complex yet also easy to love. It’s one of the unearned joys of my life that, somehow, when I stumbled on this estate while knocking on doors back in ’78, that I knew right away that the wines were special, and that Willi himself, for reasons I still cannot explain, took a liking to me.
Schaefer’s wines are adaptable at the table, and this is due to their very moderation and to their lapidary mode of expression. For all the complexity they contain, they’re almost never what we’d call “assertive.” In the tasting report I give an instance of a wine/food match that worked out beautifully. Here is another, a surprising one.
You’ll see there’s a rogue-variant among these wines, a sort of twisted masterpiece of a kind that may never be made again. We took the bottle to the dinner table one evening, to go along with a piece of cusk (a sea-fish kind of like cod on steroids) over a bed of soba mugwort noodles, with Black sesame seeds, friend-harvested Maine kelp, winter-grown bok choy, Shio Koji rice, and Dashi. Roasty-saline Asian mish-mosh, basically – and the wine was wonderful with it. The larger point is, I love the kinds of wines that don’t require you to surgically tweak your food in order to accompany them harmoniously. Just cook your goop and open the bottle and with a modicum of common sense it will work, if the wine is adaptable and doesn’t scream to dominate the proceedings.