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Weingut Cantzheim

Tasting Year


Anna Reimann, together with her husband Stephan, had a dream-come-true moment when they were able to take ownership of an old venerable (and small) Saar estate whose proprietor was getting on, and had no heirs. Reimann’s first vintage was 2016.


So, a new/old estate, steered by a woman on a mission. As a not-quite aside, the couple are deeply interested in plant biology – hence the names of their twin estate wines (the masculine and feminine terms for “the gardener”), and hence the beginning of a chain of events that finally took her to a wine estate in Chile, where her fate was sealed. “This is what I want in my life; to be a vintner,” she said.


I’ll tell the story in greater detail in the fullness of time. Meanwhile, it is told (in English) on the estate’s website, to which I recommend you.


Our current business is to examine the vintage 2020, which is a creature of another color from the “golden” years 2018/19. If you judge a vintage by the number of superb wines it issues, then Cantzheim’s ‘20s have to stake an exalted claim, as will be reflected in the selections below.

If you note the relative paucity of Trocken wines, it’s because I felt this particular vintage favored wines with RS. At least according to subjective me. I shared this opinion with Anna, who observed: “2020 was a light vintage, I left them light and do not chaptalize, this is for me authenticism. I gave them a bit of backbone with maceration, [because] I am certainly not doing the wines for early accessibility only. Vintages like 2018 were easy, [but] in other vintages you [think you] need to interfere much more and that is what I don’t do.”


That’s an admirable position, and one with which I am entirely in accord. Her ‘20s, as a group, tend to be driven by a curious entente between phenolics and minerality, which I felt suited the not-dry wines best. Even with acids not especially high “on paper” the wines are driven by a firm snappiness. Anna also feels he wines are tight at the moment, and will open both texturally and in releasing an incipient fruit. She knows her wines better than I do, obviously! 


2020 “die Kupp”  Riesling  Saar                                                     +

Back label shows the single-site AYLER KUPP, Qualitätswein Trocken, cork-finished, and alc up to 12%

This smells beautiful, and for me it smells like history. Back before you were born, I shopped at a long-gone winery in Ayl and locked in an ur-memory of those scents and tastes. I sometimes see it again in Helmut Plunien’s wines at his Vols estate, and I’m sure y’all are seeing it constantly and happily with Florian Lauer. Though the site is (over) large, there does seem to be an overarching DNA to it, which I would call “green-apple skins and charred slate.”


Ockfener Bockstein is prettier; same with Wawerner Herrenberg, and the Kanzem hill has that charcuterie thing we sometimes see with the red soils. Ayler Kupp can seem rustic in comparison, but I feel otherwise. And we’re rocking and rolling now, thanks in part to a cheery blast of new(er) cask, which doesn’t make it “oaky” but gives it a sort of elegant nostalgia. Wines like this used to be commonly encountered. Of course it was another time, with other weather and other grapes and other assumptions among the clientele. But when you taste a wine like this it makes you wonder what we’re sacrificing in our quests for the acme of primary fruit. We gain perhaps a lot of clarity, but we lose a lot of aura.


I asked about the origin of that pleasing woodsiness. “ It was in a new tonneau (second year, no toasting but fresh oak) and got more air for micro-oxidation (softening of the little bit of tannin the other wines might have). The wine has a bit more extract than [for example] Fuchs. The berries were quite broken, no real botrytis yet, but due to late harvest very delicate breaking skins.”



I find this vinification perfect for a vintage like this seems to be here. It’s like sleeping on a hard mattress, under a satin quilt. And wood, when it’s as subtly deft as this, has a curiously fruitful relationship with slate and apple.


2020 “die Gärtnerin”  Riesling  Saar   glug-glug-glug!

Back-label shows Qualitätswein feinherb, screw cap.

From the aromas I think this is different material than went into the dry version. Is it?  “No, [not] at all the same. They are masterpieces of blending what I learned in France ;-). But most is already decided at harvest. I know our vineyards better and better by now. In the Gärtnerin I am looking for over 9 acidity, in the Gärtner not. Gärtnerin is often from Wiltinger Schangengraben and Filzen, Gärtner is often Kanzemer Sonnenberg and Wawern, Wawern being perfect for dry Riesling due to expressive fruit and a bit lower average acidity.”


We  have a little screwcap-funk. Which I don’t mind, because the wine is really in another whole key-signature from its Trocken sibling. How so exactly?  It is more angular, more zig-zaggy, more mischievous, more animated, wittier, zippier and, um, better-tasting. It even has a finer texture. 


I keep telling myself “Don’t be the guy who’s always fussing about RS,” but good grief, it strains my credulity to observe how such wines as this are so undervalued, as though fruit were somehow a child’s taste, whereas the serious grownups prefer a wine that raps their knuckle with a slab of granite. Also, there’s a tendency to use the word “salty” to describe one of those fruitless ghouls, but what’s truly (and dramatically) salty is this very wine. Thus my advice to you is, pour this into a carafe, take it to the table and drink the f@!k out of it.


2020 “der Kanzemer”  Riesling  Saar                                              +

Back label indicates Qualitätswein feinherb. 


Okay, now we’re in it; a superb fragrance, firm, complex, (yes) “salty” and a little of the pancetta thing, i.e., smokiness and seeds (fennel, anise, caraway, dill) and even a bit of peppermint. An imposing schnoz, basically.


It leads to a spastically twitchy and energetic palate yet with a mid-palate extract-drenched juiciness that’s just bewitching. I do sense that a smidge more RS might have catapulted this into the outer orbits, but it might also have cost this wine its captivating urgency, its drama of crushed rocks. And so what we have, pending re-tasting many times, is naked slate and pure cherry resolving into a purity of Saar quince.


This really rocked the glass the following day, and I’m finding the moderation of RS to be wickedly effective in giving the wine a neon buzz and a delightfully pesky saltiness.


2020 “der Fuchs”  Riesling  Saar                                                    +

Back label indicates the single-site Saarburger Fuchs, a Qualitätswein, cork-finished.

If you like Saar Riesling I think you’ll agree; this is a beautiful fragrance. And on the palate I also think you’ll agree; this is precisely the point where sweetness dissolves so completely into the wine that it subsumes whatever “self” it had and is content to disappear. 


Aromas of herbs and apples. A little of the Yushan oolong type (which you’ll have to take my word for) and an utter seamlessness of structure and expression that makes me wonder why Saar Riesling would be made any other way. But even as it’s seamless it is also racy and vigorous. Balance in this case simply means that the pieces of structure are invisible. All the joints and hinges are silent. The thing works easily and completely. And we get to see that energy and serenity are not mutually exclusive.


We also get to see that we don’t have to have “crunch” in order to have crispness, as this wine is certainly the opposite of “yielding” by virtue of its mid-palate density, yet it seems to quiver with expressiveness. I don’t yet know where it is in the pecking order price-wise, but absent that I’d say this is the one to buy if you only buy one.


2020 Wiltinger Schlossberg Kabinett Riesling  Saar                 +

The site faces east and looks at Wiltingen from across the Saar. It  has a steep section and a small flat section closer to the river. It’s one of those “marginal” sites that climate change has really elevated. Anna describes it as “SUPERSTEEP, mix of blue slate medium sized stones and earthier parts. Good water supply. Southeast facing, so sun is gone earlier then in others. Old vines in Vertiko training (it is a [method] some guys invented hoping to have less work, but at the end to do it right we have a lot of hassle with the leaf management ;-)) We are slowly changing to other system where we took over this system, but respect the nice old vines that grow in some of these vineyards.)”



Wines like this are why we love the Saar. So many of the wines have a cool waft of green freshness, even in warm years, and in a silvery vintage like ’20 this wine is like inhaling a tisane made up of every herb that likes to grow in the shade. It’s not about acidity as such, and it’s certainly not at all about sweetness – neither stands out in this impeccably seamless loveliness – but if it’s “about” anything it’s that strange tendency for Saar Rieslings to taste as if they have some Eiswein ghost invading them through the pores.


It’s a pith that’s not at all steely, or not necessarily steely, but it seizes the mid palate in a resolute grip we don’t see as often in Mosel wines. (Theirs is another structure, and another kind of backbone.) So we have a portrait of Asian pear and quince in a jumpy yet seamless matrix of pure flavor. You barely register “sweetness” at all, and you only register acidity at the very end. I mean, I know the sweetness here, and it is noteworthy on paper but entirely absorbed into the wine.


I need you to understand that the old saw about “sugar-acid balance” is at best a partial wisdom. You can look for some correspondence in theory, but in practice you can end up with a symmetry of extremes. What seems to make it work is the spontiand the time in cask, and I glean an analogy to (of all things) white Burgundy. In those wines a prominence of cream and leesiness helps the wines taste less conspicuously oaky, and here a similar mid-palate creaminess buffers both sugar, acidity, and whatever sparks they strike as they explore their tandem.


Welcome to a master class in German Riesling.


2020 Saarburger Fuchs Spätlese Riesling  Saar

Well this smells good!


The palate is nervier than the Kabinett, a little more jagged. And here we do have a palpable conversation between sugar and acid, giving the wine an edginess and crackle. I like it very much, and you will like it even more if you cherish a whippy angularity.


The fruit echoes the previous Fuchs and beyond repeating the slate-apple-lime-herb-oolong recital, what is salient here is an acid-driven tension that sends me back to a year like 1985. I’m curious to see if this will calm itself down over the next few days.


On third exposure (and again from Fresh & Crisp) it doesn’t really; it remains a nerve-driven wine with a certain twitchy jiggly-leg urgency. Drinkers new enough to German Riesling to have only formed their impressions of Spätlese by the last 7-10 vintages may well be taken aback by this – but it makes me happy.




2018 der Kanzemer Riesling Feinherb                                          ++

Gloriously complex red slate aroma; plus balsam, wintergreen, charcuterie, leading to a WOW palate, with poise, lift and contour. Esoteric salts, pungent and minty and earthy with a crack-the-whip sizzle as it it’s shooting sparks in your mouth. A cordite smokiness at the end, with near-perfect equilibrium until the very last impression, which feints toward chewiness and alludes to a tiny (and agreeably) sour note, which leads in turn to a vapor of key lime and Christmas tree. 


As with the upcoming wines, these were “auditioned” many months ago, while I was getting to know this interesting new winery, and I wasn’t tasting over multiple days as I do now. I was just being blown away….



2018 der Kabinett                                                                                    +

A ludicrously vivid aroma of grapefruit, lemon balm, lime blossom, red salt and even Espelette peppers. It’s racy, very Scheu-like. If Dönnhoff made a Kirschheck Kabinett it might taste like this.


Zingy and mineral, with some of the sponti chocolate below the siren-song of brilliance; a thrillingly risky flirtation with screechiness, but always – like a tensile jittery gymnast – makes the landing. I wrote “like dancing on the chalk-white moon.”


Can it be it’s showing white pepper, and sweet Charlie? Why not?


2018 Saarburger Fuchs Riesling Spätlese                                         ++

Once again this seems to split the difference between the utmost polish and a certain atavism in its determinedly old-school mentality.


It’s hard to fathom how this could be any better. Whatever sweetness it has is effectively invisible. Full of balsam and conifer, with ‘18’s pliant texture; it seems to embody the very Saar itself, in all its verdant peace and its tender spine of melting silver on the truly haunting finish. 


You really can’t conjure a finer equipoise of acidity, extract and sweetness, rendered as a fresh green psalm.



2021 Der Pinot Blanc “Le Grand”

PB is an alternate wine for those for whom dry Riesling may be too acidulous, or simply too strongly flavored – at least in theory. I like these stony tensile wines – Loewen’s is another – that express the variety in unfamiliar ways.

This one’s a kind of pivot-chord between the suave woodiness of Selbach’s and the stony gnarl of Loewen’s. It’s leesy and shows a cask influence, and it is very dry, light, and rather neutral. It’s a correct incidental wine, more than mundane but less than compelling. The Jancis glass delineates what there is to delineate, but this cuvée asks for a riper vintage, I think. I also think that a wood-oriented wine in the Pinot family didn’t really need to set up camp in the Saar, but that’s just my purism speaking.


2021 “Der Gärtner” Riesling

Back label says “dry;” this is the estate-Riesling in a dry form, called “The Gardener” to convey the idea that wine is made in the vineyard.

It has a textbook Saar aroma, quince and grapefruit. (Saar Riesling often smells a bit like Scheurebe.) I find it charming, and am glad it’s not hiding behind a sponti shroud.

If I remember correctly, this seems better than the ’20, and is an example of how best to manage the special nature of ’21. The wine is certainly snappy, but it also offers a lot of tangible fruit on the mid palate.  It takes tangible craftsmanship to make a “minor” but crucial wine work this well under these conditions.

The vintage shows – how could it not? – as a bracing firmness, but the fruit prevents it from the rebuke of scrape and scratch so many ’21 Mosels have shown. I’m guessing it involved more input from village-quality lots, and perhaps less steep-slope material, but it’s impressive how tasty and smart this is. The Jancis glass shows more brightness, for anyone who finds the wine too drinky.

On the finish there’s a bit of smoke, and I’m imagining the site which probably delivered it. Understand, this is not a tight fist of Riesling, but ’21 was already a tight fist, and this relatively clement wine is just what the category calls for.

Finally, this improved day after day until day-4, when it was a really charming glass of dry Riesling.


2021 der Wiltinger “Le Grand”                                                       +

Grosse Lage. And dry.


We have greater density here, and an almost alarming level of extract for a ’21 – “alarming” in the best way! This is a rare, rare critter in this vintage; instead of the sharp spires of many other Mosels (and yes, I know Mosel and Saar are different places) this shows an arresting mineral extract throughout the deliberate and lengthy mid palate.

The wine is so quince-like it could be a rogue Chenin Blanc, one without the rosewater and chamomile but still plausibly Chenin. Assuming this is thoroughly dry, it is remarkably balanced and the extract is almost tactile, a sort of mineral chaff left behind if you strained the wine through a fine mesh sieve.

I can’t fathom how it was brought about, nor do I suppose it had anything to do with “winemaking.” Nor does it connect to phenols or even to acidity. The wine is certainly serious, but it isn’t remotely dour or cranky. Cerebral, yes, perhaps, and I wouldn’t urge it upon the hedonist, but its herbal/grassy attack and its carpet of minerality make for a fascinating and lovely wine. Hat’s off! How this could exist in the ’21 vintage, I cannot imagine.


2021 der Wawerner Riesling


Probably the wrong sequence – oh well.

It’s more forthrightly apple-y now, also more angular, and also more influenced by the wild yeasts.

But we also begin glimpsing a gesture toward deliciousness. Wawern in my experience is usually fruit driven, and in common with (Ockfener) Bockstein it often shows the “blue” fruit of Wehlener Sonnenuhr.

Without the material density of the Wiltinger, we receive a salty and vaguely not-so-dry-ish wine, that lives in an oddly liminal zone. This amount of RS often makes a wine either “sweet-sour” (if it bothers you) or “tangy” (if you like it), and while I find a number of fetching bits here, I don’t think they add up to a wine in harmony. But I could be wrong.

The bit of sponti at the beginning is such as to distort the wine’s structure, and the last sip I took was exceptionally attractive, especially the aromas. I’ll reconsider with later tastings and eagerly let you know what a fool I was.

Okay, yes and no. Partly foolish. It ends up sweet-sour and while the fruit is tasty the general wildness is rather hostile to its degree of dryness. Still, many things to appreciate.


2021 die Kupp Riesling

Grosse Lage, in this case Ayler Kupp, thank you very much. (There’s also Wiltinger Kupp; too many Kupps and not enough chickens….)

What an interesting vineyard this is. Or more correctly, there are, because the site is overly large and the Gewanne matter more than the dubious “single-site” name. That said, I doubt that Kupp lends itself to extravagance or hedonism, but rather to a pleasing earthiness and a vivid declension of malics. (Oy, I feel you: “declension of malics” seems like an English-major way to say “examination of flavors of apples and pears and quinces,” but you know, it was quicker.) Kupp also seems to show the pulverized-walnut one sometimes sees in (Nahe’s) Münsterer Pittersberg and also in Graacher Himmelreich.

This wine again shows that crazy mineral density. I mean, “extract” is sometimes ethereal or allusive, but not here; here you can bite down on it, it’s like a meringue concentrated to a hundred times its typical density. Aromas are brash, and the wine is drier than the Wawerner (I should have known), and it isn’t as pillowy as the Wiltinger – but one gets spoiled by how deft these are.

It seems to land on green apple, and on the skin instead of the flesh. It is a precise wine for all its density, and its precision extends entirely through a wine of considerable length. An impressive wine, more phenolic than the wines thus far, and likely to appeal to a particular type of German Riesling drinker most of whom live in Germany. Yet it is not austere, or I wouldn’t like it. A charming nuttiness is the final grace in what turns out to be a surprisingly clement dry Riesling.


2021 der Fuchs Riesling

Saarburger Fuchs, Grosse Lage.

Rounding out what I assume is the dry-wine flight, this wine has a seriously intricate and pretty set of fragrances, now encompassing fir and ylang-ylang and lime zest and bee balm and hyssop. The wine, too, is differently contoured than anything thus far.

It is more vertical, more pointed, and stretched out to a point that could pull a muscle. It is actually spectacular, in its cerebral way. It doesn’t like the Jancis glass (too sour), but loves my little Spiegelau – everything loves that glass, which never ever fails.

But what do we make of a wine like this? The aromas are amazing, but what’s it like to actually drink it? The word that comes to mind is steely.  Because, where does all that aromatic iridescence go? I’m tempted to imagine it needed some place warmer to go, some place where food was cooking and people were telling stories and laughing. But where it actually goes is to a room where a bunch of people are frantically studying for a test most of them won’t pass.

This is unfriendly, and that troubles me because I admire Anna Reimann very much. Her story and her winery are inspiring. But the ’21 vintage offered challenges that few growers in this part of Germany were able to surmount – and Anna’s done better than most in her dry segment. I am also aware that re-tasting could cause me to alter my opinions, so we’ll see. It will also be prudent not to taste too many dry wines together, as sourness builds on the palate and perturbs wines that come later.

Ultimately this is like the sour side of sorrel, which one either likes or does not.


N.V. der Cremant Riesling

Back label says Brut Nature; no disgorgement date given, but the shape of the cork suggests late ’21 or early ’22.

In fact it’s based on 2020, two years en tirage and the base wine was also on its lees for six months. Below is my opening note, but when I retasted it from the little Juhlin I felt much better. Yet not entirely.

Aromas are attractive, herb-y and even some graphite.

The palate, markedly leesy (showing the time on the lees for the base wine), is roughly as ascetic as it was designed to be. As a “nature” it is neither sharp nor hollow, but it’s a wine that pivots on stone, and it reminds me that you can’t really eat a quince, however good it smells. But I’m also wondering whether a below-threshold TCA is subduing what fruit it actually has. It’s hard to know.

Regardless, not my particular cup of tea, and if the bottle is in fact correct, it needed – and <sigh>, I know I keep saying this – a less severe approach to dosage.


2021 “die Gärtnerin” Riesling

Back label says feinherb.

This is the not-dry estate Riesling; 9% alc compared to 11% in the Trocken version.

Fragrances are blatant and run to cherry blossom, but the palate returns us to the classic Saar expression of quince and grapefruit, with a lot of mid-palate fruit – just what a few of the dry wines cried out for. As it slides across the palate it reveals some spikes and corners, and it has the phenolic finish of many of these, but the wine functions in a cogent (and tasty) way. It’s hard to fathom anyone calling it “sweet” and I personally find it’s occupying a sort of DMZ where the question of dry versus sweet doesn’t pertain.

The vintage gives it a tarragon or spearmint element one either appreciates or finds, as I do, a little ungainly. On the other hand, I so deeply approve of the wine I’m nit-picking it just to avoid overrating. Surprisingly, the wine is more serene from the Jancis glass, where the mid-palate repose of fruit is really charming.

It’s a cunningly balanced and useful wine, less gluggable than the ’20 (because ’21 is fundamentally so bracing) but I imagine it was more difficult to get right. 


2021 der Kanzemer Riesling                                                                ++

feinherb, and Ortswein (village) designation.

I infer there was no single-vineyard wine made from Kanzem in ’21, and the material went into this. It is becoming a totem-wine for the estate, and even in the distorting mirror of ’21, it is a wonderful being.

The charcuterie aromas are allusive here, overtaken by the intense green herbal fragrance (vetiver, aloe vera) and a quince-driven funk that’s actually exciting. The palate is solid, adamant, alpha, with a whomp of stone and “mineral” in a zapped out dialogue with herbs and prosciuttos.

We are in another world now.

In among all the density of expression there’s a hyssop and sassafrass element that tilts toward Loewen’s wines from Longuich – and lo and behold, they have a red soil in common. The wine is so easily and perfectly excellent it makes a few of the previous wines feel…tentative. In the way that the “great ones make it look easy,” this has the soaring effortlessness of the fully formed, fully realized.


2021 der Kabinett “Schlange” Riesling

The full name is Wiltinger Schlangengraben; it means “snake” and graben means “pit.” So, snake-pit.

For me this stands outside the paradigms for Saar Riesling. Yet leaving that aside, this is interesting wine, as good as feinherb, smoky and spicy, with old-vines concentration. It’s a little brash, even a little peppery, and its texture is scratchy – you’d never call the wine “refined.”

Yet for all that, it’s a curious thing to have achieved. It’s mineral and serious, even earnest; it has more phenols than it can handle, yet the balance is cunning even as the texture is rather coarse. Bear in mind, I’ve never had a wine from this vineyard I liked, so I am perhaps an ill-tempered taster. That said, I wonder what person approaches the Saar looking for this. The wine, for all its virtues, doesn’t really have citizenship.

Others will disagree, some of them emphatically, but conceptually I do not know where these wines belong. But even saying that, I also admire Anna Reimann for not hewing to a “line” but making what the vintage asks to provide. I delight in vintners who ad lib, who vamp and who let their wines lead, and if this one leads to a weirdly cunning and essentially atypical wine, then so be it.


2021 der Kabinett “Nussbaum” Riesling

Full name Filzener Urbelt, with Nussbaum being (I assume) a gewann in the single-site.

Filzen was thought secondary in the old-climate era. It is now thought to benefit from the new-climate era. But ’21 was an echo of the old-climate era. Where does that leave us?

It leaves us with a lovely Kabinett, on the dry side, lighter than air, with fruit both tangy and pulpy and with a finish that can’t quite wriggle free of the phenols and acids of the vintage. The question is, on what do we focus?

Because we start out with a fetching aroma; key lime and quince and ground-cherries. And we move from that to an archetypal Saar palate, angular and fibrous. But then we move, a bit too abruptly, to the textural coarsening this vintage (and the last one) so often showed. In a sense we move from refined to rustic in the space of a few seconds. So we end up pleased by the scents and tastes and then (at least in my case) annoyed by the gritty texture.

So what’s the glide-path on which this wine lands? Damned if I know.


2021 Saarburger Fuchs Riesling Auslese

It’s the prototype aroma for a ’21 Auslese; delicacy and perfect botrytis.

The palate is surprising, especially if you don’t consider the ramifications of an Auslese with 8.5% alc. The wine is at least as much savory as it is “sweet,” acting as much like a deft Alsace V.T. as it does the usual German Auslese. A complete surprise!

And such an intriguing one I’m not going to bother with how it might be “used” or where/how it might “fit” but instead I’ll celebrate its originality, both in and of itself and as a very curious occupant of the ’21 vintage.

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