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2021 Pinot Blanc Trocken

After the essential varietal perfection of the Darting, here is precisely the opposite – anti-varietal, all terroir. As such it smells much more like a Mosel wine than it does like any grape variety, not only “Pinot Blanc.” It offers the grower a chance to make a dry wine with (usually) lower acidity, and adds a nuance to the flavor spectrum they can present. 

This wine is exceptionally good. It reminds me of Jean Boxler’s superb Pinot Blancs from the Grand Cru Brand, with which I’d flummox my wine pals, who couldn’t fathom how something so minerally could be anything but Riesling. This wine has such lovely angularity and so much savor and salt it gives us Riesling’s articulation without Riesling’s particular attributes. The texture is rusk-y and crackery, and unlike Riesling, the calligraphy this shows is analogue.

It’s like crepe-paper that crinkles when you handle it. It shows much of the flavor a wine can show without showing fruit. It adds to a growing community of fascinating Pinot Blancs that could prompt us to reconsider the expressive options for that variety.

I will observe, though, that its pleasures are a kind of cerebral delight in the improbable. I enjoy being fascinated but it’s different from drinking something yummy – or for that matter, drinky. I look forward to seeing it in a riper tasting vintage. And yet, even so, my final encounter with the wine was at odds with that impression. It slipped down most deliciously and interestingly; it had been open six days by then, with about a third of the contents remaining.


2021 Riesling Alte Reben

Several notes: one, the word “Trocken” does not appear, though the wine could well be Trocken, and that is because Loewens don’t actually care which side of the line this wine falls on and by omitting the T-word they keep their options open. You can imagine how happy this makes me. Then, we have 70-year old vines, 11.5% alc, and vinification in tank after a sponti ferment.

It’s intensely salty. There’s a ton of the blue-slate flavor. It’s a bit thready, and the ’21 pointedness isn’t entirely subdued. With air a lilac-y thing arrives, that lingers into an umami-like tertiary finish in which a furtive whisper of RS is evident, and welcome.

It was heartening to see how the classicists embraced the ’21 vintage as a return to earth after a preponderance of hot years, and they’re entitled to relish acidity if that’s their jam. But I think it’s worth asking which wines benefited and which were diminished by this highly particular year. This wine, for example, seems to show its best in warm years, when its acidity and minerality stand in contrast to the ever-present fruit ripeness. But an ultra-violet wine in an ultra-violet vintage risks being monochrome, a portrait in blue ice. But! This wine isn’t at all forbidding; it’s simply in a particular key signature. It has good hands but needs to trim its nails.

There’s a certain complexity and more than a single dimension, but its cragginess is destined to be appreciated by aficionados of sober wines.

On second glance the fragrances are almost feverishly scrupulous, as much Urgestein as slate per se. I still find the body too gaunt to carry a rather severe sourness, but I’m cool toward such things and others are not. The greater joys of the vintage lay in wait….


2021 Riesling Maximin Klosterlay                                                       +

A big plump diam cork refuses to fit back into the bottle. We also have the “1er Cru” insignia, and we’re back to Fuder. We remain free of “Trocken” and I remain delighted. I am also delighted by the rampantly slatey aromas.

The wine is a rock-slide of slate, with the smoky charred overtone we see in certain sites (Apotheke eminent among them), and with so much substance and concentration we have no need to “allow” for asperitys, as this is simply a glace-de-viande of terroir.

In place of the lilac we have roots and resinous herbs - vetiver and verbena and also a mass of lime and melisse. It’s Mosel at its most serious, and this time the edge of sourness is welcome in the context of its stunning concentration, which prevents it from feeling exposed.

The scent in the empty glass is an essence of what’s meant by Cru.

Two days later there’s a subtle addition of the “blue” slate aroma that adds a euphoric note to this otherwise ruggedly smoky critter.

My third and final pass seemed to confirm a sense I am forming about the ‘21s. This wine is adapting to oxygen predictably; its mid-palate expands as its initial fruit retreats, and as a rule we anticipate this and don’t object. But these ‘21s need every bit of fruit they can hold on to, and this wine was best freshly poured.

Its best is, I must emphasize, very good.


2021 Laurentiuslay Riesling Alte Reben Trocken

Back label says “Leiwen” Laurentiuslay, and that the vines are up to 100 years old; it does not indicate either sponti or fuder. 11.5% alc.

But cask is apparent! The site is about indirect mineral, inferred from the general earthiness, and about deeply anchored fruit that isn’t like any other Mosel site I know.

Yet despite that fruit, I’ve never been persuaded that it suits a dry rendering. It makes a monumentally excellent Spätlese, and (to me) a confusing dry wine. Your taste for this will address your taste for cask – and for the chocolate aromas of the wild ferment.

I’m like most people, I think; when I don’t like a wine I can’t imagine why anyone would like it, yet in this case I’m cool toward the wine but can easily imagine why another person would feel quite differently. There’s a lot that’s seductive in play, a lot of clinging richness for so little alcohol. I can’t really justify my aloofness, except to say the wine feels like it has its clothes on backwards.

I’m now tasting it for the third time, and it’s the first time I’ve tasted it after tasting the regular Spätlese, which you will see is a masterpiece. I’m more persuaded than ever, that while there is much to appreciate about this Trocken wine, it feels like a foreign identity was imposed upon it.


2021 Maximin Herrenberg Riesling Alte Reben Trocken 1896    ++

Natural cork, 1er Cru insignia.

Some day Christopher Loewen will explain to me why there is this wine and also a “GG” – I can only surmise the GG is from “younger” vines than these 127 year old kids.

In any case this wine is masterly, minty, trippy with terroir, sleek as a paper-cut, otherworldly in its length and precision. Here the cask notes are almost gorgeous against the insane needle-point of flavor.

But what exactly is happening here? The wine is far from ingratiating; why would someone like it? Let me take a stab at it.

I suppose it begins with the arresting surgical cut of the front-palate, which presents as mint but not crudely so. Then, very quickly, a swell of flavor rises up from below such that the pointed first impression is suddenly carried by a mass of density that is paradoxically weightless, yet creates a tangible grip in which everything flies around – the sponti chocolate, the suavity of the casks, the crazy herbal high notes, the esoteric poise of flowers and stones (like a higher octave of the Pfalz GC Pechstein), and in the end a kind of fever of expressiveness, until you don’t know any more which is more haunted – the wine, or you.

Is it easy to “get,”  but is it easy to love? I mean, I wonder. It’s clearly outstanding wine, but I don’t envision folks clamoring for it. Is that elitist? I don’t know; is it? Some things you get sooner, some things you get later, and the nature of a wine like this is such as to bemuse the beginner – and therein lies an opportunity.

I do not condescend to persons of ordinary taste. I have plenty of ordinary tastes myself. Understanding that, I’ll suggest that persons of ordinary taste in wine could feel like this is a class to which they weren’t invited. Nor need they have been! They can crash the course whenever they want to; no one will throw them out. But the fledgling, the “seeker,” the student who’s open to the unknown – and to the unknowable – could be catapulted forward, could think “Wait, wine can do this???” and could walk into a starry, backlit world, lit, in this case, by a bio-luminescence of terroir that offers just enough light to find one’s way around.

So the answer to the question “How do you get people into this sort of wine?” is, a certain kind of person finds a way to it, inexorably, having (unconsciously) self-selected for refined and electrifying experience. Like y’all!


2021 Riesling “GG” Maximin Herrenberg

Back label adds “Longuich” and Trocken.

It is, I confess, a different sort of aroma – thicker somehow. I’m not (yet) convinced the palate is better, but I just poured it. It’s pretty fervid from the Jancis glass. With air the whole thing grows more fervent, more “warmed,” and more tertiary. The open question is, to what degree do these things matter?

I might change my mind about this, but the various perquisites of the “GG” idiom do not quite efface a sense that this wine isn’t balanced. If you were sitting at a mixing console you’d complain the sound was “toppy,” though you kept trying to fix it by boosting the mid-range.

For the moment, having sipped three times, this is clumsy compared to the predecessor, which I have just poured again to ensure I’m not crazy. The GG is bigger, in that earnestly “important” way some GGs indicate, but apparently not better. If the days suggest otherwise, I’ll be the first to be relieved.

Two days later, it’s clear what this GG seeks to do, clear that it’s an interesting wine in theory but also kind of stubbly and raw in practice. I think a riper vintage would “repair” what feels misaligned here. And finally, there is a truly outlandish cognate; the wine reminds me of certain vintages of Alzinger’s Steinertal Smaragd when you’re not sure whether it’s GV or Riesling, its jacket of “green” is so thick.


2021 “1896” Riesling                                                                     ++

This is a tank-sample.

By now you know the story of one of the Mosel’s most beautiful wines. Christopher and his father Karl-Josef have given the wine world a remarkable gift. (And a rare one; it’s basically a single fuder, so after samples and whatever the family places in its own cellar it’s what – eighty, ninety cases? If you get a few bottles, know that you’re lucky, and please, don’t waste this wine by making it a trophy. Calm down and love it, please.

Other than the time-travel element – which other than “other than” is an especially lingering mystery of this wine and these vines – we have a wine that is so singularly evocative and implosive that it will find the soul we thought we might have misplaced. It is hard, believe me, to remain unmoved by it.

It occupies that liminal space between waking and dreaming, between knowing and wondering – even between “understanding” and surrendering – such that you just give up at a certain point. You know the pieces and can sort of suss how they add up, but then the wine is in your mouth and you have no choices any more. You’re present for a beam of light whose origin you can’t see. And you come to reside, for a small moment, in a silence that is always there and that does not belong to you.

I don’t think any of us has our own particular silence. I wouldn’t mind if a few of us would shut up from time to time, but I think that silence is simply out there, and is a little fussy about who it lets in, and when and how. For me it registers as a kind of desire for reverie and calm. I need to clear a space for some kinds of wines. This doesn’t pertain directly to how “good” they are; it’s more a question of aura. It’s when I know I need to be absorbed, that the wine is made to absorb us, that you don’t drink it casually while dinner is cooking or you’re talking with your friends. You make a quiet space for it. Then you can peer into this tiny little theater of loveliness, and wonder that it goes down and down and down, past where you even can follow.

Marvel at the flavors, as I am now, but don’t get stuck there. That’s why I’m not listing them for you, not to mention I’ve done it before. Gifts like these are always unwrapping but never unwrapped.


2021 Riesling Ritsch GG                                                                     ++

Thörnicher Ritsch on the back label.

Ritsch is like Zeltlinger Schlossberg on a peyote jag. It takes the herbs and makes them crazy. I love that herbal side of Mosel wine; in another week I’ll taste the Lieserer Niederberg-Helden (from Schloss Lieser) which is another one in the family. I mean, Mosel Riesling has its catechism but I like when it wriggles free. And Ritsch, my friend, is a banshee of the liberated Mosel.

In this case the “GG” idiom justifies itself with a free-range wildness that maintains a classical balance, poise, and harmony – in its own wacked out way. In ’21 is really wrestles with the emeralds. I’m channeling my inner Andrew Jefford! Really rolls around with the leaves and tears at the resins.

It’s the last wine I’ll taste today, and I’m delighted at the lunatic energy and directness here. A happy wine, a little unhinged but good humored, exactly what was needed after the pealing depths of the “1896,” an amped up extrovert in full flourish.


2021 Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett                                                  ++

Full name Longuicher Herrenberg.

Upslope from the Maximiner Herrenberg, with many ungrafted old vines “up to 100.” Often this is among the Mosel’s most platonically perfect Kabinetts.

It is again, provided we bear in mind the singular nature of the ’21 vintage. This wine always shows its bracing snap, which is a splash of freshness in a warm year and which is a double-down on briskness in 2021. Its sweetness is subsumed into a minty manic energy, and the effect is like being whipped by an ice cold slice of lime. What makes it work, ultimately, is the old-vines density, imparting a palpable extract that swells the mid-palate and uses its furry richness to file down the sharper edges.

The longer it sits in the glass the more improbable it becomes. It has its own perfection, in the context of the very high register its flavors play upon. If you cherish brilliance you will find my enthusiasms too qualified, too moderate. It’s a special kind of triumph, which amazes me but which I wouldn’t need to see very often.

Still the wine is superb. And still, it engenders many thoughts about the ’21 vintage, some of which swim against the prevailing tide.


2021 Laurentiuslay Riesling Spätlese                                               ++

Full name Leiwen Laurentiuslay.

Small terraces, never underwent Flurbereinigung. For me, this is usually a Mosel Monument, and was the most undervalued great wine in (what was) my portfolio.

Whatever the reason, the primordial earthy grip and depth of this wine overcomes the (sometimes) icicle-chill of ’21 to create one of the vintage masterpieces. 

The sponti aroma is welcome. The gob-filling mid-palate thickness is literally amazing in the face of the twitchy vintage energy. In the (upcoming) Selbach-Oster report you’ll see I draw a line between Johannes’ Uralte Reben and this wine, and it’s making perfect sense to me right now as I taste. It’s that ur they have in common, the sense of tasting Mosel at the moment of its birth.

The extract-density is so powerful it renders moot the question of discrete sweetness, which in any case is swallowed up – and which makes me wonder, yet again, at the existence of the dry version of this vineyard when this one is so sublime and perfect. I started to write about length, but this gorgeous thing tastes like it never didn’t exist and would never cease to exist – so, length? From what to what??


2021 Ritsch Riesling Auslese                                                            ++

Full name Thörnich Ritsch, and the back-label refers to “quartzite

The alpha-omega identity is that of a GG on one hand and an Auslese on the other. When Loewens obtained a new parcel in this great site, Christopher teased me that he might be able to create the Kabinett I always wished for. But his mother shot him down promptly: “No Kabinett from Ritsch!” she declaimed categorically. Pity, for it would be a sensational wine, but then again I myself don’t own the vineyard.

I do own some back-vintages of this wine – the 2012 is ridiculously great – and this one is at least as good in an entirely different way. It tastes like a mixture of clean late-vintage botrytis plus a degree of dessication and conceivably even a nip of frost, just enough to give an evocation of Eiswein. But it doesn’t “read” terribly sweet; it’s rather like one of those savory ice-creams you make in a Paco-jet – from lime and verbena in this case – and whatever your view is of the “Auslese experience,” this wine isn’t it.

The palate has brilliance and depth, and the fragrances are peyote-vivid – you could drink it from a hose at Coachella. It is much too savory to be ghettoized as the “usual” Auslese.

Words begin to fail me. Oh I can get the tangible parts of the wine; it’s the intangibles that have me reeling. How do you fathom this lightness with this substance, and how on earth do you fathom these flavors? How do you pick a way through this unlikely mélange of green herbs and red berries? Have you ever conjured the combo of anise-hyssop and Mt. Rainier cherries? Are you able to contemplate the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel with the salty depth of old-vines savor?

This is perhaps the greatest Loewen wine I’ve yet tasted. And it’s early days yet for Christopher….


2020 Maximin Herrenberg Riesling Auslese                                  +

Full name Longuich Maximin Herrenberg.

<whew>….an amazing aroma. “Cherries and melons” doesn’t do justice to it.

This is what you expect from the Auslese genre, but it’s no less beautiful for all that. It’s gossamer and lyric and redolent of every sweet-green thing you can envision, and while its sweetness is on display it is couched in a delicacy and wrapped in herbal lychee top notes such that it belongs in a tasting menu as the “pre-dessert” that freshens the palate before all the buttery chocolatey business arrives. A cool lime pudding, so refined and pretty you wonder if you even need more dessert. (Have pity on the poor pastry-chef…)

The astonishing ’21 risks making this lovely wine feel plausible – but it isn’t. It’s simply more tangible though no less miraculous. That we recognize this miracle is hardly the fault of the wine. I know of very few ‘20s with this fine, pure botrytis.

You know, it’s not often that a single estate excels across the gamut from the mineral gnarl of the dry wines to the utmost finesse and restraint among the sweet ones. An ovation is warranted here and now!

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