Great Growths and Great Owls: Top Wines from Lauer and Weiser-Künstler

Article written for Chambers Street Wines, view it here

The dizzying pitch of the Schoenfels vineyard drops straight down to the Saar river. (photo by Stephen Bitterolf)

2013 in the Mosel was tricky, a vintage made difficult primarily from rain during the harvest, but if there is one takeaway from the story of the vintage, it's that results varied widely from grower to grower -- and it's possible that Florian Lauer made the best 2013ers of anyone in the region.

Lauer was successful largely because he began picking earlier than most, when the grapes were at 75 Oechsle (18-19 degrees Brix), which is low for recent years, but about Kabinett level for most of the Saar's history. Most growers waited for more ripeness and for the rains to stop -- but they never did, and with a lot of fruit already on the ground, many harvests lasted only a few days. Florian's early start, however, was crucial, and he was able to extend his harvest from the first week in October through the end of the month. Besides this great advantage, the bright acids of the vintage suit his style quite well. Constructed with a bit more meat on their bones, a citrusy lift adds a stunning amount of complexity and a three-dimensional quality across the lineup.

Weiser-Künstler's dry offerings by contrast, including their top Ellergrub GE (Grosse Eule or Great Owl, a play on the VDP's GG/Great Growth designation), are more raw, but fabulously so. Thrilling and expressive, they are as distinctive and pure as ever, vivid and with many years of life ahead of them. Though 2013 was difficult for most, the 80 to 110 year-old ungrafted vines like those of Gaispfad and Ellergrub are a huge asset, as is the focused, careful work of Alexandra Künstler and Konstantin Weiser that seems to improve with each vintage, regardless of the challenges. Jonathan Kemp

Lauer, Peter 2013 Saar Ayler Kupp Riesling Fass 6 'Senior'

This year's 'Senior,' the cuvée based on the style preferred by Florian Lauer's grandfather, is in a magical place right now. When it arrived in September it was a little stern, but it has since blossomed into a wine that will thrill Riesling lovers of every style. With a sleek core of lemon, rock salt, and metal, it has pretty floral overtones and is left with a delicious amount of residual sugar, nothing extreme, but it is balanced perfectly with the higher acids of the vintage. This interplay between the generous, richer elements and the cleansing, bright structure provides an intoxicating tension and complexity to the wine. This is a fantastic bottle to have with sauteéd pork chops or fresh fish in richer sauces, especially those with mustard or brown butter. Stock up on this, it will not disappoint.

Lauer, Peter 2013 Saar Riesling Kupp GG

Dusty, confectionery, soft aromas. This is really pretty and open, easy, pleasant, and ethereal. Floral, subtle, a joy to imbibe.

Lauer, Peter 2013 Saar Riesling Fass 13 Saarfeilser GG

A little more tightly-wound than the other GG's at this stage, but there's a lot of promise. Metal, citrus, stone, and a spicy palate with great detail. Zesty acids, salt, and a structure that is almost a little chunky, but this meaty foundation will loosen up a bit with time.

Lauer, Peter 2013 Saar Riesling Fass 11 'Schonfels' GG

From one of the great sites in all of Germany, the Schoenfels is rife with ungrafted, 100 year-old vines on steep slate facing that plunges down to the Saar river. 2013 produced a wine with a lot of life and energy, all in a detailed, subtle package that is not showy, forceful, or harsh. Aromas of kiwi, meringue, thyme developing into rocks, menthol, and hops on the palate. It certainly has the bright acidity that reflects the vintage but it is integrated, lemon-y, and balanced with a soft viscosity. The acidity drives the finish, however, which is quite long and invigorating. This is approachable now and enjoyable, but will of course continue to improve. It is remarkably expressive, complex, mysterious, and deep and is a testament to the old vines and hard work of Lauer. Though still young, it already seems to fulfill the high expectation for greatness promised by the Grosses Gewächs designation.

Weiser-Künstler 2013 Mosel Enkircher Steffensberg Riesling

From south-facing slopes and younger vines, this is edgy, focused, and impressive. Lots of texture to accompany the crispy acids and subtle, Granny Smith fruit. Powerful and expressive, but not missing the trademark purity and heady depth we've come to love from Weiser-Künstler. Will only continue to develop and improve.

Weiser-Künstler 2013 Mosel Trabener Gaispfad Riesling

From ungrafted vines roughly 80 years-old on iron-rich gray slate. This takes the high acidity of the vintage and reins it into an remarkably focused structure that harnesses a wide range of detail and nuance. Subtle, pretty fruit, white peach, apricot, and minerals with understated textural elements on the finish.

Weiser-Künstler 2013 Ellergurb Riesling Trocken 'Grosse Eule'

From 100-110 year-old ungrafted vines on blue and gray slate, the Ellergrub is the star of Weiser-Künstler's sites. Because of the natural force of this wine, they chose to use older barrique instead of fuder to help tame it a bit more. This is a powerful wine that verges on the severe but instead manages to be focused, intense, and deeply expressive. There is a lot happening here. A salty, mineral palate that is subtle, mysterious, and complex is framed with vivid, chiseled acids. Absolutely compelling. It will reward some time in bottle but is a bit of a thrill to encounter now.