2019 Hofgut Falkenstein: true delight
Updated: Feb 25
It might look a bit decrepit and moldy, it may be small and dimly lit, but knowing what pristine treasures lie within those barrels, we'll contend that the image above depicts one of the world's greatest cellars; it is where the Weber family, of Hofgut Falkenstein, ferments and ages all of their delicious wine.
While a busy world pre-pays (read: overpays) for a lake of 2019 Bordeaux, wines that will not be delivered for years, you can enjoy the Webers' incredible 2019 vintage today. There is no pomp, the circumstances are simply that a talented family is making great wine from extraordinary vineyards, and these wines are supreme being bottled young. That being said, you should certainly save your Falkies; any wine from Hofgut Falkenstein will age more gracefully than the vast majority of wines on our messed up little planet, including so much primped (pimped?) BDX. Unlike Bordeaux, none of Falkenstein's bottles will soon (nothing to see here, the insane value to be found in fine German wine is not an opportunity for investors, keep chasing mass-produced Girondais Cab and Merlot, amen) be hoarded and traded for returns. Today's most expensive bottles of booze are jet-setting commodities, literally crisscrossing the globe transactionally and regularly, but German wines are not so fashionable. The price may not lead you to believe that you're drinking some of the world's most precious grape juice when you crack open a bottle of Falkenstein, but follow your instincts, taste the natural splendor of sunshine, soil, roots and fruit; Falkenstein is as good as it gets, fight us.
Some contemporary consciousness of Riesling seems to be forever on the rise: writers, sommeliers, merchants, connoisseurs continue to preach - riesling's where it's at - but it is clear that the masses have not converted. Riesling's rep may be ascendant but it is all to often backed into a corner and accused of rote sweeness. We'll give that estimation some cred, as most Riesling is bottled as a mass-produced commodity, catering to a demand for sweet wines, but we'll also say "lots of riesling is bone dry" and "if it's real, why wouldn't you want some sweet sweetness in your life?". We'll also say that the difference between cloying drivel and deep thought might should be obvious.
Erich Weber has devoted his life to growing grapes, mostly Riesling but also some Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir, on the steep slopes behind the towns of Niedermennig and Krettnach, in Germany's Saar River valley. In 1981, when there was virtually no demand for authentic terroir-driven Riesling, Erich began making wine at Hofgut Falkenstein. Today, he and his son Johannes make wine in much the same way: everything is done by hand, no pesticides or herbicides are used in the vineyards, contiguous plots of vines are vinified and bottled separately, old neutral barrels raise their wines, and nothing is added until bottling, when a minimal amount of sulfur is added. Ancient Northern European tribes introduced the Romans to wood barrels, and the Romans used sulfur to preserve wine; if there was ancient wine being made in Falkenstein's neck of the woods, we might imagine it to be similar to what we've got in the bottle from Erich and Johannes today (ummmm, there probably would have been some skin contact, soooo no).
Have we said enough? Not really. We did not yet mention that the Webers farm very old vines, some ungrafted, on sites that have been esteemed among the best in Germany since at least the 19th century. We should perhaps inform you that Falkenstein only makes about 100 cases of each of their wines. Can't believe we forgot to tell you how passionate, humble, and friendly is the crew at Falkenstein. Let us know if you want more information. We want to know more about Falkenstein too, so we're hoping you'll ask a question we can't answer!
If you haven't tried any Falkenstein, just know you're missing out. We usually say that the best re-introduction to Riesling is through dry wines, but Falkenstein's dry wines are very dry, so we recommend starting with one of their feinherbs, which are light and refreshing, and just a bit sweet. If you want something to save for the long haul, go for the sweeter Euchariusberg wines. If you decide to try a dry wine (labeled "trocken", German for "dry"), you've been warned; they're true delight.
Take a look at these. If you plan to buy 3 or more bottles of 2019 Falkenstein, please let us know, and we'll knock 15% off your order. This offer is good through the end of July.
Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken AP #1 $25
Niedermenniger Sonnnenberg Riesling Kabinett trocken AP #9 $25
Krettnacher Altenberg Riesling Spatlese trocken AP #7 $28
Krettnacher Ober Schafershaus Riesling Spatlese trocken AP #18 $30
Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb AP #15 $25
Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spatlese feinherb AP #4 $28
Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Spatlese feinherb magnum AP #4 $63
Niedermenniger Im Kleinschock Riesling Kabinett AP #20 $27
Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett AP #12 $28
Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Kabinett Alte Reben AP #8 $35
Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese AP #5 $42
Niedermenniger Herrenberg Weissburgunder Spatlese trocken AP #2 $28
Niedermenniger Herrenberg Spatburgunder trocken AP #10 $31
All the wines listed above are in stock. They are all 2019 vintage except the last, the Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir), which is 2018 vintage. Each is limited. Some are extremely limited in quantity. They just arrived. We loved the fresh and powerful Ober Schafershaus trocken, and we found the Herrenberg Spatlese feinherb AP #4 to be a paragon of Saar elegance . See below for John Paul's note on the AP #4.
Lifted and ethereal, living up to feinherb expectations. Lime candy, white grapefruit, green apple, bruised peach. Breezy and herbal: a little mint, a little coriander and pepper, vegetable broth, roses and honey. Poised and tense, rich and weightless at once, with chalky and silky textures, and a long coating finish. It is all about the vibrant interplay of acid and sweet, but there's plenty of earthy, floral, herbal and mineral nuance along the way. A baby, it'll open up beautifully for many years and be worth saving a decade or two beyond that.