Most Improbable: Stein Cabernet Sauvignon vom berg
We got a case of this wine a few months ago, and I thought I'd better not mention it, as there was no more to be had. Today I got notification that we can get more, and now I have to let you know about it. Mosel Cabernet folks! Scratch that, FULLY RIPE DELICIOUS MOSEL CABERNET!!! what? yes.
See below for my tasting note from about a month ago, and below that please take a look at David Schildknecht's note from 2019, and below the picture of a steep hillside populated by grapevines, please do read Stephen Bitterolf's words. He imports Ulli Stein's fabulous wines, and I don't think anyone's gonna tell the story of this bottle better than Stephen.
Stein Cabernet Sauvignon 'vom berg' 2018 - $55
Aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, dark chocolate, spring flowers, thyme, graphite, poblano, petrichor, a little red cherry, lime juice, coriander, tobacco, paprika... medium-bodied, fresh and lively, fine tannins grip, plenty of acid, the fruit is tart and crunchy but not without a ripe perfume, speaking of perfumes it fills the mouth with beguiling floral and vegetable aromas to offset the buoyant dark fruit. Finish is fresh and lively, with tangy and juicy dark fruit accented by airy spice, herbs, flowers.... Really cool stuff, it is gorgeous today, and I would not advise saving it too long without following it closely, but I also feel that I would not be surprised to find it nailing the high notes in 20+ years. -jpk
Although it had not yet received any SO2 and was some months from first racking and (unfiltered) bottling when I tasted it in early September 2019, I might not get another crack at reviewing this wine, which represents the contents of just two (impeccably sourced but well-used) barriques. It demonstrates not just that – as Stein has long predicted – a completely satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon is possible from the Mosel, but also that you can look to these slopes if you want ripely expressive Cabernet that weighs in at a mere 12.6% alcohol. Black currant and dried herbs on the nose express themselves as invigoratingly seedy and pungent on a firm but remarkably polished as well as infectiously juicy palate. A touch of salinity lends saliva-inducement to the pure fruit and subtle herbal savor of an impressively lingering finish. This was picked on October 22, and, as usual, fruit from a few rows of Merlot was included. It was slated for unfiltered, early 2020 bottling. Freed from the drying wood tannins that have burdened previous Stein Cabernets, this one might well satisfy for longer than my conservative quantified prognosis suggests. (Stein’s 2017 Cabernet is considerably less successful. A 2018 Sangiovese picked just after this Cabernet was very much a work in progress, though not without appeal. “I need to make a wine from this forbidden variety,” quipped Stein apropos of Sangiovese, “so that the authorities can compare my Cabernet with wine from another red grape that genuinely does have to struggle to ripen on the Mosel!”) - David Schildknecht
This one is limited, but I do love a good deal, so if you buy 2 bottles I'll knock 15% off.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to place your orders or inquiries.
From Stephen Bitterolf, of Vom Boden:
It's popular amongst artists to justify their art by the expression “It speaks for itself’. However, that doesn’t quite hold for the existence of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in the impossibly steep slopes of a grand cru site in the Mosel. This deserves an explanation.
Dr. Ulrich Stein, call him Ulli, is a staunch traditionalist—firmly committed to ungrafted old vines and steep slope viticulture—yet with a penchant towards the absurd and iconoclastic. Something like soulful audacity.
In a response to the longstanding Mosel ban on growing red grapes, Ulli planted some Pinot Noir in the 80’s to test the limits of the law. When he was found out by the local inspector, he feigned insanity much like King David—claiming the miraculous transformation of Riesling vines overnight. The inspector was confused enough to leave the property without too much trouble that day. The case was eventually taken through the bureaucracy and Ulli’s fight lead to the repeal of the fifty year ban in 1987. So what does one do with renewed freedom in long standing family land? Perhaps twist the knife just a little bit more by insisting that other red grapes be allowed as well as Pinot Noir. And of course, not just insisting for permission but planting Cabernet Sauvignon (of all things!) in his grand cru of Palmberg (of all places!)—an impossibly steep slope in the village of St. Aldegund where Ulli’s holding near a monopole.
In the decades since what was once a bit of a private joke to irk overbearing bureaucrats has turned into a striking wine and a firm notice that the wine world is not the same as it was. Climate change is here and this region that once could barely ripen these grapes is now putting out a wine of substance to rival the great mountain Cabernets of old school California.
It can take a little insanity to work in a world that has gone mad.