Saar Succulence: 2018 Hofgut Falkenstein
In general, one ought to think of the Mosel as a cool-climate wine region. However, the most famous vineyards of the most famous section of the Mosel are intense sun traps, and they have the potential to ripen grapes perfect for rich golden elixirs, sometimes of extraordinary sweetness. Some time ago, the Saar got lumped into the Mosel region, but the great vineyards here are so different from those of the reknowned mittel Mosel; putting it simply, they are much cooler and windier. The best vineyards in the Saar are capable of making incredible sweet wines, but most of the wines of the Saar are necessarily lean and elegant; the cold does not nourish and Saar grapes tend to maintain high levels of strong acid through harvest.
Hofgut Falkenstein works one of the most historically significant vineyard sites in the Saar, the original Euchariusberg cru of Krettnach, as well as several sites in its vicinity. They make a diverse range of Rieslings that are not only among the very best of Germany, but also incredibly distinctive. Their style emphasizes what they call "zappelt": the lively quality of Saar wine, the positively invigorating blend of flavors that zip around the palate, often very fruity, totally fresh and very long on minerality and acidity.
Falkenstein is hot, which leaves many a cold trail for their most sought after bottlings. Every year these wines have disappeared more quickly, and each year I find more people with whom I can share these precious (sorry not sorry) bottles. Seriously serious about these guys, in just a year of business we offered sixteen different wines, from two vintages, from this tiny winery. How is this possible? Well, each of Falkenstein's wines is a single-site single-cask bottling, so even though they don't make much wine, there's a ton of variety. And why should you care? Because these are some of the most delicious (and rare) wines in the world and you can get them all for $20-something, which is absurd when you think about what you would have to spend to get any where near this realm in a place like Burgundy.
We love Falkenstein. How about you?
I visited Hofgut Falkenstein about a month ago. It was very windy and we hung out with the Weissburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc) for a bit to cool down before entering the frigid cellars to taste through 21 fresh wines. It was awesome (I had good socks and boots). There were many favorites, but here's a quick and random rundown if you would: the Auslese remains a deal of the century, anything Euchariusberg is to be hoarded, Oberschaferhaus is sweet in 2018 which is weird but cool, the trockens have an ethereal tropical side that is incredible. Any of their wines is just a pleasure, but the Kabinetts were mostly notable for their more open and expressive personalities. The sweetest wines should be given a couple years in the bottle, at least.
A quick discussion of the 2018 vintage is also appropriate. It was a very warm growing season. Berries were small but there happened to be plenty of juice, so yields were good. Acidity was lower than usual and more sweet wines were made. Seeking to use only the most fresh and acidic material, Falkenstein sold the juice that came from the end of their pressings. The 2018s at Falkenstein are more opulent than would be typical, but they are as delicate and fine as ever, with salt and stones backing up an incredible array of fruit flavors. As usual, even the Auslese (their sweetest wine) has incredible cut and mineral depth, making a serious case for itself as one of the world's best. Their 2018s are pure, fruity, lively and fresh, just way too easy to drink, in a word: succulent. We need them. We'll get them. You should get some too.