Tag Archives: weiser-künstler

2011 Weiser-Künstler Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Kabinett


Pick up some champagne with your wine.

Disclaimer: I entered into a tentative agreement with the online wine retailer Wine Chateau under which they sponsor two of my posts per month. Wine Chateau has no influence on the topic I select for the post or its content. Opinions expressed are all mine.</id

I wrote this piece a while back but never published it…it is still a good summer story.

It is about time I write about a Riesling again, especially before I go on my summer break…and the time for a wonderful wine came after our Napa Cabernet Sauvignon vertical.

I have written about the winery Weiser-Künstler extensively before, you can see my winery visit report here. I even wrote a post before in which I compared this wine with the 2011 Spätlese from the same vineyard. When I want to impress friends with a good Riesling, this is one of the few wineries I tend to pick out for that purpose. The quality is usually very good, and the wines have the ability to even make less enthusiastic wine drinkers appreciate what good Riesling can stand for. It has been about a year now since I tried this wine last, so it might be interesting to compare the notes for this wine, a year later. As a reminder, the wine has 8% ABV and comes from a vineyard that the importer describes as the “Scharzhofberg” of the Mosel…pretty high praise, especially when you know my very weak spot for the Scharzhofberg. I tend to agree. All the wines from this hill that I have had were incredibly pleasant…

But back to my old notes; in June 2012 I described the wine like this:

“The 2011 Weiser-Künstler Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Kabinett had a nose of spontaneous fermentation, something I will write about in another post in more depth. Suffice it to say that the wines initially are more smelly/stinky when poured than you expect, which levels out after a bit. On the palate, the wine was lean, with yellow fruits and enough acidity to carry it. The wine held a perfect balance of acidity and sugar and was just great to drink. It was refreshing and easy to drink.”

Now, in June 2013, I am looking at my notes and it is actually pretty interesting:

The 2011 Weiser-Künstler Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Kabinett showed itself in a very pale, light color, it looked almost as clear as water. That was surprising, I didn’t remember it that way. In the nose, spontaneous fermentation was still very prominent, followed by peach aromas. On the palate, this medium bodied wine seemed very ripe, with aromas of peach, pear and some cream. There was a rather low acidity this time around, still noticeable, but definitely less prominent than my previous note suggested. The wine had a rather short finish. A bit into the tasting, I started getting some strawberry aromas. I liked this wine a lot. It has a sophistication to it that is very pleasant. It is not a deep wine, but it changes enough in the glass to keep surprising you again and again. In a more subdued state right now, less refreshing than in 2012.

The wines are imported by vom Boden (who have an excellent German portfolio!) and are therefore available in the US. Weiser-Künstler produces in rather low quantities, so if you ever come across this label, which is rather easy to remember, pick up a bottle. Who knows when you will next see one. And I bet you won’t be disappointed…

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Comparing Kabinett and Spätlese via 2011 wines by Weiser-Künstler

The row

Way back in August when I wrote about my winery visit at Weiser-Künstler in Traben-Trarbach (see here), I promised to write a comparison of the kabinett and spätlese styles from the same vineyard, the Enkircher Ellergrub, because I feel like they show the difference in the two styles very well and it gives me a chance to explain these two a bit more.

Kabinett and spätlese are two levels in the German wine classification system, kabinett being the entry level wine with distinction (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat), and spätlese the next level. Technically, they are defined by the German Wine Act of 1972, and this classification is only based on the residual sugar in the grapes at harvest time (defined by degrees on the Oechsle scale). The winemakers measure that with a so-called refractometer in the vineyard, measuring the density of the grape juice that is dripped onto the instrument. When the grapes reach the required sugar level (Kabinett: minimum 70 degrees Oechsle for the Mosel; Spätlese minimum 76 degrees Oechsle for the Mosel), the winemaker can harvest them. That is why the different levels of distinction can come from one and the same vineyard. The winemaker simply harvests batches as they ripen. Usually, the more sugar in the grape, the longer the grapes where on the vine and exposed to the sun. But if it rains a lot, the grapes can also soak in more water and therefore have lower sugar levels, so rains at harvest time can be detrimental for the classification.

You might have noticed that the levels of distinction only know minimum values: 70 degrees for kabinett, and 76 for spätlese (both at the Mosel). That means that a winemaker can designate a wine a kabinett that technically could be labelled spätlese or even auslese. It happens frequently and has led to much confusion among wine drinkers. Now, why would a winemaker do that? With the temperatures continuously rising in Germany over the last decades, we have seen Oechsle measurements rising as well. In the 1970s, when the Wine Act was passed, 76 degrees oechsle was a lot. Nowadays, it is standard, and would be considered a low measurement. That puts winemakers in a bind. If you harvest too early, when the sugar content in the grape is still low, the grape is also not ripe, which leads to aromas in the wine that you really don’t want. But if you only produce auslesen, consumers and restaurants will not buy your wines,  because an auslese does not sell very well in a restaurant, being a typical dessert wine. So, a lot of winemakers have begun down-labelling their wines.

On the one hand, that is great for consumers, because you get wines that would normally be more expensive at the price of a kabinett. But on the other hand, it also produces heavy weight kabinetts, that have nothing in common with the lighter, fresher image that kabinett has. And that can be frustrating if you open a bottle with a certain expectation, and then find a spät- or even auslese in there. If you know what you get, that is fine, but if you have not had the wine before, it can ruin your plans with that bottle.

True kabinetts are remarkable wines, and it is harder and harder to find them. One of my favorite Mosel wine review teams (Moselfinewines, more on them in a separate post) lately admonished wine makers to produce these beauties again. They argued that it is easy these days to make spätlesen and auslesen, but that the true challenge is producing classical kabinett wines and that winemakers that want to shine, should focus on these, because there is definitely demand for them.

How much nicer is it, when you actually find two distinct wines in a winery portfolio that highlight the difference in the two wine styles in amazing precision. And that is where Konstantin Weiser of Weiser-Künstler comes in. He produced a very clean kabinett from the Enkircher Ellergrub and you can compare it with the spätlese from the same hill.

The 2011 Weiser-Künstler Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Kabinett had a nose of spontaneous fermentation, something I will write about in another post in more depth. Suffice it to say that the wines initially are more smelly/stinky when poured than you expect, which levels out after a bit. On the palate, the wine was lean, with yellow fruits and enough acidity to carry it. The wine held a perfect balance of acidity and sugar and was just great to drink. It was refreshing and easy to drink.

The 2011 Weiser-Künstler Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Spätlese, which just like the Kabinett was harvested from exclusively fully ripe grapes without any noble rot, in contrast already showed a higher viscosity in the glass with peach notes dominating. Upon reaching my palate, it became broad, filling out my whole mouth. It had a wonderfully silky texture, with strong aromas of peach and a nice level of acidity (impressive in the 2011s!). It had a long finish, and just showed wonderful elegance, beauty and depth.

What a difference a couple of degrees Oechsle can make…give both of them a try, if you get a chance.

PS: After writing this, I checked the Moselfinewine review, and apparently they are of the opinion that the Kabinett has a spätlese feel to it and the Spätlese an auslese feel…hmmm. I am not sure I agree, the tasting was back in June and my notes do not read that way. That said, they both got raving reviews: 93 points for the Kabinett and 92 for the Spätlese.

See the vineyard here: www.weinlagen-info.de

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Wine travelling in Germany

I have mentioned it in passing, but Nina and I will be in Germany for three weeks in June and early July. I cannot tell you how excited we are about this. Not only for seeing friends and family, but also for all the wine tasting opportunities. Wine tasting and travelling in Germany is incredibly pleasant. The wine culture is still very much based on local, small wineries with farm-like structures. Now, I am not saying that the winemakers are mere “peasants”, on the contrary. They are smart businessmen, and they know they produce for a world market. Yet, they have retained a lot of the wonderful ease of access that their fathers established and that is one of the best features of German wine culture. It also gives you super-easy access to winemakers and their knowledge and treasure trove of stories.

Tasting with Stefan Erbes and friends in May 2011

While Nina and I lived in Trier, we would make a habit of wine touring on weekends. We would drive down the Mosel and ring random doorbells at wineries and ask whether we could try their wines. We were never turned down. We had wine tastings in fancy tasting rooms, kitchens, wine cellars and wine storage rooms. The overwhelming majority of winemakers was friendly, and once they realized we cared about wine, they usually opened bottle after bottle to try for us, and we often ended up hours later, with many wines tried. American friends who have taken part in these are usually amazed by the generosity (there is nothing like that twinkle in a winemaker’s eye when he announces that he still has a BA or TBA open for us to try…) and the fun. The winemaker will sit down with us and enjoy his wines with us. For me, it has always been like this, so that is what I expect…As a caveat: That does not necessarily work at the big estates with stellar reputation. But it is true for a lot of the wineries just beneath those.

Also, the tastings are usually free. However, I firmly believe in the principle that since the winemaker opened his cellar and wines for us, courtesy requires that I buy at least a case. The cool thing is, in a tasting you will usually find a wine or two that you like. Rather low prices at German wineries also made this affordable for this usually cash-strapped blogger…

Tasting with Mario Schwang of Reuscher-Haart and friends in May 2011

The 2011 vintage is said to be phenomenal. Check out the German Wine Institute’s vintage report here. After very low yields in 2010, 2011 brought vast improvements in yield and quality. The president of the Wine Growers’ Association announced: “In terms of quality, the 2011 vintage leaves nothing to be desired. Thanks to the textbook autumn a large part of the harvest has reached predicate wine level. Wine lovers will get a lot of 2011 wine for their money and have a great choice in all quality levels.“

So, naturally, I am super-stoked to get to try this vintage at some of my favorite wineries (and then share with you). We currently have made plans with the following wineries (in alphabetical order):

Karl Erbes, Ürzig (Mosel)
Within one wine tasting in May 2011, we became great friends with Stefan Erbes, the maker of beautiful rieslings…

Gunderloch, Nackenheim (Rheinhessen)
THE winery in my hometown. I went to school with the oldest daughter, and now her brother is taking over more and more in this excellent winery.

Dr. Hermann, Ürzig (Mosel)
Christian Hermann is a genius with wine. They produce stellar collection after stellar collection each year.

Klaus Meierer, Kesten (Mosel)
This will be a first for us. Really excited about the opportunity!

Reuscher-Haart, Piesport (Mosel)
Mario Schwang, the winemaker, is one of the coolest wine guys I know and it is always great to get to hang out with him and his great wines.

Vereinigte Hospitien, Trier (Mosel and Saar)
Used to be my go-to winery in Trier, with wines from spectacular locations. This time around we will get a tour of the cellars and try some wines old and new (actually thanks to my post about their 1987 which made the person that sold me the wine invite me!!).

Weiser-Künstler, Traben-Trarbach (Mosel)
One of last year’s biggest discoveries for me. Konstantin and Alexandra’s wines have a depth and finesse that is mind-boggling. Their 2010 dry riesling ranks among the very best dry rieslings I’ve ever had.

We will probably add some more to that list along the way…

If ever you get to go on a wine trip to Germany, give the let’s go and ring a random doorbell approach a try. I have made some great discoveries that way. There are incredible winemakers out there waiting for you to discover their wines.

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