Global warming has changed a lot of things about German wines. So have the changing tastes of some markets that have put an emphasis on dry/trocken versions of German wine (for better or worse), particularly from elite ‘grand cru’ sites from which the great dessert bottlings used to come. When we go to German tasting these days, we are typically forced to slog through 30% (or more) skeletal dry Rieslings among the offerings while there are only a handful of true Auslesen in the room.
Maybe tastes really have changed and the demand for the higher pradikat wines has waned in recent years. Our objection with Germany is that the traditional fruity style is what these vineyards do like nowhere else in the world, yet we are fighting Nature by superimposing a current winemaking ‘fad’ on vineyard sites who are best served doing what they have been doing for centuries. Those are fighting words to some of the ‘New Age’ wine types but, frankly, we don’t care. We love a great auslese and the Selbach-Oster Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg ‘Schmitt’ 2016 is a fine example of why.
Selabch-Oster is a top flight producer that owns parcels in several of the best sites on the Mosel, and he makes a lot of different bottlings. His ‘benchmark’ wines are from three very old plots high on the slopes within specific, high profile vineyards. One of these is Schmitt from the Zeltiner Himmelreich. Schmitt has a perfect southern exposure, but a deeper subsoil of crumbly, broken slate mixed with organic matter and loam. Importer Terry Thiesse likens the vineyard’s orientation further from the river and above the town where the human element creates additional warmth to that of Bernkasteler Doktor.
It is also made in a singular style. Whereas most Auslese are the result of several passes through the vineyard, Selbach harvests the whole block at once, fermenting the grapes of varied degrees of ripeness together to reflect not only the terroir, but the ‘moment’. The grapes are fermented with only their natural yeasts and allowed to determine their own fate, be that trocken or a knockout auslese like we have here.
Stephan Reinhardt wrote a love poem that covers all the bases succinctly, “The 2016 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Auslese “Schmitt” is a very clear, fresh and precise on the nose, with very fine mineral aromas of crunchy slate. This reminds me a bit of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr in its finesse, perfectly ripe fruit and the finest possible expression of minerals in wine. This is the finest Schmitt I have ever had and surely one of the greatest 2016s from the Mosel. Its finesse and elegance are mind-blowing…97 points“–
Great now and for a couple of decades hence.