Mosel is the oldest wine region in Germany, comprising vine-growing areas along the Mosel River and its two tributaries, the Saar and the Ruwer. It also has the steepest vineyards in the world, with half the sites on slopes of over 30 degrees and some at even a 70-degree gradient!

Weingut Peter Lauer has been a family winegrower in Saar since 1830, with vineyards on some of the steepest slopes around the village of Ayl, and it only produces Riesling. Being a VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) member, the winery has classified its wine according to the terroir, producing dry Riesling from Grand Cru sites called Grosses Gewächs (GG).

Florian Lauer is the fifth-generation winemaker, and he recently led a vertical tasting of one of his GG Rieslings from the Schonfels site. We tasted the 2019, 2016 and 2011 vintages to see how the wine has developed over time.

Schonfels, meaning “nice rock”, is located above the Saar River on steep slopes of 72 degrees. It is a very warm site, facing south south-east, with slate rock. However, since there is no forest on top of the hill, the wind blows down the slopes and cools the grapes, creating a microclimate that allows grapes in different parts of the vineyard to develop in different ways. For example, the lower part of the vineyard is warmer, yielding grapes with riper aromas. According to Lauer, the different maturation profiles of the grapes from this 109-year-old site create the perfect marriage to produce this signature wine.

Lauer explained the ageing development of German GG Riesling. The wine is in its fruit phase when it is two years old, and then it closes down a bit before entering its youthful drinking phase between 4–6 years old. It shuts down again and wakes up to its mature phase at the age of 10, where the wine stays at this peak for at least five years. This timetable does not apply to all wine, but the development phase is similar. The quicker the shutdown phase begins, the shorter the ageing period.

The 2019 Schonfels GG Riesling is three years old, displaying fresh citrus and pear aromas that are layered with spices and pepper. The six-year-old 2016 is still very fresh, with peach and nectarine notes and a more integrated mouthfeel. The 2011 is complex, with floral and peach aromas, plus a hint of dried fruits, and a round palate. All three vintages are intense yet subtle and precise. This wine fits in with the development cycle to which Lauer referred.

There are two other GG Rieslings – one from the Kupp site, another slate vineyard at a 68º gradient, and the other from Saarfeilser, which has sandy, gravelly soil instead of slate.

In addition to still wine, Lauer also produces Riesling Winzersekt – sparkling wine made in the traditional champagne method (secondary fermentation in the bottle) using Riesling. Two of the limited releases of vintage Winzersekt (1984 and 1987) have more than 30 years of ageing on lees, which is very rare in the world of sparkling wine.

A century ago, Riesling from the Mosel region was the world’s most expensive white wine. Lauer likes to say that he is making Riesling for advanced learners. At Vinothek Berlin, the German wine experience pop-up store held in June here in Hong Kong, Weingut Peter Lauer was the bestseller. I don’t think we need to graduate from an advanced wine course in order to appreciate Lauer’s wine!

Weingut Peter Lauer is available in Hong Kong from DECO Wines.

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A marketer turned winemaker, I make, promote, judge, write about and drink wine.

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