Friday, November 4, 2016

Tasting at Weingut Markus Molitor – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016

Pictures: Tasting at Weingut Markus Molitor

Weingut Markus Molitor was our first stop in the Mosel region. Markus Molitor was on a marketing tour in Asia and his partner Eike Kaspari was our host. Our visit coincided with Weingut Markus Molitor’s "Days of the Open Wine Cellar 2016". Given the circumstances, this tasting was not as intensive as the other tastings on the tour, but still comprehensive. 

Weingut Markus Molitor

In 1984, at the tender age of 20, Markus Molitor took over his father's winery with a clear aim: to produce Mosel Rieslings under the name "Molitor" in the tradition of eight generations and in the same quality that made the region world-famous 100 years ago – terroir-specific, unmistakeable and extremely storable. “80% inclination – 94% Riesling – 100% passion” is the slogan of Markus Molitor.

Ungrafted vines, some of them more than 100 years old, form the basis for the Molitor incomparable, fine Mosel Rieslings. This is quite a large estate with 150 acres of vineyards spread out within the Mosel and Saar valley.

Pictures: Arriving at Weingut Markus Molitor

The Vineyards

The vineyards of Weingut Molitor are spread out over locations from Brauneberg to Traben-Trarbach and, since 2001, also along the River Saar. The vineyards are stocked mainly with Riesling, while Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir are grown on certain selected areas. Pinot Noir on the Mosel? The cultivation of red wine on the Mosel was only prohibited by law in the 1930s. What a lot of people don't know: before that, large areas of the Mosel winegrowing region were covered with Pinot Noir!

The grapes are picked exclusively by hand in several rounds, so that what was carefully observed and nurtured for 350 days of the year is brought to its climax in the harvest. Time is a decisive factor. Despite the increased risk, Markus Molitor harvests quite late. This gives the grapes time to ripen physiologically – the most important criterion to develop the optimum balance of the wines with increased extract values and animating acidity.

Markus Molitor also places great emphasis on the natural management of the vineyards. Soils enriched by exclusively organic means, deliberately gentle cultivation of the vineyards and a balanced leaf-fruit ratio deliver the desired high quality of the grapes – and set the standards for the potential of the resulting wines. High walls of leaves ensure the ideal supply of nutrients for fewer grapes per vine and promote the optimum in terms of extract yield and physiological maturity.

Slate not only has excellent heat storage properties, it is also distinguished by a very specific, localized mineral composition. Blueschist, grey shale and Rotliegend are the best known types of slate, while there are also numerous interim forms.

Pictures: Markus Molitor and Eike Kaspari at the Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2015 Awards Ceremony in Mainz, Germany

Brauneberger Klostergarten: Overall a very mixed site. Two very steep and two medium steep plots with finely granulated slate soils and a large proportion of stones are mainly planted with Pinot Noir clones of French origin.

Brauneberger Mandelgraben: Overall a very mixed site, ranging from flat to steep. A sloping site that stretches up to the forest, and has ideal water availability even in hot, dry years, with grapes retaining their acidity very well. The rich slate soil is stony with hard quartzite and gravel, producing piquant acidity and finesse.

Bernkasteler Graben: This site is located directly beside the legendary Bernkasteler Doktor vineyard, the most expensive vineyard site in Germany (possibly the world), and is very similar in quality. Planted with extremely old Riesling vines. A relatively rich slate soil that is stony, but never dries out. The wines have an unobtrusive but highly elegant and rich fruitiness and a clear slatey flavour. The sweet wines from this site are extremely complex and complete.

Bernkasteler Badstube: The vineyards located towards the upper end of the site consist of fine slate soils with very good water-retention properties. This produces a very fresh, lively, exceptionally typical Mosel Riesling wine with stable acidity and very good maturation potential, even in the case of the lighter dry wines.

Bernkasteler Lay: Another small top-class terroir in Bernkastel, whose reputation is overshadowed somewhat by the better-known Doktor site. Here we own very good quality plots in the heart of the site with extremely old vines. The slate here is decomposed and fine, regularly producing excellent quality, very ripe harvests with extremely elegant and filigree fruit.

Graacher Himmelreich: Not as steep in all sections as the Domprobst site, but to some extent with even richer slate soils, the site produces very racy, crisp Riesling grapes with firm body and particularly good for dry or off-dry wines. This is our oldest red wine vineyard, producing Pinot Noir with lots of fire and power, needing a long time to mature and develop.

Erdener Treppchen: One of the most famous and legendary top-quality sites of the Middle Mosel. An extremely steep, classically south-facing slope, characterised by stony blue and grey slate soils that are not too dry. Produces most impressive full-bodied, elegantly fruity wines with tremendous ripeness and finesse.

Pictures: Annette and Christian Schiller with Eike Kaspari of Weingut Markus Molitor

Ürziger Würzgarten: The "Ürziger" site is traditionally considered to be a specialty among the Middle Mosel vineyards due to its red iron-rich soil mixed with fine slate. This gives the grapes grown here a totally distinctive character, with spice and opulent fruit as well as a crisp, hearty acid backbone, which produces a tremendously full-bodied wine when combined with emphatic residual sugar, particularly in our Spätlese wines.

Zeltinger Schlossberg: This vineyard site is located above and around the Sonnenuhr site. It is also very steep and has to some extent even richer slate soils than found in the Sonnenuhr, producing crisp and hearty wines with firm acidity and a mineral aftertaste. Ideally suited for particularly dry wines.

Zeltinger Himmelreich: The largest vineyard in Zeltingen with steep slopes as well as flat sections. 95% of the areas owned by the Molitor winery are located on steep and extremely steep slopes, with only 5% in moderate slopes. The soil is made up of fine and decomposed slate, ranging from light to quite deep. Elegant, often beautifully full-bodied and juicy Riesling wines with elegant yellow fruit notes and an interplay of slate.

Zeltinger Sonnenuhr: Covering less than 20 hectares this top Middle Mosel site has mainly very old, ungrafted vines (often more than 80 years old) with fine but also very stony soils of mostly quite light blue Devon slate. The oldest and best plots are often located on small terraces with very little soil, producing very low yields (10-20 hl/ha) of exceptional quality. This site produces our greatest dry and off-dry wines as well as many of our top botrytis wines. All wines grown on the Sonnenuhr have an incomparably elegant ripeness relative to the vintage.

Wehlener Klosterberg: This is at the heart of our vineyards, and stretches up the steep slopes around the winery buildings. It is located in a side valley directly opposite Zeltingen, and faces almost due south. Light to medium-heavy stony soils of decomposed slate with a high proportion of iron to produce mineral-flavoured and long-lived wines with delicate, elegant fruit. Apart from Riesling, our elegant Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder) grapes are also grown here.

Pictures: Tasting at Weingut Markus Molitor with Eike Kaspari

Wehlener Sonnenuhr: This world-famous top vineyard site borders on the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr but is much more extensive, and thus more variable in quality. The soil is also very stony, but in sections somewhat deeper. It would be splitting hairs to compare the wines of the two Sonnenuhr sites, as both are of exceptionally high quality. Whereas the Wehlen wines are always impressive for their juicy fruit, their unique balance and interplay of nuances, and their slightly piquant acidity, the Zeltingen wines often have an even more impressive ripeness, and an even more incomparable filigree delicacy.

Graacher Domprobst: This is one of the top sites of Graach, relatively small and facing south-west. Here we own some very steep plots of vineyard with a fine, stony slate soil that is not too dry, and indeed is close to perfection. Full-bodied, slatey wines with great character in the dry range, but also extract-rich late harvest and botrytis grapes with a wonderful acid aftertaste.

Pictures: 6 Flights

Haus Klosterberg

The winery is based at the centre of the Wehlener Klosterberg site. Built at the end of the 19th century as a winery, and acquired in 1984 by Markus Molitor, the estate has been restored to its former glory by extensive renovations between 2009 and 2012. With great affection for detail, using historical and modern materials, the estate with its new Vinothek is an architectural highlight among the wineries on the Mosel and has won several awards including the "Architekturpreis Wein 2013".

The old, three-storey vaulted cellar cut out of the slate offers an optimum, permanently cool climate with high humidity in which the wines are fermented extremely slowly. Alongside maturation in stainless steel tanks, the wines are fermented and matured in large (1000 l, 2000 l, 3000 l) wooden barrels of high-grade, air-seasoned oak to ensure an especially natural flavour. These are the ideal maturation containers for high-quality Rieslings and, thanks to natural clarification and moderate oxygen contact, result in the same unmistakeable flavour as they have been doing for centuries.

At Weingut Molitor, the wines are fermented at low temperature and slowly over months. After a pause in the winter, fermentation is ended as the temperatures start to rise in the spring. The wines are then left to lie for several more months on the fine yeast to give them bloom and depth.

In contrast to fermentation with industrially selected yeast cultures, with spontaneous fermentation the yeasts naturally occurring on the skin of the grapes convert the grape sugar into alcohol. Numerous yeast cultures, each of which is dominant at different stages of fermentation, turn the sweet grape juice into delicious Mosel Riesling. The diversity of natural yeasts enhances the complexity of the wines and gives authentic expression to the terroir character. Another advantage of spontaneous fermentation is the lower alcohol yield.

Pictures: The New Mosel Bridge

The Colour Code

The bottles are colour coded according to the taste category of the wine. The dry wines have a white cap. The off-dry wines have a grey-green colour like slate. We do not use the term "semi-dry", as "feinherb" or "off-dry" is the historical term for this style of Mosel Riesling and provides a much better description of the flavour profile of the wines. The naturally sweet and botrytis wines have a gold cap. However, the use of a gold cap for the Molitor Rieslings is not based on any quality evaluation as might be the case with other Mosel wineries who offer gold cap, long gold cap or extra-long gold cap wines.

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