Karthäuserhof Riesling Alte Reben Spätlese trocken 2015
Winemaker: Sascha Dannhäuser
Region: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
Shipping: Available now
Today’s dry Riesling is a triumph, and while the winegrowers at Karthäuserhof have a lot to do with this, it’s a fact that the Mosel River Valley delivers such wines on a regular basis – wines that showcase Riesling’s incomparable diversity of expressions. With inviting and expressive aromas of white flower and citrus on the nose, followed by equally expressive mineral and petrol notes on the palate, this is a racy, elegant wine of great balance and freshness that leads to a brilliant finish.
With almost a millennium of history, it’s safe to say that the wines of Karthäuserhof are hundreds of years in the making. They are a portal into the wonderful world of Riesling, which, once entered, is hard to leave.
Karthäuserhof is the eighth oldest winegrowing estate in the world and one of the most storied and iconic in Germany. The estate is located just before the Ruwer River meets the Mosel, nestled along a side valley adjacent the small village of Eitelsbach. The estate consistently produces excellent, classic, traditional wines across a range of styles; fruity, sweet, classically off dry (feinherb) and classically dry (trocken). And they offer the potential for long aging while preserving an uncanny freshness at whatever time you open these wines. Above all, these are easy to drink wines in a classic, minerally style. The fruit is not the focus here, as the interplay of minerals and acidity is what makes the wines of Karthäuserhof so special and exceptional.
The Romans were the first to grow wines here. Officially founded as a monastery in 1335, this “Farm of the Carthusians” was given to the monks of the Carthusian order by Prince-Elector Balduin of Luxembourg. It remained in monastic hands for nearly five centuries. In 1811, following the secularization by Napolean, the estate was auctioned off to Valentin Leonardy; his descendants own Karthäuserhof to this day. Since 1863 they have been winning awards in Europe. In 2013, Christoph Tyrell, who has no children and had managed the estate for over 30 years, passed ownership to his cousin Albert Behler, the 7th generation to own the estate. This is serious history making serious wine. If you are not convinced of the greatness of Riesling, taste one of their wines and you will become a convert.
Most unique, and something of a rarity when it comes to German viticulture, is their continuous 19-hectare monopole – single-vineyard, single owner – named Karthäuserhofberg. German winegrowing estates normally have various plots in vineyards that have a multitude of owners – instead, Karthäuserhofberg is in one block that is owned exclusively by one estate. This vineyard sits on the steep slopes of a protected side valley of the Ruwer River just before it meets the Mosel River. It is planted with 90% Riesling and 10% pinot blanc vines, many of which are over 40 years old. The rose-red clay and slate soils impart a noticeable mineral character to the wines and act in tandem: the clay retains the necessary water and the slate retains heat. The estate is managed in a natural, sustainable way with only organic fertilizers applied and pheromones used to control pests.
Due to the steep slopes all vineyard work is by hand including harvesting the grapes, with successive pickings for the estate's different Riesling classifications, from kabinett to spätlese through to beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese, when the grapes have dried on the vine. The grapes are then taken to be vinified in the vaulted stone cellars under the estate’s buildings. After pressing, the clear grape juice is fermented with natural yeasts in cooled stainless-steel tanks. Up to 60 batches of grapes are vinified separately so they can be blended post fermentation to create complex and harmonious wines.
The Karthäuserhof Estate is a member of the Verban Deutscher Pradikatzweinguter (VDP). This organization is a bastion of high quality in today’s globalized world. Members of the VDP oppose anything that is artificial and nondescript and represents the highest achievement in German winemaking. There are about 4,000 winemakers in Germany but only 200 are members of the VDP.
Karthäuserhof Riesling Alte Reben Spätlese trocken 2015 comes from the estate’s oldest vines, or ‘alte reben.’ The grapes are harvested later in the vintage (spätlese) but fermented dry (trocken) – hence the nomenclature ‘Spätlese trocken’ on the label. This wine is ripe and dense, but finishes dry and electric. In the glass it is a pale, light yellow with green reflections. The wine has a wonderful concentration that is noticeable on the nose and even more on the palate. The intense aromas greet you with green mango, peach, lime, lemon blossom and white cherry. And thanks to old vines and an ancient terroir these are followed by classic Mosel notes of wet slate, crushed rock, petrol, and fresh honeysuckle. The palate confirms the nose while unveiling the weight behind the wine. This is not a modest Riesling. It is a dry, high acid, medium-plus-bodied; dare we say a classic masterpiece. This wine is still very young and will experience considerable development over the next five plus years. If opening now, decant for an hour and serve at 10˚ in large Riesling or Bordeaux stems.