Product information

Markus Molitor Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese 2017

Riesling from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Mosel, Germany


$63ea in any 3+
$60ea in any 6+
Closure: Cork
Gold Cap - Fruchtsüss! A richer and nobly sweet style of Riesling.


This is another of many effusively floral Molitor 2017s. Heliotrope, honeysuckle and lily deliver a heady bouquet, with greenhouse-like suggestions of foliage wafting in the background. A creamy palate delivers softly ripe banana and Golden Delicious apple along with inner-mouth perfume, all of which are complemented by overt but by no means excessive sweetness. Happily, there is more juiciness and animation to the finish than the palate impression had led me to expect, and the wine’s billowing floral persistence is utterly striking.

David Schildknecht, Vinous

Molitor’s gold capsule indicates a richer, nobly sweet style and flavour profile. Explore Molitor’s colour code, different to the German Pradikat system here.

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Check out all of the wines by Markus Molitor

Why is this Wine so Yummy?

A true master of the Mosel, Markus Molitor’s diverse range of wines provides insight into the region’s widely differing vineyards and how these steep, slate slopes have such a profound effect on the wines produced.

Motivated by the region’s fascinating history – its meteoric rise to popularity at the end of the nineteenth century, and its demise during World War II and the years that followed – has significantly informed his viticultural ambitions. (Markus outlines the compelling and tumultuous history of the Mosel, characterised by soaring highs and sweet ‘n cheap lows, in a 2020 article for Fine + Rare. Well worth a read).

Here Molitor uses single-stake pruning system, where each vine is trained to its own, individual post and the canes are bend into a circular shape and tied to the stake. This is a tradition training method on the steep vineyards of the Mosel and allows for higher density plantings with easy movement between vines.


Through his winegrowing, Markus aims to “restore the wines of the Mosel valley to their former glory by producing unmistakable Riesling wines true to their individual vineyard identity.” He avoids using the traditional categories to indicate ‘dryness’ in Riesling, preferring to express the inherent harmony of taste and balance that cannot be determined solely by residual sugar content and total acidity. This means that, as long the wine is balanced, traditionally ‘sweet’ categories like  Spätlese or Auslese can express a range of dryness levels; where a wine falls on this scale is indicated by capsule colour – white, green or gold. For more detail on Molitor’s sweetness philosophy, see the Molitor Colour Code below.

Ultimately, the wines speak for themselves. They are bold and charcterful, beautifully capturing the interplay of terroir, texture and a fruit while retaining a distinctive Mosel-ness.

The Molitor Colour Code

Molitor avoids using the traditional categories to indicate ‘dryness’ in Riesling. He claims his “focus is on the harmonious taste and balance of the wine which cannot be determined solely by analysis of residual sugar content and total acidity”. Instead, the colour of the capsule indicates the style and respective flavour profile of his Rieslings: white represents classically fermented wines; green is feinherb, the historical medium-dry style of Mosel wines; gold indicates richer, nobly sweet wines, including berry-selection styles Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese.

About Markus Molitor

Markus Molitor has been working in the vineyards since he was ten years old; when his father Werner lost his arm in an accident, he literally became his right-hand man. “He needed support and help in the vineyard and cellar – so I became his right hand.” He spent every spare minute on the estate, acquiring an intimate knowledge of viticulture and winemaking. This experience also ignited in him a passion that extends beyond the winery and vineyards to the rich history and culture of the Mosel.

The town of Bernkastel. Photo courtesy of Chris Marmann

Since taking over the reins of the family company in 1984, he has grown the Mosel-based estate from 1.5ha to 120, comprising many top Grand Cru sites on the steep slopes of the Middle Mosel and further south in Saar region. More impressive still, Markus works numerous parcels of un-grafted vines – veritable living antiques! – with many aged 100 years old or more.

One of the largest family-owned vineyards in the region, every wine is still produced organically, without fining or industrial yeasts, offering a true taste of German terroir. For Markus the goal has always been to produce very distinct expressions of each of the vineyard sites dotted throughout the Mosel. “We try to express each individual character of vineyard in combination with each quality level, style and vintage.”

In the Vineyard

The Mosel wine region is defined by its virtually vertical vineyards and slate soils. These stunning but unforgiving environments require that most of the vineyard work is done by hand. Harvest all of the vineyards by hand only to have the possibility of selecting each single berry in its own category. This work and time-intense process leads to approx. 80 to 90 different wines per vintage, but each one absolutely unique in its composition and taste.

They may look red in colour, but these are Riesling grapes! More precisely, these are trockenbeeren – dried berries; grapes shrivelled on the vine to naturally increase sugar levels, often under the influence of botrytis. They are used to produce Prädikat wines like Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese. Produced only in exceptional vintages, they are prized for their rarity, richness and complexity.

“There are several advantages of steep slopes in comparison to flat vineyards. First of all, the sun exposure: if the steep slope is south facing, the sun moves around each single vine from morning to evening. Secondly, the aeration is better because the winds blow down the slopes – the risk of frost is minimised, the heat as well as the humidity are carried away. During the Indian summer prior to harvest, the temperatures may be quite warm during the day. The valley is narrow, so the heat is trapped in the valley. During the nights, the cold winds from the Eifel and Hunsrueck hills above fall down the steep slopes. These changes of warm and cool air contribute a lot to the formation of the unique Mosel-aromas in the Rieslings. Depending on the steepness and therefore the angle of incidence, the sunlight is reflected by the river in the vineyard and afterwards stored by the slate soil. It is the combination of all these points that leads to the unique effects of the steep slopes in our valley along with the interaction of the slate soils with the old vines.”

Markus Molitor

All these points lead to an incomparable structure and great texture in the wine. The balance of all components, mineral, acidity, fruitiness and sweetness is always given and inimitable.

In the Winery

The old 3-storey vaulted cellar located in Wehlener, carved in slate, offers an optimal, permanently cool climate with high humidity, allowing the wines to ferment very slowly and naturally. Following centuries-old tradition, the wines ferment spontaneously and are aged in wooden barrels without the use of fining agents, enzymes, additional yeasts and other aids. The wines then age on their fine lees for months, endowing them with greater lustre, elegance and fullness.

The German System

Wow, even the most dedicated wine geek often has trouble getting their head around the German naming systems, something they’ve been working on simplifying!

When it comes to wines containing some level of grape sugar, the Germans have a classification that dictates ranges of sugar levels grapes for a specific wine must be picked at, in essence establishing a framework for the ripeness, amount of Bortytis and shrivel / raisoning the fruit should have when picked. The amount of grape sugar left in the wine after it has fermented, is up to the maker.

All of this super detailed information is interesting to know.

At the end of the day the most important thing is whether the wine meets those standard criteria for good wine. During Riesling Down Under it was great to hear winemakers from around the world, all saying they don’t care much for the numbers, they picked their fruit on flavour and made their wines to achieve balance and harmony.

The following is courtesy of Dr Loosen, who sums up German Riesling styles with sweetness beautifully

The Versatility of Riesling

Riesling is one of the few grapes that is capable of producing a complete spectrum of wine styles, from bone dry to lusciously sweet. The key to maintaining top quality throughout this broad range lies in a rigorous selection process. As the harvest progresses, we make daily decisions about each vineyard parcel based on the maturity of the fruit and the prevailing weather conditions. Healthy grapes are painstakingly separated from botrytis-affected fruit, and the various selections are vinified separately.

Classic Wines with Sweetness

Our traditional wines, with residual sweetness, are selected from the harvest according to their ripeness and flavour development. The finest lots from our classified vineyards are bottled with their corresponding single-vineyard name and ripeness (Prädikat) level. For the non-botrytis wines, there are two Prädikat levels, Kabinett and Spätlese.

Beyond the lightly sweet Kabinett and Spätlese bottlings, made without botrytis, there are three Prädikat levels of botrytis-selection wines that get progressively sweeter: Auslese, Beerenauslese [berry selection] and Trockenbeerenauslese [dried berry selection]. In addition, when vintage conditions allow it, we produce Eiswein from grapes that have frozen on the vine.

The picture from Dr Loosen above is a great illustration of the different conditions of grapes at harvest and the styles they are destined to make. You can see the level of Botrytis and shrivel / raisining increasing as we move through the styles from Kabinett to Trockenbeerenauslese. The Botrytis or Noble Rot, imparts wonderful flavours and textures to the wine, and is to be revered like the blue moulds of Rocquefort and the washed rind cheeses of Munster in Alsace, appropriately both cheeses marry beautifully with a glass of Riesling.

Note how the buckets are colour coded according to the end destination of the fruit and how little of the Trockenbeerenauslese is produced. The skill of pickers and willingness to pass through the vineyard several times to ensure all grapes are picked at the optimal time is the key to success.

The freshest style is Kabinett and as you move up the scale you’ll see additional complexity added by botrytis and other winemaking influences in addition to greater levels of sweetness. Each style whether Kabinett or Eiswein being perfect for consumption on different occasions with different foods. The Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and, Eiswein being exceptional dessert wines. Kabinett and Spätlese being suited to table wine consumption. The standard line for the German’s being that where the English offer tea to guests in the afternoon the German’s offer Kabinett or Spätlese wines, more akin to a table wine. That said I devoured a Wagner-Stemple Kabinett, with pasta and cheese on a 38°C day in Melbourne, perfection! Auslese sitting on either side depending on the style the estate makes.

This intense sorting process is beautifully articulated by Ernie Loosen from 2min 25sec in the vineyard below.

The 2017 Vintage at Markus Molitor

Jean Fisch and David Rayer of Mosel Fine Wines described the 2017 Mosel Vintage as “Small but Beautiful”.

The vintage started at high speed, with bud break well ahead of long-term average. Unfortunately, frost hit the region around April 20 and affected the finest vineyards particularly hard, where the young shoots were the most developed. Overall, the yields were contracted by 30-40% (if not more), the highest losses since the 1991 vintage.

The weather proved fortunately dry and warm for the remainder of the spring, allowing for a perfect and early flowering and a disease free growth. The much needed rain then came in July and August, which were actually quite wet and furthered growth. Unfortunately, Graach and Traben-Trarbach were hit hard by a devastating hailstorm.

September proved wet but fortunately cool and gave the growers a bit of stress as botrytis, and sometimes rot, developed fast and early. The advance of nature led many Estates to start their Riesling harvest already in September, a first for many growers. The weather cooled down which limited the development of botrytis and gave growers some time to make the necessary selections. Botrytis developed early and then late, which gave the opportunity to also make some high-end botrytized selections.

Many 2017 wines combine the ripe delicacy of 2011 with the zesty presence of 2015. The wines have quite some concentration, a by-product of the low yields, which gives them an imposing side.

Tucked among its midst, there are wines that are among the finest we have tasted in 25 years of Mosel visits. The musts came in at rather high levels of sugar and high levels of acidity. 2017 saw plenty of botrytized selections (Auslese, BA and TBA). The vintage is a stunner at the top and generated some of the finest Riesling ever made. However, quality is not uniform and there has been some heavy declassification: More than ever, tasting or following advice is critical.

Where in the World is Markus Molitor?

Markus Molitor owns vineyards throughout the Mosel and the Saar with the majority of his production coming from the middle-Mosel.

Markus Molitor’s vineyards in the Middle-Mosel. Click to enlarge.

The Mosel River Valley is probably the most famous and arguably the most admired wine region in Germany. In its wider sense, it includes the adjacent Saar and Rüwer (hence Mosel-Saar-Rüwer), both tributaries of the Mosel River, however, it is the middle Mosel (mittelmosel), in particular between and including the towns of Bernkastel-Kues and Erden that the most brilliant wines tend to be produced. Bernkastel, Grach, Wehlen, and Zeltingen are some of the most famous wine towns here.

You can see just how incredibly steep the vineyards of the Mosel can be and how dominant the slate rock is, often driving the root systems meters into the hillside.

The best vineyards of Germany’s Mosel Valley are incredibly steep, south-facing slopes with mineral-rich slate soil and a favourable position near the river. Excellent drainage and the heat-retaining quality of the rocky slate soil also help to produce fully ripe, concentrated wines. The combination of these elements results in racy, mineral-inflected Rieslings that are fruity, crisp and very refreshing to drink.

Map by Fernando Beteta, MS @fernandobeteta on Twitter


92 Points

The 2017er Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese (Golden Capsule) is slightly reductive at first and only gradually reveals a most attractive and animating nose of cassis, almond cream, fine spices, white flowers and coconut. The wine coats the palate with ample juicy and clean fruits and leaves a smooth and gentle feel in the ripe and juicy finish. 2027-2047

Jean Fisch and David Rayer, Mosel Fine Wines

95+ Points

The 2017 Riesling Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese (Golden Capsule) is very intense on the clear, spicy, crunchy-slatey and nicely reductive nose. Lush and piquant on the crystalline, precisely defined palate, this is a highly elegant, complex and densely textured Spätlese with a long, complex and persistently salty-mineral finish. Ripe peach and mirabelle notes intermingle with salty-piquant slate flavors on the aftertaste. This is a great Spätlese from a great terroir.

Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate

92 Points

This is another of many effusively floral Molitor 2017s. Heliotrope, honeysuckle and lily deliver a heady bouquet, with greenhouse-like suggestions of foliage wafting in the background. A creamy palate delivers softly ripe banana and Golden Delicious apple along with inner-mouth perfume, all of which are complemented by overt but by no means excessive sweetness. Happily, there is more juiciness and animation to the finish than the palate impression had led me to expect, and the wine’s billowing floral persistence is utterly striking.

David Schildknecht, Vinous

Where in the world does the magic happen?

Weingut Markus Molitor, Stadt Wehlen, Germany