Why is this Wine so Yummy?
Over the years I kept coming across Richter’s vino at Resto’s and events, somehow I never got around to trying a decent set in one sitting or throwing them on the list. That changes now! Richter’s Rizza’s have a divine harmony, and, layering to them. These are stunning Mosel wines. There is something about fermenting and ageing in old wood that works wonderfully for these wines. The gentle oxidation and fermentation kinetics bring the wines together beautifully!
Appellation: Prädikatswein Mosel
Soil: Stony clay, slate, quartz
Vineyard Age: Up to 100 years
Harvest: Hand Harvested at 95° Oechsle
Agricultural Method: Traditional
Vinification: Fermentation is done temperature controlled in traditional old oak barrels (Fuder) with indigenous yeast.
About Max Ferdinand Richter
Weingut Max Ferdinand Richter has been producing Riesling in the Mosel since 1680. The Richter wines exude great class and breeding along with their classical Mosel raciness, fruitiness and mineral complexity. This Estate relies purely on must weight for the quality and grip which makes Richter not only one of the most exciting estates in Germany, but one of the finest exponents of Riesling anywhere in the world. They ferment in old oak demi-muids and assemble the finished wine in an inert vessel following stabilisation and prior to bottling. The noble Riesling grape is amazingly resilient on the steep slate slopes of the magnificent Mosel, a run of great vintages has witnessed Mosel Riesling climbing back onto the mantle were it so deservedly belongs.
In the Vineyard
The winemakers at Richter believe that great wine comes from the vineyard, not the cellar. With this in mind they strive for precision in their daily viticultural work. The challenge of cultivating vines on the steep, slate slopes of Mosel is overcome by fastidious handwork, small crop sizes, all-natural fertilizers and sustainable farming practices. Additionally, all harvesting is done by hand.
Max Ferdinand Richter’s 48 steep acres are spread out in the Middle Mosel Valley between Erden and Brauneberg. Plantings consist of 95% Riesling and 5% Pinot Blanc grapes. The average age of Richter vines is 40 years.
In the Winery
Vinification starts with gentle pressing and slow temperature controlled fermentation in traditional old oak barrels (fuders). This careful, deliberate process preserves the vineyard-grown quality of the grapes, develops the unique character of the single-vineyard cuvees, and to gives Richter wines exceptional longevity.
When possible, they utilize natural yeasts and eschew chemical fining agents.
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 Max Ferdinand Richter
David Schildknecht, Vinous
The Richters lost half their anticipated crop in 2017. Many of their vineyards were badly frosted in April, and since they have a large share of holdings in Graach, overall yields were further reduced by the August hail which afflicted that village. And then there was the need to drop a lot of rot-tainted fruit in a ruthless pre-harvest culling. Even with such low yields, given 49 acres of vines spread across five communes, the Riesling harvest lasted a bit more than three weeks, finishing just past mid-October. “If we hadn’t started when we did,” Constantin Richer observed, “we wouldn’t have had any Kabinett at all, and, as it was, that demanded a severe degree of selection, almost more effort in fact than we needed to harvest the vintage’s nobly sweet wines.” Given the results – particularly among Kabinetts – the effort was well worth it. Constantin Richter’s 2016 collection was a hard act to follow, but he outdid himself with 2017s that he described with satisfaction as a bit like 2013 in their high acidity and high extract, except with purer fruit, better acid integration and greater generosity and complexity. Due to the wines’ uniformly low pHs, Richter bottled all save the BA and TBA with lower than usual levels of SO2, which might help explain their exuberance and youthful expressivity. There was no deacidification, but the wines stayed longer on their lees than in other recent vintages to help buffer the unusually high acidity. While it is hardly the first time this has been the case, it’s worth noting the extent to which wines from the unique side-valley sites of Mülheim and Veldenz more than merely hold their own in this collection against those from the famous vineyards of Brauneberg, Erden, Graach and Wehlen.
With such small yields, and given this estate’s traditional preference for bottling blends from two or more fuders rather than the contents of solo fuders, it’s not surprising that there are significantly fewer individual bottlings from vintage 2017 than usual. The reduction is especially acute among feinherb bottlings, of which there were five in 2016 but only two – both from Mülheimer Sonnenlay – in 2017. Constantin Richter said that’s not because demand for the style has decreased, but rather because satisfying the demand for legally dry wines was more urgent. A striking and delightful feature of those dry wines is ripe flavors at remarkably low must weights and consequent alcohol. “It seems as though they all wanted to top out at 11.5% alcohol,” said a smiling Richter. “Even my Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc are going to end up that way.” I can’t recall the last time I heard something like that from any German Riesling grower, or sensed it being uttered with such pride. Incidentally, even the Richters and their Mülheimer Helenenkloster, with a joint legacy of success in the genre, could not muster an Eiswein from vintage 2017.
Dirk Richter & Constantine Richter’s Vintage Report – The Earliest and Quickest Harvest Ever.
The Earliest and Quickest Harvest Ever On October, 13th, our 2017 grape harvest came to an end, the earliest finish in history. Twenty years ago mid-October was the start of harvest, finishing a month later in mid-November. No doubt, global warming is accelerating.
Vegetation in our vineyards started right on time, at the end of March. Four weeks later the young shoots had reached a length of 5–10 cm. At the end of April, a severe frost damaged those young shoots, destroying our expectations for a normal sized harvest. The icy, cold air mass had less effect on the warmer soils at lower altitudes allowing those vineyards to survive. Vineyards at higher altitude, where growing was much more advanced, were heavily effected. Sadly, these parcels happened to be the best vineyards. This sudden cold snap caused a major catastrophe in all western European wine regions. 2017 will definitely be the smallest vintage worldwide over the past 50 years.
Luckily the side buds of the Riesling vines are fertile and strong. The vegetation that survived was enhanced by warm and sunny dry weeks, following through May and June. Whereas apple and cherry orchards suffered total destruction, the grapevines that survived were healthy and strong.
Flowering in hot and sunny June was completed rapidly though the lack of rain caused some drought problems for new plantings. We were able to irrigate those parcels, keeping the young vines alive. Among those was Constantin’s new planting of “Gemischter Satz“, an exciting project with re-cultivated ancient vines grown in the Rhine and Mosel valleys during medieval times. As we are a wine estate with more than 300 years of history we are eager to recreate the kind of wines that were cultivated and consumed by our ancestors. We will report in four years when harvest the first grapes.
July was blessed with lots of badly needed rain. That humid season continued to last throughout August as well, so that grapes ripened much quicker. In the Mosel this led to an historically early start to the harvest, by the third week of September. The surplus of water in the terroir led to the growth of much thicker berries, causing skins to burst, opening the widespread possibility of fungus diseases, bugs and insects, along with a high risk of rot. Thank God, our vineyards are covered by grass and weeds, unusual for vineyards grown on steep slate stone. The abundant humidity didn’t reach down to the roots of our vines and we were fortunate to be able to avoid those problems. September turned warm and mostly sunny, creating the conditions for the early grape picking.
In summation have harvested a small but very high quality vintage with ample high end wines, including noble sweet BA and TBA, backed by ripe and refreshing built-in fruit acid. Due to the small quantity – 50 % of the normal crop – we are short of our “bread-and-butter” wines, such as Qualitätswein and Kabinett.
Where in the World is Max Ferdinand Richter?
Max Ferdinand Richter is in the middle Mosel.
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.