Spotlight on Riesling: Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Spatlese 2004
There are Rieslings, and then there are Muller Rieslings. German Riesling – the best Riesling in the world – can be easy, quaffable wine; delicious serious wine; and a wonderful paradox of intensity and lightness. Sometimes German Riesling can hit even higher and join the ranks of the best wines in the world.
Egon Muller is amongst the Saar’s top producers, and, in my opinion, amongst the very best producers of white wine in the entire world. These are the sorts of wines that are both beautifully profound young, but that, in the best vintages, can also age for over 40 years.
Ungrafted Centurion Riesling
Founded in 1797, the Scharzberg vineyard is one of the most important in Germany. Muller’s holdings are about 17.5 acres, but 7.5 of those acres are ungrafted 100+ year old vines – an absolute rarity in Europe.
The wines are actually fermented in wood, an extreme oddity with Riesling, which most producers say is destroyed by wood. Muller believes his wines enjoy the exposure to oxygen because of their extremely high acidity. The wood mellows that acidity and softens the texture of the wines. Nonetheless, the effect wood has on these wines is anomalous and perhaps one of the reasons why they are so unique.
Sugar is Good
Muller’s wines buck the trend towards dryness, remaining a staunch proponent of high levels of residual sugar in their wines. These wines have so much acid, however, that often when young they can be a bit aggressive, belying the significant amount of residual sugar lying underneath. Muller believes that sugar transports the aromas of Riesling better than alcohol, and as such is the best catalyst for Riesling’s true personality.
The most famous wines from Muller are the Auslese and TBA wines, the latter of which sells for thousands of dollars, if you can even find it. However, the Kabinet and Spatlese wines are also profound wines with impressive concentration, length and ageability. And, while drier than the Auslese and riper wines, these two wines are still classic examples of old-school Saar wine, sitting at around 8% ABV, and high acid, high sugar. Balanced as hell, but beautiful.
My 2004 Spatlese was as fresh as other wines taste only a year after vintage. Yet, the secondary complexity was over the top – quince, apricot, honey, minerals. Who cares really – this is profound stuff and flavour descriptors are irrelevant. If you love Riesling, this is a wine you absolutely must taste. I paired it with grilled Berkshire pork chops and grilled apricots. Heaven.
$150 at Kits Wine and Liberty Wine Merchants