Eva and Jutta: Fresh Takes on Feinherb

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We've written before about our love for the oft-ignored "third way" between sweet and dry Riesling, a category once described as halbtrocken, but more and more frequently referred to as feinherb (a slightly more attractive term than ‘half-dry’). To us, feinherb wines are those that fall in between what one would describe as 'technically dry' and 'noticeably sweet.' Our recommendations in this category have largely focused on wines from Germany's Mosel, Saar or Ruwer, regions beloved for their excellent sweet, dry and off-dry wines.

Stunning feinherb Riesling need not be restricted to one stretch of river, though, as the following new discoveries amply demonstrate. We’re thrilled to have found a pair of wines that come from two of the most talented young women working with Riesling today: Eva Fricke in the Rheingau and Jutta Ambrositsch in Vienna. Neither Eva nor Jutta were fortunate enough to be born into winemaking families and both started their estates within the past 10 years. They've worked hard to study their craft and have come remarkably far in a relatively short amount of time. They’ve each chosen to work in lesser-known terroirs, much like Andreas Adam in the Hofberg or Gernot Kollman in the Ellergrub back on the Mosel. Certainly this is mostly due to reasons of finance, but there's little that's quite as exciting as a young winemaker discovering her talents while simultaneously unlocking the secrets of an old and overlooked vineyard (this is not to say Lorch's Schlossberg and Vienna's Rosengartel aren't held in high regard in their respective locales, but neither vineyard is seen in the U.S. as frequently as a Würzgarten or Hochrain, let alone a Sonnenuhr or Steinertal).

Eva’s began her career studying at the well-known oenological school in Geisenheim, followed by apprenticeships at well-known estates around the world and a lengthy stint as the vineyard and operations manager at Leitz. She started her estate in 2006 and left Leitz in 2011 to focus entirely on her own production. Her vines in Lorch are the final stretch of the Rheingau after the Rhine turns north, thus they have a southwestern exposure rather than the area’s typical pure south-facing slope. This provides a dimension of delicacy not normally found in the stolid, almost stocky wines of the Rheingau; others frequently point out that the wines are more Mittelrhein-esque for just this reason. She farms sustainably and has a gentle hand in the cellar, avoiding adding yeasts or other additives.

A view of the Schlossberg as we float into Lorch:

Floating into Lorch!

Jutta was a graphic designer at a large advertising agency in Vienna and after a number of years could no longer stand the daily grind and being stuck behind a computer. Not too many young up-and-comers are flocking to Vienna to make wine, so the old-guard welcomed her with open arms, constant encouragement and generosity. She’s now acquired choice parcels in some of the city’s most beloved vineyards and meticulously does all the biodynamic vineyard and cellar work without any assistance (she brings in a team of harvesters but that’s it).

These are exceptionally small estates (under 3.5 hectares) and we’re lucky to have some of their miniscule production here in New York. Below we have the finest off-dry wines on offer from each estate, and they both are remarkably pure, fresh and clean expressions of their respective terroirs. In the spirit of celebrating all that is delicious and feinherb, we’ve listed some of our other perennial off-dry favorites as well. -jfr

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Fricke, Eva 2011 Rheingau Lorcher Schlossberg Riesling

The single off-dry wine in Eva’s stable, and perhaps the most striking, regardless of style. The Schlossberg is a rather large vineyard but Eva’s parcels are well-situated vines up to 45 years old. The soil here is a combination of slate and loess but is also distinguished by a high quartzite content relative to Lorch’s other sites. The wine is stately and reserved aromatically at the moment, displaying primarily a profound sense of high-toned stoniness. On the palate, though, it’s as open and bright as can be, showing just a hint of sweetness atop a full and lush frame. The precision and clarity here are extraordinary and it’s one of the most exciting wines to come out of the Rheingau in a long time. No one else strikes a comparable balance of freshness and body, all with a penetrating minerality. –jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $61.99

Ambrositsch, Jutta 2011 Wien Riesling Rosengartel

Rosengartel is a tiny section (1.6 hectare) on the Nussberg hill in the northernmost point of Vienna. The soil here is sandstone, marl and shale, and Jutta farms the vines biodynamically by hand, pruning and spraying preparations all on her own. The harvest is hyper-selective to make sure only the most pristine fruit makes it into the fermentation vat (each grape is checked, not just bunches). Off-dry Riesling is not what most people expect when they think of Austria, but this was such a compelling wine we couldn’t resist taking some for ourselves and offering it to our customers. Aromatically, all I could think was how alive it seems, with bright yellow and purple floral notes and a whole host of citrus and tropical fruits. The palate is defined by similar bright fruit and a seriously earthy, unique sense of minerality I’ve not encountered elsewhere in wine. This is the Rosengartel asserting its individuality in a most delicious way. The wine continues to evolve and really comes together after being open for an extended period so, as with all great Austrian white, don’t be afraid to decant or age this beauty. John Ritchie

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $57.99

Adam, A.J. 2011 Mosel Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Feinherb

The Hofberg Feinherb is one of the most remarkable wines in Adam's 2011 lineup, fermented entirely in fuder and from a parcel of 60-year old vines. In cooler years he would have macerated the grapes on the skins for a while to regulate acidity and add texture to the wine but chose not to in 2011 for fear of loosing acid. The resulting wine has 30 g/l residual sugar and 8 g/l acid. It's light, expressive, filigree, delicate and really beatifully balanced. It's a terrific example of a light, chiseled, off-dry wine, the kind that can only be made on the Mosel. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $39.99

Busch, Clemens 2010 Mosel Pündericher Marienburg Riesling Falkenlay

While Clemens is known for (and we adore) his robust dry Rieslings, Falkenlay, a gray-slate parcel within the Marienburg, stopped fermenting after a whopping 11 months with almost 18 grams residual sugar remaining. This is squarely in feinherb territory, especially when the slight sugar is balanced out by 10.8 g/l acid. That's enough analysis, though, the wine is simply gorgeous. Aromatically it reminds of lees, straw and apple, and on the palate there's screaming freshness. The small amount of sugar adds another dimension of fruit to this wine but it's quickly overwhelmed but dense minerality on the finish. Clemens seems to think this wine is too young and should be enjoyied in 5 to 6 years. We think it's great now, but wouldn't discourage you from laying some down. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $47.99

Dr. Siemens 2008 Saar Würtzberg Riesling Kabinett Feinherb

Tasty, old-fashioned Kabinett Feinherb from vines in the Souther Saar that once belonged to the noted Bert Simon estate. Fresh, well-rounded and showing just a hint of secondary character. 2008 was a lovely, acid-leaning, insider's vintage and the wines are showing quite well right now. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $23.99

Falkenstein, Hofgut 2011 Saar Niedermenniger Herrenberg Ries Spät Feinherb

This year there were two bottlings from the Herrenberg and this comes from old vines near the top of the slope. It's absolutely delicious and one of those Rieslings that disappears altogether too quickly It's intensely mineral, and still shows the character of the vintage (ripe, juicy Riesling fruit) but there's firm acid and lean, white, stony notes. It's just barely off-dry, and perfectly balanced. One of the best Feinherbs of the vintage. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $18.99

Immich-Batterieberg 2011 Mosel C.A.I. Riesling

CAI is a blend made mostly of purchased fruit. 2011 is more friendly than the screamingly intense 2010 and will pair with more varied cuisine. It is, for all intents and purposes, dry and is made in all stainless steel. Very fruity and ripe, this is one that is best enjoyed quite cool. There's serious minerality here, much darker toned than the salty 2010; Gernot is a master blender and he's put together another terrific CAI this year. The grapes come from 5 hectares spread across much of the Mosel, with sites as far apart as Enkirch and the Saar. The breakdown is an unexpected combination of divergent vineyards, both well-known and not so much. For those keeping score, (and why not?), there's 1 ha ungrafted vines from the Dhroner Hofberg, 0.5 ha Oberemmeler Altenberg, 0.5 ha Wiltinger Klosterberg, and smaller sections of the Kinheminer Rosenberg, Kröver Steffensberg, Wolfer Sonnenberg, and from Enkirch there are parcels from Steffensberg, Hattenberg, Zeppwingert, Steffensberg and the foot of the Batterieberg. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

Immich-Batterieberg 2011 Mosel Ellergrub Riesling

This was my favorite of the lineup in 2010 and it's in close competition for that title in 2011 again. We're in feinherb territory here (just off-dry), and we tasted parcels in the cellar from barrel and stainless steel tank. Both were simply amazing, with the barrel showing a slightly silkier texture. While Ellergrub is softer than the dry wines and doesn't display the herbaceous streak found in Batterieberg, it more than makes up for this with its elegance, balance, feeling of weightlessness and overall sense of purity. I wouldn't be surprised if Ellergrub quickly becomes the cult favorite the more that people get to know these wines. 1.4 hectare, blue slate. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $49.99

Immich-Batterieberg 2011 Mosel Zeppwingert Riesling

Finally, Zeppwingert. Gernot only has .5 hectares and it's directly next to Batterieberg. It's a terraced, ungrafted, old-vine section, and the vines used to belong to our friends at Weiser-Künstler until they sold to Kollmann. Aromatically vivid, with a light underlying wild streak to the nose, the wine is the sweetest of the lineup (many others in the Mosel would call it a feinherb, though; this is still dinner Riesling). Perfect balance, and while some of the other wines may be more contemplative, Zeppwingert is hands down the most delicious. This is another one with "sky's the limit" aging potential. I'm excited to track its development over many years. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $59.99

Lauer, Peter 2011 Saar Riesling Barrel X

Everything you want from Barrel X, which continues to be such a great value: white flowers, grapefruit and lemon lime notes, along with bright green apple flavors and a strong, slate-driven follow through on the finish. This feinherb style wine finishes fairly dry, though it has roughly 25 g/l residual sugar. From a mixture of old and young vines, both in the Scheidterberg slope just to the west of Ayl and other nearby Saar vineyards. All slate, of course. Quintessential Lauer, and classic Saar. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $17.99

Lauer, Peter 2011 Saar Ayler Kupp Riesling Fass 6 'Senior'

The 2011 Senior is just barely off-dry, and is marked as such by Florian Lauer with his 'TF" symobl, representing "Trocken bis Feinherb," which roughly translates to dry, heading slightly to off-dry. It comes from mostly old vines to the west of the "Alte Neuenberg" section of the Ayler Kupp. It's made in a much more approachable, friendlier style than the 2010 and is really drinking well right now. Normal Saar-citrus tones are enhanced with cool, blue-slate mineral tones and fiery, red cassis notes as well. Wonderfully balanced, very focused and finishes dry with a sense of bright, round, juicy fruit. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $25.99

Lauer, Peter 2011 Saar Ayler Kupp Riesling Fass 15 'Stirn'

Schonfels gets all the buzz but 2011 was a magnificent vintage for Stirn. The nose is pure and focused, with green-tinted fruit tones. The palate is amazing with creamy, long, gloriously rich 2011 fruit-tones; peach, apricot, a little mango. There's a huge rush of flavor on the finish and the wine seems like it's expanding on the palate long after it's gone, yet immediately comes into focus. Quite an experience! 9.9% alcohol and roughly 35 grams of residual sugar. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $46.99

Schaefer, Karl 2010 Pfalz Dürkheimer Spielberg Riesling

Spielberg is the better known of the two Mittelhaardt vineyards we've brought in from Jan Gross and his crew at Karl Schaefer. It's composed of chalky soil and is a northwest facing site which helps retain great acidity and freshness. The nose has bright stone fruit aromas, (peach, nectarine) and a bit of a salty, savory character. The riveting acidity keeps maintains focus and vibrancy on the palate, preventing things from going over the top into tropicality. The wine is just off-dry, in a feinherb style even though the label doesn't designate it as such. The mineral tones are distinct and long and the mild sweetness adds great texture, completing the package. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $20.99

Schloss Lieser 2011 Mosel Riesling Estate

This is one of the tastiest, most easy-going feinherbs of the vintage. Aromatically there's no way anyone could peg this as anything but Mosel: a little reductive, creamy, sponti aromas and hints of peach, plum and citrus. The wine itself is almost as light as mineral water and dangerously drinkable. Terrific acid, surprising mineral depth for a wine this low on the perceived quality pyramid and actually quite complex. The fruit here comes from the Niederberg Helden, the Lieser Schlossberg and the Graacher Himmelreich. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $14.99

Stein 2010 Mosel St. Aldegunder Himmelreich Ries Kab Feinherb

Ulli Stein, the delightfully cheery, somewhat mad scientist of the village of Alf on the Mosel, hits it out of the park with this joyful feinherb. Just off-dry with an almost electric sense of balance. Focused, clear and a delightful example of what Mosel wine once was. Aromatically it's like salted meyer lemons macerated with peach skins. Stein's wines never lack for intensity, and this delivers a wallop of acidity, all while remaining rather easy-going and light. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $22.49

Steinmetz, Günther 2011 Mosel Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett Feinherb

A bit leaner and fresher than the thrilling 2010, this still has killer aromatics, especially that same, complex sponti character we've come to expect and love from Steinmetz. It's really linear and focused on  the palate, with just a hint of round fruit (closest to a ripe green apple) on the finish, along with clean mineral zip and more sponti notes. Another brilliant effort from Stefan. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

von Schubert Maximin Grünhaus 2010 Ruwer Riesling

A Riesling for lovers of the grape's more savory side. The nose shows sponti notes, minerals, rose petal and a bit of Mosel funk. The palate is just barely off-dry and intensely mineral. It's light, piquant and old-school in style. A perfect example of what Mosel Kabinett once was, and we couldn't be happier that the estate keeps the style alive. Drink this with any seafood preparation or on its own before dinner. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $23.99