The imposing Ayler Kupp

Saar 2012: Hofgut Falkenstein & Peter Lauer

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We’ve written at length many times about these two favorite Saar growers: the Webers at Hofgut Falkenstein and Florian Lauer. We don’t need to repeat ourselves any more than you want to re-read the same prose, so let’s cut straight to the salient points:

1. New 2012s from both estates have arrived.

2. The vintage is absolutely tremendous in the Saar.

3. For the first time ever in the U.S. there is bubbly Riesling Sekt from Hofgut Falkenstein, and it’s really good.  

Hofgut Falkenstein continues to provide us with what we think are the best values in the Saar, perhaps in all German wine. Erich and Johannes Weber are true winzers (the German term for vigneron); everything’s done by hand and on a very small scale. We were so impressed by the vintage we bought a ton of the Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Spätlese Feinherb, two Auslesen (from the gently rolling Falkensteiner Hofberg and the markedly more dramatic Krettnacher Euchariusberg), and we’re happy to introduce both the zippy Kabinett Trocken and the tremendous sparking non-dosage Riesling Sekt. Keep in mind that the Webers are strictly old-fashioned regarding prädikat usage; the Auslesen aren’t as sweet as you’d think and they’re quite versatile with food. These are not dessert wines; they should be for dinner!

Florian Lauer’s fame has recently exploded both here in the U.S. and in his native Germany, and while he may not yet be able to command the prices of someone like Egon Müller, his small but passionate fan-base is just as devoted and covets each new vintage as much as those who look forward to the yearly releases from the Müller’s Scharzhofberger. Florian just joined the VDP (Germany’s elite grower’s association) so his reputation’s going to continue to improve; hopefully this doesn’t mean the wines will be much more difficult to find, but it might! For now that isn’t the case, so stock up on the stellar offerings below. From the Ayler Kupp we’re particularly fond of the racy, stony definition of this year’s Unterstenbersch and Neuenbersch. Some of our other favorites of the vintage will be rolling in over the next few months, so put your requests in now… -jfr

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Falkenstein, Hofgut 2012 Saar Niedermenniger Herrenberg Ries Kab Trocken

Kabinett Trocken is perhaps the least understood category of Germany wine, and it's also one growers on the Mosel and Saar should wear as a badge of honor. This is a crisp, light, fully ripe yet searingly mineral wine, and it comes in at just 11% alcohol. This is absolutely unheard of anywhere else in the world of wine, and we're lucky it's something that's still possible in the era of climate change. This is open for business right now, as well, with floral, herbal and stone fruit aromas, and an achingly delicate and long finish. This wine is all about finesse, lightness and purity, with just a hint of earthy minerality underneath it all. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $16.99

Falkenstein, Hofgut 2012 Saar Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Ries Spät Feinherb

We love trocken wines from Falkenstein and we love sweeter wines from Falkenstein, but the fireworks for us really take place in the off-dry 'Feinherb' category. Of the few that we tasted this year, this particular bottling of the Sonnenberg was the most wildly successful and we'll be drinking lots of it (we bought tons just so we could). This particular parcel was harvested after a frost in mid-November. Its minty, green-toned aromas give way to crisp citrus and melon notes on the palate and a finish that's just drenched in slate. Roughly 18-19 grams residual sugar with quite a bit of acid, it's really perfectly balanced. One the top wines of 2012. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
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  • $18.99

Falkenstein, Hofgut 2012 Saar Krettnacher Euchariusberg Ries Auslese

Euchariusberg is one of Falkenstein's finest sites. It's quite steep, mostly blue slate and produces wines of great finesse that likely have the longest potential to age. It's mildly sweeter than the Hofberg this vintage, but holy bananas, this wine is something special. Peaches, melons, hay and tons and tons of slate on the finish. So much acid, so much slate, this is quintessential Saar in a glass. If the name on the bottle were different, we guarantee this wine would sell for exponentially larger amounts of money. It's multi-faceted, it's delightful and it's world-class Auslese. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white medium-sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $25.99

Falkenstein, Hofgut 2012 Saar Falkensteiner Hofberg Riesling Auslese

The Hofberg is the drier of the two Auslesen this year, with ten grams per liter less residual sugar than the Euchariusberg so the acid really slices through on this one. The nose is distinctly, alluringly smoky and grassy, and the palate is brilliantly tangy and fresh. Whereas the Euchariusberg covers the whole color palette of ripe, exotic fruits, the Hofberg focuses in on green and yellow citrus and apple notes. Our pal, Lars Carlberg, and the Webers opine that the smoky, grassy character of the wine derives from flint that appears along with the grey slate soil of this site. This is likely true, although I can't help but wonder what role the gently-sloping character of the site plays in affecting the flavor. Age your Euchariusberg, drink your Hofberg. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white medium-sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $25.99

Falkenstein, Hofgut 2011 Saar Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Ries Sekt Brut

Erich Weber, grinning from ear to ear, calls this "100% Riesling Winzersekt" presumably to differentiate it from the boatloads of Sekt produced from lesser grape varieties by massive operations. The vineyard chosen for Sekt seems to differ from year to year depending on which site offers the perfect balance of fruit to acid. Just like the Sekt from Lauer, the estate's house style is unmistakable even in the presence of bubbles, and lovers of the Webers' salty, steely, bracing wines with fresh, invigorating acid will be crazy about this. By the way, it's also the best Sekt we've ever tasted under $30. -jfr

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  • white sparkling
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  • no discount
  • $28.99

Lauer, Peter 2012 Saar Riesling Barrel X

Barrel X (or Alte Scheidt) continues to be many people's gateway into the wonderful world of Lauer, and given its bargain price, it remains one of our best-selling Rieslings. This vintage is a rather fruity Feinherb, almost Kabinett-like. Lemon and lime blossom on the nose, along with fresh green herbs and bright, white stones. This vintage comes from a blend of quite a few different sites; there's some purchased fruit but it's all harvested by treated well by Lauer. -jfr

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

Lauer, Peter 2012 Saar Ayler Kupp Riesling Fass 6 'Senior'

Senior is basically dry in 2012 (12 grams RS, so let's be honest, with Saar acid, it's dry). Great, open and exotic aromas of cinnamon, green apple and baking spice. The palate is broader than I'd normally expect with Lauer but the acid immediately focuses things; it's cool-toned, electric and well balanced with just 11.5% alcohol. Senior comes from a variety of parcels across the Kupp and some are raised in fuder, some in stainless steel. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white off-dry
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  • $28.99

Lauer, Peter 2012 Saar Ayler Kupp Riesling # 12 'Unterstenbersch'

I was unsure about Unterstenbersch right after it was bottled, but got the chance to re-taste recently and was totally floored. The aromas are wide, expressive and explosive, with complex notes of wild yeast, birch bark and cask. This bottling, a "Trocken bis Feinherb" as Florian likes to call them, is consistently one of Lauer's most interesting and the 2012 is shaping up to be a classic. Even when I thought it was shutdown after bottling I still wrote "piercingly mineral;" now that the fruit and acid have come out to complement this, the wine is just singing. Unterstenbersch is downslope from Stirn, all the way at the foot of the hill. -jfr

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  • white
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  • $37.99

Lauer, Peter 2014 Saar Ayler Kupp Riesling Stirn

Sourced from Riesling planted in the meager gray slate of the upper portion of the Ayler Kupp, this wine shows a medium golden yellow in the glass. The nose offers aromas of lime blossom, peppermint, and vanilla beans. The palate is lifted by a rush of minerality that carries notes of lemongrass, verbena and white tea to a delightfully smoky finish.

- David Salinas

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  • white
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  • $39.99

Lauer, Peter 2012 Saar Ayler Kupp Riesling Fass 17 'Neuenbersch'

PSA: If you are a fan of Lauer and this is within your means, you need to buy 2012 Neuenbersch. It was the most impressive wine of the lineup and is simply stunning. Neuenbersch, lying at the foot of the slope, is midway on the Ayler Kupp and is a bit further away from the Saar than some of Lauer's other parcels; it also typically gets a hair more botrytis than the others. While this doesn't sound particularly desirable on paper, the results in the glass were terrific and it showed a touch more acidity and verve than the others in the lineup. Apple, pineapple, beeswax, honey, etc. The fog collects here above 30-year old vines, and the age combined with botrytis and southwest exposure rather than pure south raise concentration and acid. The botrytis that develops is very clean and pure, and the wine is so pretty and super long. You get the impression of a laser of minerality that's cutting through the aromatics. 16-17 grams RS but 8 grams of acid so it's perfectly balanced feinherb. -jfr

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $52.99