Knebel and Immich-Batterieberg - More Great 2012s

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The affable, soft-spoken Matthias Knebel has been making the wines at his family's estate since 2009. They've been a constant presence in the German section here at Chambers Street since well before then, albeit mostly in the form of the entry-level dry Riesling and the multi-site blend, Riesling Von den Terrassen. As we've mentioned several times, 2012 is a terrific vintage up and down the Mosel and this is without a doubt Matthias' best vintage yet. We hope you're as excited as we are about what this thoughtful, passionate young winemaker is doing in Winningen's famously steep, terraced vineyards; we can confidently say that Knebel is entering the ranks of Germany's greatest producers of dry and off-dry Rieslings.  He works his magic in sites like Röttgen, Brückstück and, at the top of the heap, Uhlen, the most dramatic and storied slope in this section of the Mosel, the last set of vines before the Mosel finishes its curvy route from France to the Rhine. Like many of the best "dry" Mosel wines, Matthias lets the wines ferment naturally and doesn't push them to achieve legal dryness. The miniscule amount of sugar remaining in the wines keeps them in balance and helps them retain fruit and complexity without becoming austere, all while tasting dry. This vinous "sweet spot" is even more compellingly delicious due to the thrilling nervosity of the acid-driven 2012 vintage, and all lovers of both Mosel and dry German wine need to take a look at what Matthias is doing. He's now chosen to end the use of all herbicides in the vineyard and is out in the vines every day, working these unbelievably steep terraces; the wines are grossly underpriced for both their quality and the amount of work that goes into producing them, but that's in the consumer's favor for now. Buy as much as you can from Knebel now as his star is on the rise and prices will surely follow.

 

Prior to Matthias taking over, Knebel's wines were made by one Gernot Kollmann, who we now know and love as "Our Man in Enkirch." Gernot put Van Volxem on the vinous map back in the early 2000s and is now best known for heading the most talked-about estate on the Mosel, the revitalized Immich-Batterieberg. After the exquisitely chiseled 2009s, the electric 2010s and the baroque 2011s, Gernot is back with the eagerly-anticipated 2012s from Immich, and as in previous years, this looks to be one of our most successful German offers of the year. Gernot is a brilliant winemaker, an exceptional cook and I've come to teasingly call him the "Social Director of the Mosel Valley," as he's friendly with just about everyone there and excels at bringing together winemakers from all over the area and helping to forge a sense of community. He may be the most important figure in the future of the Mosel and his wines continue to thrill lovers of Riesling, not just here in New York but, increasingly, all over the world. The 2012s are more compact than any of the three previous vintages, marked by finely detailed nuance, textures unlike any others you'll find in Riesling and surreal depth and persistence. The crop was down 50% from 2011 and yields are a paltry 22 ha/hl, so there's not much to go around; we encourage you to buy as much as you can and bury them deep as the wines will unfold beautifully over the next decade. As at Knebel, the wines are either dry or in "sweetness limbo," where they can't legally be called Trocken, but they still taste dry due to their vibrant acid. Brief notes regarding the individual sites and wines can be found below, and we expect everything to arrive in early May. -jfr

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Knebel 2012 Mosel Winninger Uhlen 'R' Riesling (Arrives Mon. 7/7)

Uhlen is the granddaddy site of the lower Mosel and is perhaps the most famous (only Röttgen comes close in renown). The 'R' is made from a special sub-section called Roth Lay with a high percentage of red sandstone along with the ever-present weathered, hard slate. The 'R' is also a subtle tribute to Matthias' father, Reinhard. Only 750 bottles of Uhlen R were producer and it comes from 70-year old ungrafted vines. This is the best wine of the lineup this vintage with great acidity, unreal minerality and a broad, palate-coating texture. I've tasted this wine twice and have been floored both times; Matthias Knebel has arrived! JFR

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Knebel 2012 Mosel Winninger Röttgen Riesling

Röttgen is downstream from Uhlen and Brückstück and is known for making lighter, brighter wines than the denser ones from Uhlen. Knebel often makes a lovely off-dry Kabinett from this site but this year we were most taken by this, the drier and more herbal rendition. Some of their oldest vines go into this bottling and in 2012 it's characterized by tremendous depth and verve. One of the hallmarks of the estate's style is that regardless of the weight of the wine, the degree of sugar or the acidity, there is always a rush of dense, stony minerality on the finish that's distinct from the slate-tones one finds elsewhere on the Mosel. The stony intensity increases as you go up the ladder and this is one of the stoniest, most exciting Rieslings we've tasted in a long while. JFR

Luscious. Thick with mouth-coating, cooling minerals, menthol, and pine all buttressed with a squeaky clean structure. JK

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Knebel 2012 Mosel Brückstück Riesling

Brückstück wraps around Röttgen much like the Himmelreich does to the Domprobst in Graach, and Zeppwingert does to Batterieberg in Enkirch. (Map fiends should definitely check out this site, one of our favorite resources). Even though all four of Knebel's sites are in the same village and are vinified using the same methods, the differences in soil composition and vine exposure produce remarkably unique finished wines. Blue slate dominates here and while the wine has more RS than any of the others (20 grams) it still tastes fairly dry and is absolutely beautiful on the palate. Length, intensity and finesse are the apt descriptors for Matthias' 2012s. JFR

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Knebel 2012 Mosel Riesling

Knebel's basic estate Riesling, the dry one that is soaked with minerals, the one we keep stacked up in the front of the store, the one we sell from the fridge, is finally getting some recognition. As we wrote recently, Matthias Knebel is continuing to come into his own as a winemaker, and 2012 is poised to be seen as his breakout year, one in which vintage conditions aligned perfectly with his stylistic ambitions. Matthias is a really great, talented guy and deserves your support. Drink more Knebel! JFR

Forward and herbaceous, with a dark, mysterious depth. Quince and Anjou pear notes add richness which is balanced by a chewy structure. A complex, soulful, wine with the added benefit of being simply delicious. JK

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Immich-Batterieberg 2012 Mosel C.A.I. Riesling

As in previous years, C.A.I. tastes close to dry and is a blend of purchased fruit (from smart, committed growers) up and down the Mosel and Saar. This year is particularly interesting as there are some old vine parcels in the blend from the Oberemmeler Altenberg that bring great depth to the wine. According to Lars Carlberg, this old vine parcel may be bottled as a separate wine in 2013; it's that good. This C.A.I. is much more like the 2010 in character than the 2011, although not quite as vigorous and biting as the former. Tasty, tasty Riesling! JFR

Unashamedly easy to enjoy. Plenty of crisp acids but they are gently integrated with sensations of perfectly ripe nectarine. Wildly versatile, eminently tasty, but not a moment goes by while drinking this wine that you don't seriously reflect on the fortuitous mix of elements in the vineyard and the cellar that created such a high level of deep pleasure. JK

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Immich-Batterieberg 2012 Mosel Escheburg Riesling

2012 Escheburg has a very different makeup from the 2011, with the majority of the fruit coming from old vines in the Batterieberg vineyard with an average vine-age of 60 years. At just 7.5 g/l RS, this dry mid-tier wine (a blend of multiple sites but all estate fruit, nothing purchased), continues to be the best introduction to the Immich-Batterieberg style as well as the perfect value wine for those who can't commit to the pricier wines. JFR

Intensely satisfying, lemon-y refreshment. Integrated elements bound with an exciting, linear structure. Simply exploding with citrus and the sensation of vibrant sunshine. JK

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Immich-Batterieberg 2012 Mosel Steffensberg Riesling

Steffensberg is Immich's only site that isn't on the famous Starkenburger Hang, the southwest facing slope directly overlooking the Mosel. Steffensberg is just north of here in a side valley off the river and faces directly south. It's warmer here, with more direct sun exposure, so the slight increase in ripeness is reflected with just a hair more sweetness at 12 g/l. (Pictured is a doorplate at the Hotel Steffensberg, a lovely place to stay across the street from Immich-Batterieberg in Enkirch) JFR

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Immich-Batterieberg 2012 Mosel Batterieberg Riesling

Batterieberg is a 1.1 hectare monopole of the estate's. It abuts the Mosel and is surrounded on all other sides by Zeppwingert. It's made up of blue and gray slate with quite a bit of quartz as well. Once again, this shows as the driest of the Immich lineup and the aromatics are focused and deeply mineral. True to what we've come to expect from this site, scrubby, salty minerality is on display in spades. Batterieberg is the most linear, laser-like and zippy of the lineup, with a dense mineral core and an insanely good, intricate finish. John Ritchie

Still very youthful, with a gorgeous concentration of fruit that is surrounded by layers of lithe acids, minerals, salt, and spice. From the poorest soils of Immich's holdings, this subtle, structured wine will no doubt slowly reveal itself to be quite a rich treat. Jonathan Kemp

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Immich-Batterieberg 2012 Mosel Ellergrub Riesling

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. At only 8.5 g/l RS. and 8.5 g/l acid, this is the driest Ellergrub yet, and it sure is pretty. Aromatically it's somewhat quiet now but the texture is just so lovely and distinctively Immich. Super-long and super-expressive. JFR

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Immich-Batterieberg 2012 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. As is becoming a theme for this vintage, it's drier than in the past and has great depth, precision and superb length. -jfr

This shows less citrus notes than the other bottlings from this vintage and is instead voluptuous and mouth-watering, with more ripe pear. Enticing, savory, and fragrant with wet stones and a dark, sultry attitude. 100 year-old vines from a small parcel of just 8 terraces. JK

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