2017 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Ritsch, Grosses Gewächs, Mosel Germany.
Loewen’s amazing Ritsch GG coming from extreme slopes, the second steepest in Europe, set on intense slate is a wonderfully concentrated dry Riesling that shows the historic terroir along with the talents of Christopher Loewen, who took over the estate’s winemaking in recent years and has brought this winery to new heights of quality, focusing on a sophisticated drier style. The Carl Loewen estate dates back to 1803, and according to importer Terry Theise, one of the world’s most respected Riesling experts, when an agent in Paris purchased a set of vineyards and buildings owned by the Church’s religious Maximin order. This sale was part of an auction used to generate money for the Napoleonic government after secularization thought Europe and included some of the finest vineyard site in the Mosel, including Maximiner Herrenberg, which has the oldest set of Riesling vines in Germany, planted in 1896 and then two years later Loewen acquired their main parcels at Maximin Klosterlay. Christopher’s dad, always wise and with a nose for great sites, Karl -Josef, was always looking for old vineyards and grew the Estate by purchasing steep old vineyards (low yielding) that no one wanted to work anymore, he in fact for this wine, he got the estate’s first selection in the Thörnicher Ritsch vineyard in 1998, which as noted, is the second steepest vineyard in Germany, second only to Bremer Calmot in the lower Mosel. This is an exceptional site with grey weathered slate and quartzite soils, and as Christopher notes, it took awhile for the Loewen’s to get this place up to speed, going from conventional farming to chemical free organic methods here, as they now practice throughout their holdings, and the quality in the last three vintages have reached impressive levels of quality, with this 2017 being absolutely gorgeous and perfumed with beautiful mineral detailing and crystalline transparency. There are three wines that you’ll want to get from Loewen, their Alte Reben Trocken, their incredible 1896 Herrenberg Feinherb, from Germany’s oldest Riesling vines and this Ritsch GG, it’s a powerful and majestic wine that really stands out.
Christopher employs a natural approach to making his wines, and as Theise notes, all of the grapes are all pressed whole cluster pressed, but the pomace is never moved. With Loewen adding “when you move the solids, you break stems, which leads to phenolic flavors”, which he avoids. The juice is then “browned” or oxidized pre- fermentation, that reduces reduction and brings out more fruit purity. Loewen’s ferments are Sponti (native yeast) and completely natural without addition of enzymes or nutrition for the yeast, with single vineyard wines, like this one, are bloc picked and go directly into Fuder barrels (around 1000L in size) which average 25 years old without temperature control as the cellar here is very cold already. The 2017 Thörnicher “Ritsch” Grosses Gewachs is rich, ripe and opulent in personality with a hint of exotic fruits, but still is driven by this vineyard’s special characteristics, it’s a site that Theise calls, one of Germany’s great undiscovered Grand Crus, and there is a certain intensity of extract, a slight green note, though less obvious in this vintage, as well as the flinty spiciness which contrasts perfect with the fruit density. The palate reveals layers of apricot/peach stone fruits, a subtle tropical element with touches of papaya, mango and passion fruit along with a burst of lime and tangerine as well as crushed wet stones, minty herb, verbena, lemongrass and leesy notes. This 2017 will continue to evolve, it’s lush and forward now, but the underlying grip and the core material has potential elevate this beauty to an even greater level, it will be worth it to put a few bottles away, even though it is such a joyous Riesling as it is now. Loewen’s upcoming 2018’s are without a doubt going to be legends, I had a chance to try them with Christopher and they are some of the best young Rieslings I’ve ever tried, his whole collection is stellar. When I fist started exploring German wines over 20 years ago, I was taken by Selbach-Oster, Leitz and Loewen, they have always been special to me and helped me understand the greatness of Riesling, and they still do, especially in recent years and with the direction Christopher has taken, his wines are some of the greatest white wines in the world, do not miss them, in particular the old vine trockens!
($65 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive