2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Feinherb, Longuicher Maximin Herrenberg “1896” Mosel Germany.
One of the wine world’s great unicorn wines, the Carl Loewen 1896 Feinherb is from the oldest Riesling vines in Germany and from a Grand Cru steep Mosel vineyard that transmit absolute purity of terroir, there may not be a more authentic and pleasing Riesling than this, especially in a vintage such as 2018 that delivers greatness in the bottle. Since the first time I tried this wine, I knew it was something extraordinary and special, it is brave example of letting a wine make itself, with vigneron Christopher Loewen picking the grapes at perfect ripeness and allowing the fermentation to go as nature demands, which in this case comes in just above (outside) the legal limit to be called a Trocken, though with a higher must weight, it is a dry drinking style, but with the texture and palate presence of a maybe a Spatlese, though not giving up any mineral driven thrills, hence the Feinherb labelling! Explaining this wine can be hard, when you say it is not technically bone dry, some people tend to get judgmental, thinking of semi sweet wines as the devil, though, that said, I am kind of grateful, as that means there’s a chance that some might slip through and I might get a few bottles! The glorious detail and layers in this 2018 Maximin Herrenberg 1896 are mesmerizing with flinty/smoking mineral leading the way on the nose before lime blossom, rose petal and white orchard (stone) fruits lift from the glass. The revelation is on the medium bodied palate with its incredible play between hedonistic pleasures and chiseled and steely precision with layers of vivid citrus, apricot, delicate tropical notes and white cherry fruits as well as spiced/crystalized ginger, wet shale, citron and saline, where all these flavors combine and flow with a graceful crispness and a (light residual sugar) lingering creaminess. This 1896 Feinerb, dressed up in its special label and dark red wax capsule, is a profound example of Riesling and one of the absolute best, one of the top wines I’ve tasted this year.
The Carl Loewen estate, originally founded by the Catholic followers of the Maximin order was privately established during Napoleonic times around 1803 and the Loewen family purchased the famous Maximin Klosterlay in 1805, after which the family continued to pick up steep parcels in the area, with Christopher’s dad collecting some great plots in more recent times, including the second steepest site in Germany, they very smartly picked up historic vineyards that were difficult to farm, but produced awesome grapes. The Loewen the younger, Christopher, has taken over in the cellar and has set the world on fire with his wines since about the 2014 vintage, employing a more natural approach in the cellar and stricter organic practices in the vines, and as he puts it, he presses the grapes whole cluster and the pomace is never moved as to not break up the solids that leads to phenolic (bitter) flavors that can mire delicate wines and he browns the juice pre-ferments, which reduces reduction and he allows the wine to ferment sponti, using no yeast or enzyme additions with his single vineyard wines going directly into large fuder, oak casks. The Maximin Herrenberg 1896 Feinherb, as the name suggests comes from ingrafted vines planted back in 1896 and are on pure red slate closer to the Mosel River where it gets the reflection effect, meaning it has riper fruit and the iron rich broken slate soils influence the Riesling in the grandest way possible, with Loewen very careful picking only grapes that are non botrytis for his drier wines, which takes extreme attention to detail. This is a masterpiece in excellence, and while not easy to get, it is worth almost any price to get your hands on it, though, if you can’t get it, be sure to check out any and all of the Loewen 2018 offerings, they all are classy wines and great values in the more basic range, savvy choices are their Alte Reben (old vine) Trocken, the Premier Cru (Erste Lage) Maximin Klostelay Trocken, the Herrenberg Kabinett and the super tasty Estate Riesling.
($105 Est.) 97+ Points, grapelive