The heart of Riesling
I am currently in the Mosel Valley, the heart of Riesling. Even though the Riesling grape is found almost everywhere in the world, there is still something special about Riesling from the Mosel.
The unique soil and the steep slopes give a very special character and flavour to the wines that cannot be recreated anywhere else.
One of my first stops is at Markus Fries, winemaker in the eighth generation. It is by no means a big winery I visit. On the contrary, this is really in all aspects a family business. The total area is only 6 ha, spread over the steep slopes of the Mosel valley in more or less large, or rather small, slots.
However, the wines produced are of exceptionally high quality and are made with knowledge acquired over generations and with a warm heart that is passionate about wine in general and Riesling in particular.
We begin our meeting with a tour of the different vineyards and Markus shows me both the young vines he has planted himself and those he has inherited from previous generations.
When I ask, he is a little unsure about the age of the oldest vines. He guesses somewhere around 100 years. The pride and gratitude to previous generations is palpable.
The young vines, only 20 years old, he says, are planted with future generations in mind. “They give perfectly good grapes now, but will be so much better later.”
Back at the Winery, I get to taste a selection of the wines. Having seen where they grow, seeing the difference in the soil, feeling the slope of the hillside, really gives an extra dimension when you later taste the final product.
We start with some young wines from 2022 and -21.
Both are dry, bright with fresh acidity, floral aromas and a distinct minerality. Even though it is the same grape and the same hand behind the production, the different soils of the sites are tangible and clear. The two wines are so similar, yet have completely different character and style. The first, Blauschiefer, has a clear, fresh minerality with classic notes of apples and honey. Wine number two, Auf der Schwarzen Lay, which comes from a different location and thus a different soil, is more muted in tone. The apples here are red rather than green and the distinctly honeyed nose is an eco of the forest. The same grape, the same winemaker, but two different sites, two different wines.
2003 was a difficult year in the Mosel. The heat made it tricky to maintain the classic acidity in the grapes. An exception was made and it was temporarily allowed to add acid to compensate. Markus Fries, after consulting his father and grandfather, chosed not to. And now, 20 years later, it is clear that he did the right thing!
I had the honour of tasting his Lesura 2003. It is an elegant, complete wine that after 20 years has aged tremendously well and is now showing layer upon layer of flavours and aroma.
Normally, I always automatically think about what food would go with the wine. But Lesura 2003 is a Queen to be savoured alone. It needs no complement or distraction, but is enough in itself.
Markus Fries is a winemaker who, with knowledge, skills and experience, with respect for nature as well as traditions, see and brings out the wine that is already in the grapes.
Europäische Sommelier Schule