This wine of the month is a little jewel of elegance from an almost forgotten and now highly praised vineyard by one of the region’s most traditional makers. Read the story.
The Weingut Martin Müllen, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is situated in Traben and extends over a mere 4.0 ha spread between Kröv, Traben and Trarbach.
To "get" the Estate, you need to understand Martin Müllen: Martin is a wine grower, in the best sense of the word. His world is not the high profile wine fairs for the affluent and famous in New-York, Honk Kong, Paris or London. Since we first met him in the early 2000s, his world has invariably been made of vineyards, cellars, taking care of nature and its heritage, and “doing a good job.”
A tour in the cellar is like a walk in a winemaking museum. A basket press here, a self-fiddled engine from the 1950s to help with the pressing there, and traditional casks everywhere. But there are some stainless steel tanks: A sign of modernity after all? “No, just for blending.”
The wines are made with ambient yeasts and left for quite some time on their lees. When one asks him about what he uses and does in the cellar, the answer is invariably “nothing except being patient.”
This ultra-traditional winemaking has one major implication: The wines do require quite some time to blossom. This leaves Martin Müllen unfazed. He simply holds back some of his gems for years if not decades before releasing them commercially: Some 2006 have yet to hit the market.
The annual presentation at the Estate is therefore more a case of “see what we will put on sale this year” than a “vintage presentation.” Presently, the Estate still has many wines from the 1990s on offer, which can prove vivid and full of elegance (see our "20-Years-After" retrospective of the 1995 vintage).
The Estate produces mostly dry and off-dry wines, but also some fruity-styled ones. All require patience, especially as he is not afraid of a hint of botrytis even in his dry ones. As Martin explains, "this adds a touch of creaminess to buffer the acidity."
The pride of the Estate is its unique holdings in the Trarbacher Hühnerberg. This is one of these many vineyards which had been glorified at the turn to the 20th century and had fallen into anonymity and near-extinction by the 1980s.
Since 2000, Martin Müllen has gradually consolidated 2.5 ha of vineyards in the original lower section of this south-facing hill tucked into a deep side valley behind Trarbach. The combination of a blue-brown slate ("but not red slate" says Martin), the more extreme climate of a side valley and the slightly shorter exposure to the evening sun in the autumn makes often for almost Ruwer-like wines with subtle freshness and fresh herbs and spices.
Part of the Trarbacher Hühnerberg is still planted with old vines. It is partly from these old vines in the lower part of the vineyard that Martin Müllen produced this Kabinett Trocken * (the Estate uses “stars” to indicate particularly good casks). While made with fruit harvested at a modest 87° Oechsle, the wine fermented with ambient yeasts in classic Fuder and exhibits high dry extract levels (over 30 g/l!). It was bottled comparatively late, in August 2015.
The result is simply beautiful. The wine blends intense complexity with elegance, and the lightness of the alcohol (no more than 10.5% of alcohol) makes it a delightful drink, with or without food.
A review of the gorgeous 2014 Martin Müllen wines was published in Issue No 29 (Oct 2015). You are a subscriber and miss this Issue? Simply send us a request by email and we will be happy to send you a copy. You are not yet a subscriber and wish to get this Issue? Subscribe free of charge by registering yourself here below and ask us for a copy by email.
Trarbacher Hühnerberg Riesling Kabinett Trocken *
This shows an absolutely lovely and fine nose with fresh floral aromatics as well as riper scents of pineapple and a touch of mango. These are still wrapped into bakery flavors from the spontaneous fermentation at this early stage. The wine is driven by mineral notes on the palate. It is very pure, straight and appears almost lean in structure, and yet the wine is full of intensity and packed with layers of flavors in the very long and smoky finish. This is quite sensational, being both light and complex. This is a great dry Mosel wine in the making! 2017-2029
© Text by Mosel Fine Wines "The Independent Review of Mosel Riesling"
Disclaimer: Mosel Fine Wines is an independent publication and has no commercial relationship with any Estate, association or organization featured in this article.