2016 delivered some stunner cut along the canons of 1997, including this brilliant dry Riesling by the up-and-coming Carl Loewen Estate.
After a most challenging start during the growing season, the 2016 vintage has turned out to be a charmer with much early ripe appeal. But the 2016 vintage also delivered racier wines including a few stunner cut along the great canons of the 1997 vintage, one of the finest vintages ever, as our recent 1997 retrospective has amply shown.
1997 was also one of the finest vintages ever for dry Riesling in the Mosel. It is therefore hardly surprising that 2016 also delivered some stunning dry Riesling. One of these is the 2016er Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Trocken Alte Reben by Weingut Carl Loewen.
The Weingut Carl Loewen has always been a fine small family Estate in Leiwen which was already active in the early 1800s: An ancestor had acquired vineyards from the French state during the secularization.
It was also an Estate of humble means, as Karl-Josef Loewen recalls: “We never had vast sums of money to acquire parcels in better-known vineyards such as the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen or the Trittenheimer Apotheke. However, we were lucky that the whole stretch of vineyards from Trier downriver to Leiwen had been pretty much been forgotten by the 1980s. I was able acquire some prime parcels there, including in the Leiwener Laurentiuslay and the Thörnicher Ritsch. In fact, at the time, some colleagues thought I was mad to buy myself into ultra-steep hill vineyards on single stake instead of going for an easier life on gentler slopes.”
Besides developing a portfolio of fine vineyards (more on this later in this article), Karl-Josef Loewen also perfected its approach on the winemaking side: "We have switched from harvest trailer (where the fruit is pumped into the press) to 500 liter baskets which are then tipped over into the press, thereby preserving the integrity of the grapes better until pressing. We press at comparatively high pressure with shorter programs than usual and general try to mimic as much as possible the slightly oxidative effect of the traditional basket presses as this stabilizes the wines. We ferment our musts spontaneously, without pre-cooling, in large traditional casks for our dry Riesling and leave the wines on their gross lees until end of February or beginning March before being filtered and then bottled in March-April."
The Estate has been on a roll since a few years, as it refined its style, in particular for dry Riesling. In 2012, under the impulse of young Christopher Loewen, it crafted an eye-browse raising dry-tasting Riesling simply called 1896. This wine was made from over 100 year-old vines and using ancient winemaking methods. We featured it as a wine of the month back in 2013.
In 2016, the Estate dished up a collection which has topped anything it has produced so far. Clearly the nature of the vintage, with its slightly lower sugar levels and gentler acidity, helped giving balance to the Estate’s dry wines. But, we also feel that the father-son tandem has finally unlocked the key to the style they are thriving for. Since years, Karl-Josef Loewen has been telling us: “I want wines that people actually drink, not big powerful beasts made to impress.” His 2016 wines do certainly achieve that.
The jewel in the crown of the Carl Loewen Estate has undoubtedly to be its parcels in the Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg, which Karl-Josef Loewen was able to take over from the historic Carl Schmitt-Wagner Estate in 2007. This included a 1 ha parcel on this south-west facing hill which is still planted with un-grafted vines dating back to ... 1896!
While the Carl Schmitt-Wagner Estate essentially produced fruity and sweet wines from this parcel, Karl-Josef and Christopher Loewen used it to produce some dry and dry-tasting Riesling: “We immediately felt that the vineyard could be well suited for dry Riesling. The soil is infused with red iron-rich slate. Also the incredible age of the vines could bring great aromatic complexity and intensity.”
This combination worked wonders in 2016 and the vineyard produced a stunning dry Riesling made from clean fruit harvested at a seemingly rather full 96° Oechsle. However, as Christopher Loewen explained, these seemingly high must levels are not an issue: “While the sugar levels are high, the spontaneous fermentation and aging in traditional Fuder casks tame the alcoholic efficiency. In the end, the wine only has 12.5% of alcohol.”
The Estate has come a long way since the humble beginnings in the 1980s depicted by Karl-Josef Loewen at the beginning of this article. This is now one of the established top addresses for dry and sweet Riesling in the Mosel.
The stunning 2016er Riesling collection by Carl Loewen were reviewed in the Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 35 (Jun 2017). 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.
Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Trocken 1896 Alte Reben
This offers a stunning nose of grapefruit, ginger, white peach and herbs. The wine is still rather shy on the palate but the finesse and complexity are simply staggering as minerals and fine spices provide the blanket for stunning fruity flavors of pear and juicy grapefruit. The finish is all about presence, elegance and finesse. This dry Riesling combines the best of its 2014 and 2015 counterparts to offer a great expression of Riesling which will be, no doubt, among the highlights of the vintage. 2021-2031
© 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.