The filigreed 2020 vintage generated some stunningly elegant wines such as this superb Spätlese by Merkelbach, where changes have happened.
The 2020 growing season was hot and dry and the harvest season mostly cloudy and rainy: The result is a unique vintage with incredible lightness, filigreed precision, subtlety, and a dash of ripeness.
Few wines epitomize these classic traits of Mosel Riesling better than the Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese AP 6 by Weingut Alfred Merkelbach.
The brothers Rolf and Alfred Merkelbach are part of the Mosel legends. These growers rooted in Ürzig started their career immediately after school, and now have more than 100 vintages between them. Their unique style of great lightness is one of the great joys of Riesling.
There is some news this year, as the brothers decided to take a step back. As Johannes Selbach (Weingut Selbach-Oster) explained, “the Selbachs and the Merkelbachs go back a very long way. Alfred and my mother know each other way back from senior high school in Bernkastel. Rolf and Alfred, bachelors, have no relatives nearby and we have enjoyed a very long and very good personal relationship (aside from business). A lot of mutual sympathy and also a lot of business went hand in hand over a long period of time. With lots of mutual sympathy and trust, it also turned out over time that it would be sort of a natural progression if Johannes were to take over not only the chores they could no longer do, but eventually take over the estate from them and to continue their tradition and legacy. When their physical fitness started weakening a few years ago, we gradually started to help them tend their vineyards. In 2020, they asked us if we would and we took over the entire work and we also delivered on the old agreement to take over from them. The wines continue to be made in the brothers’ tradition, in their cellar, in their barrels and it‘s very plain hands-off winemaking, using excellent fruit from mostly old, steep vineyards. The vineyards are excellent (with many old, un-grafted vines in Ürzig) and this makes the difference. Long story short, we will do all we can to keep their legacy alive.”
The Selbachs will maintain the Merkelbach Estate completely separate from its own. Also, the wines will continue to be vinified in the Merkelbach cellar in Ürzig.
Alfred Merkelbach filled us in on the news and on their plans going forward (Rolf was simply absent when we called him this spring): “The 2020 wines are really good, they are elegant, yields were good, we are really happy with the results! But 2020 marked a change for us as we had handed over both the vineyard and cellar management to Johannes Selbach and his team. We followed the unfolding of the growing conditions from a distance but still could not resist following the harvest more closely in particular when the grapes arrived and the resulting juice was put into our Fuders in our cellar. While 2020 may mark the end of our direct winemaking activities, we now have more time to taste our wines and share them with long-time customers of our Estate [as we spoke to Alfred he told us he had just opened a 2020 Spätlese this morning for a customer]. We will remain involved in the wine business as we still have a few bottles from former vintages.”
The Merkelbach brothers may not be involved as much on the wine crafting side but will still rejoice their customers with their smile and kind hospitality.
Given the changes, we were particularly eager to taste the Estate’s 2020 vintage and expressed a sigh of relief. The 2020 Merkelbach wines show everything one expects them to show in a more filigreed vintage: Playfulness, juiciness, and joie de vivre.
The wines are remarkably light-footed, airy, yet packed with juicy, ripe, and enticing flavors. A dash of creaminess runs through the collection which adds to the charm as this smoother side is neither heavy nor flabby. In the end, the filigreed beauty of Mosel comes through with flying colors!
In particular, the Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese AP 6 (picked in the Estate's parcel situated upriver of Ürzig) proved a stunning wine which combines the lightness of Kabinett with the subtle deepness of an Auslese, all this delivered with this joyful sense of airiness which has made the success of the Estate over the decades. Should this particular wine not be available in your neck of the world, worry not: The whole collection is a single resounding success!
We want to take this opportunity to thank the Selbach-Oster team for having embraced the methods and the spirit of the legendary brothers: The Merkelbachs may have taken a step back but their legend lives on to the delight of wine lovers worldwide!
The superb 2020 collection of Alfred Merkelbach
was reviwed in the Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 57 (July 2021).
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Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese AP 6
The 2020er Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese AP 6 was made from fruit picked at 89° Oechsle and was fermented down to barely sweet levels of residual sugar (60 g/l). It immediately captures one attention with some truly remarkable scents of strawberry, cassis, pear, vineyard peach, citrusy fruits, chalky minerals, and smoke. This simply screams of Würzgarten. The wine is subtle, playful, animating, light-footed, and yet packed with flavors on the palate. It leaves a gorgeous feel with a touch of Auslese creaminess but firm yet ripe zesty acidity comes through in the long and focused finish. The mouthwatering aftertaste makes you want to go for more. This wine gains significantly from airing and is really best left alone. 2030-2050
© Text by Mosel Fine Wines "The Independent Review of Mosel Riesling ... and beyond!"
Disclaimer: Mosel Fine Wines is an independent publication and has no commercial relationship with any Estate, association or organization featured in this article.