Every year, some of the finest Mosel Riesling is sold at annual auctions held in September. Here the basic information on these auctions, auctions wines and how to participate.
We are frequently asked about the annual Auctions held in Trier by the Bernkasteler Ring and the Grosser Ring / VDP: Why do they do this? What are auction wines? Are they different to regular ones? Is the price difference worth it? How to participate? Etc.
We provide here an overview on these great events rooted into history. All practical information is contained in an 8 page pdf in-depth introduction document freely downloadable here below.
The Auctions were set up in the 19th century essentially as an efficient manner to capture value vs. the powerful trading houses. These Auctions gradually structured around grower associations by the turn of the 20th century, also to improve the traceability of the wines.
Until the middle of the 20th century, Auctions were to be the standard approach for selling wines, with commissioners as middlemen. With the development of Estate bottling and direct sales, the Auctions became an annual event dedicated to selling off selected high quality and rare wines only. Two grower associations emerged in the Mosel, the Bernkasteler Ring and the Grosser Ring / VDP, each organizing an Auction of wines from its members every year.
The vast majority of the wines brought to these Auctions are special wines (not sold via traditional sales channels) made from particularly prized parcels or the result of painful selections. The Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese are usually from the latest vintage, while the Eiswein, BA and TBA are from older vintages. Dry wines (today at the Bernkasteler Ring only) are, more often than not, over two years old before coming to Auction. In addition, some Estates may bring some mature rarities or rare large format bottles from wines which are sold via regular channels.
Auction wines represent a pinnacle of Mosel Riesling. We have personally been avid buyers of auction wines for many years as these bottlings represent for us the essence of Mosel Riesling greatness. Simply put: Not all auction wines are magical but our greatest Mosel wine memories have nearly all come from auction wines (at least from those Estates that are members of the two grower associations). The greatness of auction wines is underlined every year in our 10-Years-After and 20-Years-After Retrospectives which we publish in our Spring Issue: Auction bottlings are always among the very best of any of the 10 vintages which we reviewed so far. Also, they feature regularly as wines of the month.
Such wines are not cheap and auction wines often sell at a significant premium. However, this premium needs to be relativized by the fact that most fruity-styled or sweet auction wines are heavily de-classified: An auction Spätlese is actually very often equivalent to an Auslese or even to an Auslese GK sold via regular channels. Some relative bargains can even be made, which allow one to get the “best of Mosel” at reasonable prices.
However, in the end, the question of whether the premium and effort of buying at Auctions is worth it is a very personal one in terms of what one expects from one’s Mosel wines: Good everyday drinking vs. wines to let to mature for many years in the cellar, wines with great QPR or “the best of Riesling” (with price not being a prime factor), etc.
Both Auctions are held annually in the third week of September. Private individuals as well as professionals can bid at these Auctions. It is however advisable to contact a commissioner prior to bidding on the best way to handle any import or duties issues into your country.
Auction bottles do not necessarily need to be acquired at the Auction itself, some Estates and wine merchants / importers offer them also later.
In principle, all auction bottles carry a round sticker (see above) to distinguish them from regular ones. In practice, not all do carry a sticker and then only the AP numbers can help out. AP numbers may not be very consumer friendly but a little effort may allow one to make some bargains.
Not everyone can attend the Auctions and taste for him or herself. To help wine lovers throughout the world, Mosel Fine Wines has been publishing a complete guide to the Auctions with tasting notes in advance of the Auctions since 2009. You will find all relevant information in this special section of the site:
More information on the general principles laid out here above can be found in the following document (available for free download, just click on the page):
© 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.