Egon Müller, Scharzhof Riesling QbA

Egon Müller, Scharzhof Riesling QbA, 2016

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    Riesling 100%

Scharzhof is described as Müller’s entry level wine but it is anything but entry level.

Introduced in 1973, it’s a QbA (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete – a quality wine from a specific region). Many wine critics and professional tasters consider it to be one of the finest Qualitätswein bottlings now to be encountered in Germany.

The grapes, used in its production come from the vineyards in Saarburg, Oberemmel, and Wawern, together with those from the Wiltinger sites of Kupp and Braunfels. Occasionally, grapes from the more prestigious vineyards may be added, depending on the quality of the harvests.

About Egon Müller

Weingut Egon Müller is a renowned estate in the Saar valley sub-region of the Mosel in Germany. It exclusively works with the Riesling grape, and is particularly known for its wines made from the exceptional Scharzhofberg vineyard southeast of Wiltingen. The current manager is Egon Müller IV, who studied at the leading winemaking university at Geisenheim.

These wines are produced at a range of ripeness levels, including Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese, and Auslese Goldkapsel in the best years. If conditions allow, sweet Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein are also produced. The Scharzhofberg releases are among the most sought-after of all German wines and achieve some of Germany's highest prices at auction.

Despite the trend towards drier wines in the Rheinland, the Spätlese and Auslese tend to show plenty of residual sugar. Because the wines are not dry they cannot be labelled as Grosses Gewächs (similar to Grand Cru), even though the vineyard is classified as such. All the wines need time to reach their peak and can age well; the Auslese can easily last half a century or more.

A large section of 8.5 hectares (21 acres) on the grey shale slopes of the south-facing Scharzhofberg vineyard, behind the Scharzhof house and winery, forms the heart of the Egon Müller estate. This is widely held to be one of the great white wine vineyards in the world.

There are also half a dozen smaller plots totalling no more than 4ha (10 acres), mostly a little further down-river on the southwest-facing banks of the horseshoe in the Saar between Wiltingen and Kanzem. These belong to the Weingut Le Gallais in Wiltingen which was acquired by Egon III in 1954 (though half its vineyards are rented, not owned outright) and include the Kupp and Braune Kupp single vineyards. Fruit from some of the other vineyards may feature in the generic Scharzhof Riesling.

The estate in its present form dates back to 1797, when Jean-Jacques Koch acquired the Scharzhof farm from the French republic. His daughter married Felix Müller, and the estate has remained in the same family ownership ever since.

Egon Müller also produces top-class Riesling with Miroslav Petrech in Slovakia under the Château Belá label. In the Adelaide Hills region of Australia he collaborates with Michael Andrewarta of East End Cellars to make the dry Kanta Riesling from a vineyard owned by Shaw & Smith.

Grape variety

Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked. As of 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world's 20th most grown variety at 48,700 hectares (120,000 acres) (with an increasing trend), but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the "top three" white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly "terroir-expressive", meaning that the character of Riesling wines is greatly influenced by the wine's place of origin.

In cool climates (such as many German wine regions), Riesling wines tend to exhibit apple and tree fruit notes with noticeable levels of acidity that are sometimes balanced with residual sugar. A late-ripening variety that can develop more citrus and peach notes is grown in warmer climates (such as Alsace and parts of Austria). In Australia, Riesling is often noted for a characteristic lime note that tends to emerge in examples from the Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia. Riesling's naturally high acidity and pronounced fruit flavours give wines made from the grape exceptional aging potential, with well-made examples from favourable vintages often developing smoky, honey notes, and aged German Rieslings, in particular, taking on a "petrol" character.

In wine making, the delicate nature of the Riesling grape requires special handling during harvesting to avoid crushing or bruising the skin. Without this care, the broken skins could leak tannin into the juice, giving a markedly coarse taste and throwing off balance the Riesling's range of flavours and aromas.

A wine that is best at its "freshest" states, the grapes and juice may be chilled often throughout the vinification process. Once, right after picking to preserve the grapes' more delicate flavours. Second, after it has been processed through a bladder press and right before fermentation. During fermentation, the wine is cooled in temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks kept between 10 and 18 °C (50 and 64 °F). This differs from red wines that normally ferment at 24 to 29 °C (75 to 84 °F)

Unlike Chardonnay, most Riesling do not undergo malolactic fermentation. This helps preserve the tart, acidic characteristic of the wine that gives Riesling its "thirst-quenching" quality. (Producers of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio often avoid malolactic fermentation for the same reason.) Riesling is often put through a process of cold stabilisation, where the wine is stored just above its freezing point. The wine is kept at this temperature until much of the tartaric acid has crystallised and precipitated out of the wine. This helps prevent crystallisation of the acid (often called "wine diamonds") in the bottle. After this, the wine is normally filtered again to remove any remaining yeast or impurities.

In viticulture, the two main components in growing Riesling grapes are to keep it "Long & Low" meaning that the ideal situation for Riesling is a climate that allows for a long, slow ripening and proper pruning to keep the yield low and the flavour concentrated.

Alternative Names: Weisser Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, Johannisberger, Rhine Riesling, Riesling Renano

About Wiltingen

Wiltingen is a small yet important town on the lower Saar river within the wider Mosel region, known for its intense, age worthy wines from the Riesling grape. It lies about 3 miles (5km) from Konz, where the Saar meets the Mosel. To the northeast is Kanzem, and the French border is less than 7 miles (11km) away.

Wiltingen has eight vineyards that have been classified by the VDP as Gross Lage, double the number of any other village in the region. In addition, several of the region's best-known estates are based here, including Weingut Egon Müller.

Scharzhofberg is one of the most prestigious vineyards in all of Germany and is classified as an Ortsteil (approximately, "district") – meaning it is referred to on labels using only the vineyard name, in much the same style as Grand Cru Burgundy. The vineyard should not be confused with Scharzberg, which is the name of the local grosslage.

The Scharzhofberg vineyard lies along a small tributary of the Saar, and covers around 28 hectares (70 acres), distributed among several owners. It is oriented to the south and has a gradient of 35-60 percent. The site's soil is composed of the usual grey and red slate, with a relatively high proportion of loess too. Scharzhofberg wines are very refined and elegant, with penetrating salty mineral tones and very fine-grained acidity. They can be very long-lived, retaining their fruit as they age.

The Egon Müller estate is located at the foot of the Scharzhofberg slope, and makes some of the most sought-after white wines in the world, all of which have some residual sugar. Van Volxem, based in the town itself, makes a leading dry Grosses Gewächs wine from the vineyard.

Braune Kupp is often spoken of as the second-greatest Wiltingen vineyard. It is a monopole of Le Gallais, an estate part-owned by a family from Brittany, though Egon Müller is a co-owner and is contracted to make the wines. The other Grosse Lage sites are Kupp, Braunfels, Gottesfuss, Volz, Scharzhofberger Pergentsknopp and Hölle.

Regular price $374.00

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