Emrich-Schönleber: Terroir in action

Emrich-Schönleber: Terroir in action

To continue our German theme this week, after a brace of top quality Auslese Goldcaps yesterday, today we offer two thrilling Grosses Gewachs wines from Weingut Emrich-Schönleber. Hailed as one of the ‘very finest wine producers in Germany’s Nahe’ by Jancis Robinson and very much an icon in Germany, Werner Schönleber took over this great estate in the 1970s from his father and made the decision that from that point on they would marshal their efforts exclusively on wine production, steadily buying up and restoring parcels of vines in the great Nahe vineyards of Halenberg and Fruhlingsplatzchen in the ensuing years.

Werner is still very much a presence at the estate and since 2005 has been joined by his son Frank, who continues the pursuit of absolute perfection in the vineyards and clinical precision in the cellar. In fact, a trip to their vineyards is enough to convince anyone of the hard work that goes into crafting these wines. Standing there, discussing their characteristics, contrasts and challenges, one cannot but feel that this really is terroir in action.

First, there is the Fruhlingsplatzchen, a hillside vineyard grown on red earth and slate with a sunny south facing exposition. ‘Fruhling’, a word meaning ‘Spring’, really does encapsulate many of the characteristics of the resulting wine. In typical Schönleber fashion, the 2014 combines power and focus with a layered complex nose of white flowers, honeysuckle, herbs and yellow plums, red apples and candied lemon, combined with a stony, chalky and juicy structure on the palate. The Grosses Gewachs always comes from the warmest parcel in the site, thus that with the lowest yields and greatest concentration.

In contrast, little more than 1km apart, the Halenberg is grown on poorer blue-grey soils and fine slate with rocky quartzite which lends the wine a spicier, mineral, salty edge. This too comes from the warmest parcel in the vineyard, but the 2014 Halenberg GG centres on tension, green apples, grapefruit and fennel with a driving slate/salt finish. This is a different beast altogether, one that is very serious, yet elegant and finessed.

For lovers of exhilarating, fine dry German Riesling these really are two of the very best Grosses Gewachs available and are wines that every collector needs in their cellar. Both will be ready to drink 3 to 4 years from the vintage and will continue to improve for ten years or more.

‘Suffice it to say, this is an estate with an embarrassment of riches.’ – Stephan Reinhardt, The Finest Wines of Germany.