Zilliken - Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold

Two weeks ago the Justerini & Brooks team travelled to Germany to visit a number of our esteemed producers. Over three sunny days we visited 10 estates spanning the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau and Nahe regions and were reminded time and again just how thrilling great Riesling (and Spatburgunder) can be.

We began our trip with a visit to Weingut Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken in the picturesque medieval town of Saarburg, where the famous Rausch vineyard majestically dominates the skyline. As one of the most vertiginous vineyards in Germany, the message here is clear: hard work and hard graft. It is however, on these legendary slopes, that liquid gold is born.

Hanno Zilliken and daughter Dorothee are firm believers that it all starts in the vineyard. Grapes in the Saar generally ripen later than those in the Mosel and are typically higher in acidity, often resulting in wines with more tropical notes, a bright core of acidity and a wonderful talent for extended ageing. In this respect, the Zilliken wines are nothing short of legendary.

We tasted a great many terrific wines with Hanno, from 2014 right back to 1949, but two wines in particular stood out: Saarburger Rausch Auslese Goldkapsel 2010 and Saarburger Rausch Auslese Lange Goldkapsel 2005.

2005 was a perfect vintage for the Saar and even more so for Zilliken. According to Hanno everything went right. Steady warm breezes late in the season kept the vineyards dry and healthy, allowing their grapes to gently desiccate on the vine and reach unprecedented levels of sugar concentration and fruit ripeness – ideal for producing the top sweet wines.

2010 has a different profile altogether – some of the highest must-weights on record, combined with crisp, juicy acidities. Although Zilliken reported the lowest crop for 30 years, what they did harvest was made into utter brilliance.