This stunner from our 2006 retrospective epitomizes the ultimate elegance of great BAs. Willi and Christoph Schaefer provide some background to this roaring success
Mosel Riesling blossoms as it matures. Every year, we dedicate the Spring Issue of Mosel Fine Wines to the beauty of mature Mosel. This includes the largest "10-Years-After" Riesling retrospectives made anywhere in the world.
The retrospective of the 2006 vintage just published in Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 30 (Mar 2016) underlined the incredible botrytis elegance of its dessert wines. At their best, they are some of the finest ever in the Mosel. From all we understand from the older makers, 2006 is a remake of the mythical 1949 vintage.
Among these dessert wines, the elegance and finesse of the 2006er Graacher Domprobst Riesling Beerenauslese by Weingut Willi Schaefer proves irresistible.
In the eyes of many wine lovers, the Weingut Willi Schaefer stands not only for Graach but for Mosel as a whole, as one of the foundations of Riesling.
However, unlike other grand Estates of the region, the international fame and recognition of the Schaefer Estate only came by the later part of the 20th century. Willi Schaefer took over his small family Estate in 1971 and got rapidly noticed for its elegant and refined wines locally and internationally. Not surprisingly so, the Estate joined the VDP Mosel in the early 1990s.
What makes the success of this Estate is its constant quest for elegance. And this requires to always remain flexible, as Willi Schaefer explained: “We want our wines to be elegant, lively and animating. All our winemaking is geared towards that. We do not have a set recipe in our winemaking or vineyard management. We may harvest earlier or later in function of the quality and maturity of the grapes. In principle, we raise our wines in traditional Fuder. However, in practice, in function of the vintage, we may take the wines out of cask and put them in stainless steel if we believe that this helps retaining the elegance. We just deal with nature every year in order to give our wines the harmony which makes Mosel so special.”
Wine lovers simply love the elegance of Willi Schaefer wines. It is therefore not surprising that its wines are sought after the world over and are highly allocated, even at the Estate.
Today, his son Christoph Schaefer has taken over the family Estate together with his wife Andrea. Over the years, the Schaefer slightly increased their size. However, the Estate remains small by any standards, with not much more than 4 ha of vineyards situated essentially in Graach (there is a tiny bit of Wehlener Sonnenuhr for good measure).
Sometimes, small is very beautiful indeed.
About half of the holdings of Weingut Willi Schaefer are in the Graacher Domprobst. This vineyard proved hugely successful in 2006 and we asked Christoph Schaefer why. He puts it down to a combination of factors: "The Graacher Domprobst does not fare best in wet vintages. Thankfully, except for the spell of rain which led to botrytis, the 2006 harvest period remained dry. Also, the Domprobst is well known for retaining acidity and being able to integrate botrytis into its aromatics. This all played a role.”
The flexibility of the Estate was also at the heart of the success, as Christoph was quick to add: “Usually, in the Mosel, one tries - and we too - to delay the harvest as much as possible. Later harvests generally mean more complex fruit and riper acidity. Not in 2006. Probably for the first time at our Estate, we took the conscious decision to hurry through the harvest as the grapes were already ripe. Our small size certainly played into our hands as we could quickly mobilize teams and friends to bring all the fruit in in a matter of days.” Willi Schaefer added that it was also important to not keep the wines on the lees for too long in 2006: “We took them off really early to avoid that the wines gained too much weight and lose the inherent lightness that we want to achieve.”
Despite the widespread presence of botrytis in 2006, the Estate also made sure that its BA bottlings remain elegant: "When we produce some BA (as we did in 2006), we try to make sure that we do not aim at too high sugar levels. We want our BA to retain some Spiel, i.e. a playful side, and this proves difficult with very high sugar levels. It is for this reason that we have not made any TBA so far.”
Made with a moderate 140° Oechsle, the Graacher Domprobst BA simply flirts with perfection and proves a stunning highlight of the vintage, as you will read in the tasting note here below. Also, unlike many other wines from 2006, this can already be approached now.
Generally speaking, our 2006 retrospective underlined the particularly stunning performance of Weingut Willi Schaefer in this vintage. 2006 proved simply a huge success at this Estate: Anyone owning a few of these bottles can feel proud ... and lucky!
A comprehensive review of the stunning 2006er Willi Schaefer wines
was published in Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 30 (Mar 2016).
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Graacher Domprobst Riesling Beerenauslese
Harvested at 140° Oechsle, this offers a stunningly pure and airy nose of honey, greengage, mint and dried fruits. A delicate touch of oiliness is perfectly well framed by a touch of racy acidity on the palate. The oozes elegance and finesse; with layers upon layers of fruit and spices play with one’s sense. The seemingly endless finish is ethereally intense. There is intensity here – after all it is a BA – but is so hard to believe is the elegance and lightness with which this is conveyed. What a stunning wine! Now-2041
© 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.