An elegant, refined and complex Spätlese by Willi Schaefer underlines why Spätlese / Auslese is the sweet spot in the 2015 vintage.
Few vintages have been as hyped as 2015 and there is some truth in it. 2015 yielded some stunning wines, and this in all stylistic directions.
But not everything that shines is gold. At its heart, 2015 is a ripe vintage, pepped up by glorious zest, with many wines on the powerful side. Only the very best wines will turn into classics in a decade or two.
The sweet spot of the vintage is clearly at Spätlese and Auslese level. Few match the silky finesse and complex elegance of the 2015er Graacher Domprobst Spätlese AP 5 produced by Weingut Willi Schaefer.
In the eyes of many wine lovers, the Weingut Willi Schaefer stands as one of the foundations of Riesling not only for Graach but for the Mosel as a whole.
The basis of the Estate's success has been its continued quest for elegance, as Christoph Schaefer underlined: “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 depending on the quality and maturity of each grape. In principle, we leave our wines in traditional Fuder. But this may be for more or less time in function of the vintage. We just deal with nature every year in order to give our wines some inner harmony.”
This approach has made that the wines of this Estate are regularly among the best of the vintage (have a look at our wines of the month: Over the years, Willi Schaefer wines have featured as few others). In addition, Willi Schaefer wines age beautifully well. We recently featured the 2006er Graacher Domprobst Beerenauslese, one of the highlights of the 2006 collection. It is therefore not surprising that there is huge demand for these Riesling treasures.
The Estate’s small size (4 ha) makes its wines among the most highly sough-after and most allocated, even at the Estate. Christoph Schaefer is not ready to increase the Estate’s size: “We want things to remain at family size. With 4 ha, we can still control everything and still earn a decent living.” This simple direct approach has been at the core of the Estate’s success since decades.
In 2015, the Estate did again focus on elegance and wines with inner harmony. Given the comparatively high sugar levels and good ripeness, Christoph Schaefer focused on producing Spätlese and Auslese and did not try to “force” unnatural quantities of Kabinett or dry wines (he did not produce any GG either in 2015): “We brought in essentially fruit with 90-100° Oechsle which is ideal for Spätlese and Auslese. We forfeited the production of some high end dry wines because the acidity was too high and also sugar levels were at the top end of what we ideally want for our dry wines.”
The quest for elegance tamed the ripe and rich side of the 2015 vintage and enhanced the bright, complex and vibrant side of the vintage. The result is simply staggering with some of the most astonishing wines of the vintage, especially at Spätlese and Auslese levels.
One of the highlights of the collection is the Graacher Domprobst Spätlese AP 5, which proves a little jewel of vibrancy and complexity (NB: The Estate typically produces several qualities of Spätlese and Auslese which only differentiate by the AP number on the label). It is exemplary for what will no doubt be one of the best vintages ever at the Weingut Willi Schaefer.
As we explained, the only drawback of Willi Schaefer wines is their scarcity. We wish our readers the best of luck to unearth a few bottles! If not available, as you will read from our report, there are plenty of alternatives in 2015 from within the Willi Schaefer portfolio!
The complete magical 2015 collection by Willi Schaefer
was reviewed in Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 31 (Jun 2016).
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Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese
This delicately backward wine only gradually develops a full array of complex scents of smoke, tangerine, spices, tar and mango. The wine is packed with flavors on the palate as its fruity side drives the aromatic profile at this stage and brings some smoothness to the racy structure. The acidity is present even if more in the background on the palate, and only really emerges at this stage in the very long and clean finish. This little jewel of elegance and delicately zesty creaminess will prove quite simply irresistible at maturity. 2025-2045
© 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.