This beauty stands exemplary for the growing success of Natural Wines in the Mosel. Here some background on this exciting development.
2018 is a ripe and consumer-friendly vintage characterized by fruit and mild acidity. For lovers of racy Mosel, is there therefore little to cheer? Not really, as we explain in Part I of our 2018 vintage report: A few growers completely defied the ripe DNA of the vintage and produced some truly stunningly fresh and racy wines.
One such wine turns out to be the 2018er Little Bastard by Jan Matthias Klein, a natural wine grown organically without any additives in the cellar. It stands exemplary for the growing success of the movement in the Mosel.
Weingut Staffelter-Hof is one of the (if not THE) oldest working winemaking Estate in the world. Records show that this Estate long owned by the Belgian Benedictine Abbey of Stavelot (hence the "Staffelter" name) was already active ... in 862! The Estate was secularized in early 1800s and has been in the Klein family ever since.
Jan Matthias Klein joined his family Estate in 2005. He had been exposed to green thinking during his very first apprenticeship and was dedicated to turn his Estate to organic means: “We immediately stopped using herbicides but first had to consolidate the vineyards in order to work organically properly without too many neighbors. I spent some time, buying some parcels and exchanged others with colleagues. In 2011, I decided to go full organic. 2011 was actually an easy vintage, without much disease. The real test came with 2012, which saw a lot of peronospora. But we stuck to it and got formally certified in 2014.”
In parallel, he also saw the need to change in the cellar: “I got exposed to natural wines around 2010 and was quite taken by the movement’s philosophy which advocates that wines should not only be made from grapes farmed organically, but also fermented and aged without any of the huge number of additives and extraction methods allowed by the law.” What is not well known is that the wine law allows for a huge range of products to be used “to help” in the cellar. Their presence and impact remains however undisclosed, as wine is a product which is exempt from a full declaration of ingredients.
“To be honest, my first private experiments with any intervention - especially no sulfur - were anything but good,” Jan candidly admitted while laughing, ”but when I released my first natural wines from the 2014 vintage in 2016, I immediately got hugely positive feedback.”
In the meantime, Jan Matthias Klein has developed one of the largest portfolio of natural wines in the Mosel, which he commercializes under such “provocatively playful” names as Little Bastard or Orange Utan (many growers from the natural movement scene do the same).
While the generally accepted definition of natural wine by the movement allows “a little sulfur at bottling,” Jan Matthias Klein’s natural wines are bottled without any sulfur added. Also, he relishes the use of bentonite (which, surprisingly enough, has been allowed in the recently adopted legal provisions for “natural wine” in Austria).
At first, Jan bottled his natural wines under his general Weingut Staffelter-Hof label. However, as of 2018, he opted to bottle them under the Jan Matthias Klein label in order to better differentiate them from his set of wines made with sulfur.
Overall, the natural wine movement has seen some exciting development in the Mosel over the last years. The pioneers have now been joined by young and dedicated growers and by other organic growers who show an interest in working without intervention in the cellar. We provide a full overview over the development of natural / low intervention / low-no sulfur wines in the Mosel in the Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 49 (Jan 2020) .
Wine lovers associate the Mosel with Riesling and the Staffelter-Hof is no exception: 75% of its vineyards is planted with Riesling. In addition to Riesling and some red wine grape varieties, Jan Matthias Klein also relies on Müller-Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muskateller. He even planted some Arinto and Fernão Pires, two Portuguese varieties out of which he produced his first white wine in 2018.
The Little Bastard is one of the Estate’s earliest bottlings of natural wines and reflects the Estate's “diversity rooted in Riesling”: It is a blend of Riesling (65%), Sauvignon Blanc (20%), Müller-Thurgau (10%), and some Muskateller (5%). The different grape varieties are fermented without any intervention, partially with a little pre-fermentation maceration, and, in the case of the Muskateller, a two week skin fermentation before pressing. The result was then blended together, and after completing the fermentation, bottled un-filtered and without any sulfur added.
The 2018er bottling of Little Bastard proves utterly fresh and vibrant and even gains from airing. This wine oozes joie de vivre, yet at the same time proves utterly deep and complex. In essence, it combines everything we like in Mosel wines and natural wines. Some wine lovers are weary of tasting natural wines, as they sometimes can have a strong “cider” taste, which is not to everybody’s taste. Not so with the 2018er Little Bastard. There is a touch of baked apple, but it is superbly wrapped into fresh and vibrant flavors.
If this particular bottling is not available in your neck of the world, maybe one of the other bottlings of natural wine from this Estate is: Overall, Jan Matthias Klein nailed the 2018 vintage and this not only with his white wines. His Pet Nat and red wines are among the most exciting of the region.
Beyond the success of Jan Matthias Klein, we can only encourage our readers to try some of the natural / low intervention / low-no sulfur wines produced in the Mosel. The zesty and slender side of Mosel Riesling suits these wines particularly well.
The superb 2018er collection of natural wines by Jan Matthias Klein
was reviewed in the Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 48 (October 2019).
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N.B. The vintage is not indicated on the label of the Estate's natural wines and can only be deduced from the Lot Number.
Jan Matthias Klein
Little Bastard (Lot 0119)
The Little Bastard with Lot Number 0119 is a 2018er bone-dry blend made along “natural” lines of Riesling from the Kröver Letterlay and Kirchlay (60%), Sauvignon Blanc from the Kinheimer Hubertuslay (25%), Müller-Thurgau (10%) and Muscat (5%) from the Kröver Paradies (the vintage is not provided on the label). These have seen various levels of skin-fermentation before being aged together in an old Fuder cask for a few months and bottled unfiltered, with a little CO2 but no SO2 added. This hazy and lightly foamy wine offers a superbly engaging nose made of baked apple, earthy spices, fine spices and some almond elements, all wrapped into beautifully citrusy elements. The wine is delicately fizzy on the fruity and almond-infused palate and leaves a gorgeously playful feel of citrusy fruits, herbal elements and earthy spices in the long and juicy finish. The bubbly side still dominates the after-taste at this stage, so this is best left alone for a year or two in order to fully benefit from the underlying complexity. 2021-2028
© 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.