David Rayer & Jean Fish, Mosel Fine Wine Review
“These are consistently among the top wines produced anywhere in the Mosel, made from painstakingly strict selections from prime steep vineyards planted with old ungrafted vines. Yet prices remain moderate… Savvy readers should plunge on these wines.”
"Whether bone dry, off-dry or overtly sweet, the Weiser-Künstler wines are characterized by energy, levity and clarity. Gentle handling of the young wines with minimal filtration and modest levels of sulfur all no doubt play positive roles. But there can be little question that the decisive factors are meticulousness in the vineyards – featuring creative and labor-intensive variations on organic viticulture – and the choice of parcels, many of whose vines are nearly old enough to recall the Fin de Siècle era when this stretch of Mosel enjoyed a reputation rivaled by few others."
From some of the most demanding vineyard sites in the world, the meditative and humble Konstantin Weiser and Alexandra Künstler craft magical wines unlike any other estate in Germany. Stylistically, their Rieslings are delicate, porcelain, detailed, mineral and pure. The focus is on Mosel Rieslings with noticeable residual sugar (Prädikat wines), but they make excellent dry and off-dry Rieslings as well. In other words, Weiser-Künstler does it all, and does it all beautifully. The dry Rieslings are razor sharp, more about mineral, salt and flower than about fruit. They feel like porcelain in their weight and purity. The Prädikat wines are “old school,” with lower amounts of residual sugar and higher amounts of acidity than most. They shiver with tension and acidity and remain fresh, agile and versatile. While this estate remains an insider’s secret, this is changing and every year demand rises. Supply, however, does not.
Founded in 2005, this tiny estate of just over three hectares is located in Traben-Trarbach, which is downstream from the famous “Hollywood” section of the Middle Mosel. Around the turn of the 20th century, Traben-Trarbach was one of the wealthiest towns in the Mosel. It was the heart of the Mosel Riesling trade. Mosel Rieslings during this time were considered the greatest wines in the world. Much of the grand architecture of Traben-Trarbach was built during this period. The stunning Jugendstil (“Art Nouveau”) Hotel Bellevue is perhaps the most iconic building of the village. This is an era that seems to inform much of the feel of Weiser-Künstler. The labels of this estate take their cue from the Jugendstil designers. The owl on the label represents wisdom, a reference to Konstantin's last name, Weiser.
Most importantly, the dawn of the 20th century was the height of fame for the vineyards that Weiser-Künstler now own and farm. The Lintz map of the Mosel from 1897 details the three key vineyards of Weiser-Künstler (Ellergrub, Gaispfad (spelled Geispfad on old maps) and Steffensberg) as grand cru sites (view map in image gallery). As a whole, this stretch is quainter than the grand amphitheaters of Piesport or Trittenheim, but it is every bit their equal. Traben-Trarbach fell into obscurity in the latter half of the 20th century, with many vineyards going abandoned. Therefore, the vines near Traben-Trarbach have not seen the “modernization” that many sites in the Mosel have. The vineyards still have their jutting, ladder-like terraces. The vines on these terraces are very old, ungrafted and high-density planted. This area of the Middle Mosel, literally, has roots that run very deep. One can taste that profundity in the wines.
Weiser-Künstler is a member of Der Klitzkleine Ring, which is a small circle of growers who show their wines together and labor in saving plots of old, precious Riesling vines on steep, slate slopes from being cut down. Konstantin and Alexandra are preserving the ancient terraces of Traben-Trarbach. They are in the vineyards daily, and it is obvious that they are most comfortable in their vineyards. They farm their vines organically and biodynmically with organic certification in the works. Because of stonewalls and the steepness of the sites, all the work has to be done by hand with a hoe.
Fermentation occurs spontaneously with native yeast in the cold cellar underneath their property. After brief skin contact (helping to reduce acidity), pressing occurs in an old pneumatic Willmes press. Stainless steel vats, old oak Fuder and second-hand barriques are used to influence the wines' structure. "Stainless steel better keeps the acidity, and wood helps to round it out," Konstantin says.
Vineyard Information: Gaispfad is adjacent to Ellergrub on the same, stony, southwest- and west-facing escarpment, known as the Starkenburger Hang. The slate soil here has more iron oxide than Ellergrub and is some redder slate, along with gray-blue slate and quartz. Steffensberg is a south-facing hillside vineyard in a side valley. It's at the lower end of the Ahringsbach, behind Enkirch, where the deep topsoil has plenty of iron oxide. Their choice parcel is in Ellergrub—a top vineyard site in the Middle Mosel. This steep, terraced slope consisting primarily of blue and gray slate, along with quartz, is the heart of the Weiser-Künstler property. The ungrafted Riesling vines located here are up to 100 years old.