A.J. Adam Dhron Hofberg Kabinett Riesling 2016
Just south of Piesport in a small side valley lies the steep, south-facing vineyards of Dhron, named for a tributary of the Mosel and virtually unknown. The long-time growers in Dhron have aged and the younger generation seems unwilling to farm the extremely steep, weathered slate slopes here. Not so with Andreas Adam, who in 2000, after completing school in Geisenheim and after a stint at Heymann-Löwenstein, resurrected his family’s estate and now farms 3.8 hectares in Dhron as well as Piesport. In the Hofberg vineyard, Dhron’s lone Erste Lage of gray-blue slate and iron oxide, land is a fraction of the cost of lesser sights nearby, where müller-thurgau is planted extensively on fertile ground and growers much prefer to use the highly profitable grosslage name ‘Michelsberg.’ Adam’s plots in the Hofberg are spread along the hillside, with 2 parcels planted in the early 1950’s. These wines might more resemble Saar wines rather than nearby Piesport, as they are extremely steep, high in altitude, and kept perpetually cool from the air descending from the Hunsrück Mts along the Dhron river. Andreas also has several parcels in the Goldtröpfchen, including a plot on ancient terraces called the Layschen, meaning ‘small slate’ for its crumbling, decomposing stones. Due to his estate’s tiny size, it is virtually impossible to farm organically, though Andreas farms as close to nature as possible. Vines are trained using the single post system, traditional in the Mosel for training on steep inclines, and compost is used from his relatives’ farm in the Hunsrück Mountains to fertilize the vineyards. Andreas hand sorts after harvest, utilizes indigenous yeasts and a combination of different sized stainless steel, fuder, and halbfuder casks for fermentation. There are no additions of any kind: no cultured yeast, no süssreserve. All wines are bottled under cork, and though Andreas is not a member of the VDP, he designates his Erste Lagen bottlings of Goldtröpfchen and Hofberg with a GG on the label and ferments these dry when vintages allow. His collection also includes ‘village’ wines: labeled Dhroner Riesling and all sourced from the Hofberg, as well as Piesporter which is sourced entirely from his red slate parcel in the Goldtröpfchen; as well, pradikät designate wines are produced . Andreas says of his philosophy: "I sustain my vineyards by intensive soil work to bring out the essential nutrients up from the primary rock, the natural compost of a vineyard. This completion of the bond between elemental soil and the work of the vintner is another piece in the puzzle of terroir… I think in Germany we see terroir as a unity of grape, climate, soil, and the mentality of the person who works the vineyard. But the essence of that mentality is a knowledge that the geology of his terrain indeed creates the flavors in the grapes which grow there."
Following the Mosel River as it slithers and weaves dramatically through the Eifel Mountains in Germany’s far west, the Mosel wine region is considered by many as the source of the world’s finest and longest-lived Rieslings.
Mosel’s unique and unsurpassed combination of geography, geology and climate all combine together to make this true. Many of the Mosel’s best vineyard sites are on the steep south or southwest facing slopes, where vines receive up to ten times more sunlight, a very desirable condition in this cold climate region. Given how many twists and turns the Mosel River makes, it is not had to find a vineyard with this exposure. In fact, the Mosel’s breathtakingly steep slopes of rocky, slate-based soils straddle the riverbanks along its entire length. These rocky slate soils, as well as the river, retain and reflect heat back to the vineyards, a phenomenon that aids in the complete ripening of its grapes.
Riesling is by far the most important and prestigious grape of the Mosel, grown on approximately 60% of the region’s vineyard land—typically on the desirable sites that provide the best combination of sunlight, soil type and altitude. The best Mosel Rieslings—dry or sweet—express marked acidity, low alcohol, great purity and intensity with aromas and flavors of wet slate, citrus and stone fruit. With age, the wine’s color will become more golden and pleasing aromas of honey, dried apricot and sometimes petrol develop.
Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining its identity. A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, this versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Somm Secret—Given how difficult it is to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling from the label, here are some clues to find the dry ones. First, look for the world “trocken.” (“Halbtrocken” or “feinherb” mean off-dry.) Also a higher abv usually indicates a drier Riesling.