J.J. Christoffel Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese 2016
The Christoffel family of Ürzig has been involved in wine production dating back to the 17th century. In 2001 Hans Leo Christoffel leased the management of his vineyards and winemaking to Robert Eymael of the Mönchhof estate. All of Christoffel’s 4 hectares comprise the Ürziger Würzgarten and Erdener Treppchen, including a very special parcel directly above (and contiguous with) the 2.2 hectare Erdener Prälat. Cultivation in these sites has been recorded as early as the 7th century, and has for centuries been prized because of its southern exposure, deep Devonian slate, and steep gradients. The Ürziger Würzgarten, or ‘sprice garden,’ is so named because its iron rich slate is red, and produces notably spicy wines. With its gradient of 70 degrees the Würzgarten is incredibly difficult to farm, as is the Erdener Treppchen, immediately adjacent to the Würzgarten. Because of the sheer steepness of these sites, the majority of Christoffel’s plantings are over 100 years old and on their original rootstock. The star system on Christoffel’s labels represents specific parcels, which are vinified separately.
Eymael continues the legacy of winemaking that drove the estate to prestige under Hans Leo, in a style that maximizes clarity: whole cluster pressing, slow and cool fermentation in fuder, racking immediately off the gross lees followed by a short time on fine lees and early bottling to preserve the freshest of fruit characters indicative to Mosel typicity.
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.