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Hofgut Falkenstein

Who: Erich Weber and his son Johannes

Where: Konz Niedermennig, Germany

What grapes: Riesling, Spätburgunder, Weissburgunder

How many bottles: 

Key facts: the Saar-Mosel-Ruwer region once had many productive vineyards. Erich Weber is working hard to bring some of them back to life.


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Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett Trocken

Organic methods, not certified
Soil type: grey slate with some quartz
Grapes: Riesling
Method of fermentation: spontaneous; native yeast, matured on lees in 1,000L barrels for 3 - 9 months
Bottles made: 1,200

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Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger-Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb

Organic methods, not certified
Soil type: grey slate with some quartz
Grapes: Riesling
Method of fermentation: spontaneous; native yeast, matured on lees in 1,000L barrels for 3 - 9 months

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Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger-Herrenberg Spätburgunder Spätlese Trocken

Organic: Organic methods, not certified
Soil type: grey slate with some blue and red slate
Grapes: Spätburgunder (pinot noir)
Method of fermentation: spontaneous; native yeast, matured on lees in 1,000L barrels for 3 - 9 months

Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger-Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb also available in magnum

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Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger-Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb

Organic methods, not certified
Soil type: grey slate with some quartz
Grapes: Riesling
Method of fermentation: spontaneous; native yeast, matured on lees in 1,000L barrels for 3 - 9 months

 

In 1979, Erich Weber acquired a section of the west-facing Euchariusberg vineyard. His neighbors at the time preferred farming flatter sites in the valley, so it was comparably easy to obtain pieces of the steep slopes inaccessible to machine harvesters. We toured the vineyards by minivan. Sounds lazy I know: the Herrenberg site is particularly close to the cellar! But rain looked inevitable and Erich, Johannes and Lars Carlberg, their Texan colleague, had put in a full day’s vineyard labor before I arrived at the Falkensteiner Hof mid-afternoon. And it did rain. We drank light, lemony Kabinett trocken and chatted, while sheltering under the van’s rear door.

Erich said that when he was young, 1,200 sunshine hours per year were normal in these fields. Today they get 2,000 hours. Higher, cooler sites are ideal. “Our wine reflects pure minerality,” he said. “It is the typical sign of our wines.” Erich believes they will grow 10-30% in vineyard acreage in the next 5 years. “We have to work in our typical way. It is not for making money. It is our life. As long as I live, it will not change.” But the estate must grow a little, to keep up with demand for their pure, traditional wines, and to give Johannes and Lars a secure future. Over wild boar sausage rolls prepared by Erich’s wife Marita we talked about American politics, Erich’s memories of childhood in this quiet valley, and the simple approach that makes the wines of Hofgut Falkenstein so singular and memorable.

The cellar is half tucked into the hillside. It’s small and cool. A row of small old casks along two opposite walls. The oldest ones have candleholders on top of them. No temperature control. Fermentation starts spontaneously. Each cask only holds the yield from one parcel. Bottling is by hand, straight from the cask. Erich appreciates the straightforwardness of the traditional approach and has decided to stick with it.

Right outside the cellar is a beautiful little patio paved with natural stone and surrounded with flowers and small trees. Johannes has brought out several bottles and Erich puts a big cutting board with sausage, cheese and bread on the table. Wait, have I been here before?
It doesn’t take long for what started as a “work situation” to turn into a social gathering. Yes, I’m taking notes; the precision of the Spätlese Feinherb; the fact that the Spätburgunder doesn’t go into malolactic fermentation because of acidity….
But most of all, I’m enjoying the hell out of the company. These people are smart, kind and funny and make fantastic wines!