Lars Carlberg is regarded as one of the foremost writers and scholars on the wines of the Mosel. For several years, he has been involved with importing various producers to the United States – he established the Mosel Wine Merchant portfolio in 2005, though he now only represents – among Mosel growers – Hofgut Falkenstein under his “LCS” label.
For those interested in learning more about Mosel Riesling, Lars also offers an insider’s view of the Mosel from his home in Trier at his website, larscarlberg.com. In his own words, he has “no interest in scoring wines or ranking sites.” Rather he offers subscribers a view into the history, vineyards, and producers of the Mosel, along with tasting notes from bottle and cask samples.
Lars Carlberg is also one of the sponsors of Rieslingfeier, and will be pouring wines from Hofgut Falkenstein at Chambers St. Wines on Friday February 15th to kick off the Riesling celebrations in New York City. He recently chatted with Terroirist about German Riesling. Check out our interview below the fold.
You’ve been involved with various Mosel producers as an importer for a while, and now also write about the wines from that region on your website, larscarlberg.com. What makes the region so special for you?
Besides the fact that I live in Trier, I just love drinking Mosel wine. Mosel Riesling tends to be fresh, light, and invigorating. In fact, that’s why I live close to the source, so that I can walk in the vineyards and taste in the cellars. It’s a pleasure. In addition, the region is beautiful and there are so many top growers.
Is there a particular epiphany wine or moment you’d point to, which got you particularly passionate about Mosel or German Riesling?
Since the early nineties, when I first came over to learn German, I’ve had countless special occasions drinking Mosel wine, including mature and rare vintages. Yet I don’t have one particular wine or moment. There have been many over the years. For example, I’ll never forget sitting at Scharzhof and tasting a 1971 Scharzhofberger Kabinett with the late Egon Müller III. I don’t remember the year now, but it was on my birthday, December 13. Moreover, I was born in 1971.
What are a couple of your favorite regions or producers outside of Germany – both for red and white wines?
I love the wines of France. A couple of my favorite regions are the Northern Rhône and Burgundy, even though I cannot afford the latter. Yet I’m glad to drink a delicious 2007 Ghislaine Barthod Bourgogne. I was once passionate about the Southern Rhône and Provence, too. As everywhere, higher ripeness levels have become a concern. As for a couple of favorite producers, I like Pierre Gonon in St. Joseph and Clos Rougeard in Saumur-Champigny.
When it comes to Riesling, is there a particular style or ripeness level you find yourself drinking particularly often?
Although I’m not bent on having dry Mosel Riesling, it’s the style that I most often find myself drinking everyday, especially the light-bodied wines that go down well. It’s similar to good Beaujolais, like from Marcel Lapierre, or a one-hundred-percent old-vine Carignan in the Roussillon from Charivari (also a semi-carbonic vinified “natural wine”). In addition, Mosel Rieslings that I like to drink need not be trocken, or legally “dry.” In recent vintages, ripeness is at or above the minimum must weight for Auslese for quality-oriented growers. Nonetheless, I prefer to drink Mosel Rieslings with lower ripeness levels.
Great German Rieslings get very little fanfare relative to their qualitative counterparts from regions such as Burgundy, the Rhone or California. What do you see as the biggest obstacles in marketing and selling Rieslings to consumers within the United States?
Of course, most consumers in the United States have difficulties pronouncing the words and understanding the ever-changing nomenclature on the labels. In addition, most Americans think German Riesling is sweet, whether from bulk bottlers or famous estates. Then, you have certain tastemakers influencing consumer opinion. The last several years, however, have marked a change in the States. More people are discovering other producers and styles, especially the selections offered by Chambers Street Wines and Crush Wine & Spirits in New York City. In addition, the veteran wine critic David Schildknecht has been important in covering German wines, plus he remains modest and has true expertise and an open mind.
Which young winemakers are you most excited by right now?
I’m excited about the wines made by Andreas J. Adam (A.J. Adam); Florian Lauer (Peter Lauer); Konstantin Weiser (Weiser-Künstler); Christoph Schaefer (Willi Schaefer); and Stefan Steinmetz (Günther Steinmetz). There is also a lot of buzz about Julian Haart, who learned under a number of Germany’s best winemakers, including Klaus Peter Keller.
We’re starting to see a few more reds from Germany – Spätburgunder in particular – appear on wine shelves in the United States. What are your general impressions of the red wines emerging from Germany now? Are there any regions or producers you think are worth following for their reds?
There are some impressive producers of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). One of my favorites is Rudolf Fürst in Bürgstadt in Franconia. I’m also a fan of the Pinot Noirs from Henrik Möbitz and Enderle & Moll, both of whom have vineyards near Freiburg in Baden. The Mosel region also has a number of very good producers of Spätburgunder, namely Später-Veit, Günther Steinmetz, Markus Molitor, Stein, and Dr. Siemens, among others. Immich-Batterieberg and Maximin Grünhaus are names to look out for in the future.
For fun, let’s say you can give a parcel from any one vineyard in Germany to one of your favorite growers for one vintage. Which site would you pick, and whom would you give it to?
You might laugh, but instead of choosing Helmut Dönnhoff, Hanno Zilliken, or Tim Fröhlich, I’d like for Erich Weber of Hofgut Falkenstein to make a wine from one of Egon Müller’s old-vine parcels in Scharzhofberg. Erich has some great vineyards with old vines in the nearby south-facing vineyards in Konzer Tälchen, such as the stony Krettnacher Altenberg and Euchariusberg. (In the 19th century, the two hillsides were highly rated sites.) Nonetheless, I’ve been impressed by some of the dry-tasting Scharzhofberg Rieslings from von Hövel. The wines have a lean, smoky character. And Erich has an old-fashioned approach. He doesn’t seek showy wines made from long maceration on the grape skins and so on. Instead, they are genuine, tangy dry-tasting Saar Rieslings. Besides, Egon Müller’s cellar master, Stefan Fobian, knows Erich and his wines well.