Riesling Fass 15 Stirn
For purists, there is nothing like the Saar. It is arguably one of the greatest, most unique wine-growing regions on earth. The core of greatness in the Saar is intensity without weight, grandiosity without size. Frank Schoonmaker put it best in his 1956 tome The Wines of Germany: “In these great and exceedingly rare wines of the Saar, there is a combination of qualities which I can perhaps best describe as indescribable – austerity coupled with delicacy and extreme finesse, an incomparable bouquet, a clean, very attractive hardness tempered by a wealth of fruit and flavor which is overwhelming.”
Yes, this is the Saar and Florian Lauer is currently one of the greatest winemakers in this sacred place.
Florian’s general style is exactly the opposite of his famous Saar neighbor Egon Müller. At Lauer, the focus is on dry-tasting Rieslings as opposed to the residual sugar wines of the latter. For this style, there are really only two addresses in the Saar (though more come online every year, trying to chase the style): Lauer and Hofgut Falkenstein.
Employing natural-yeast fermentations, Lauer’s wines find their own balance. They tend to be more textural, deeper and more masculine. They have a preternatural sense of balance, an energy that is singular. Yet the hallmarks of the Saar are there: purity, precision, rigor, mineral.
For me, always one of Laue’rs most angelic, soaring wines. Sourced from the top of the Kupp mountain, the vines here are battered by the wind and there is little soil and little water; it is a struggle up here. The wine, however, shows just a soaring tension, an amazing linearity. I love this damn wine.
As with Unterstenberg (Stirn’s exact opposite, roughly 300 feet down the mountain), the location of Stirn shapes absolutely everything about the wine; this is the peak of the hill, exposed to everything. As such, Stirn is a brutal micro-climate. Because of the incline of the site, there is rarely much water here, even in wet years. The vines’ roots must go deep for any water, pushing through the thick bedrock of slate. All the soil and fine, weathered slate has been washed down the mountain over the ages, thus in this vineyard we have larger shards of slate and little else. There is almost no soil. The lack of water and soil mean that the vines struggle; Florian can harvest this site a week or two weeks later than nearly all the others and the ripeness is often still quite low. As Stirn is literally blasted by the wind whipping down the river valley, there is rarely any botrytis here.
What does this mean for the wine itself? Stirn tends to be one of the most nervous, linear and soaring of all of Lauer’s wines. It rarely ferments much past 30 grams of residual sugar per liter, thus it certainly is an off-dry Riesling. And yet, because of the extraordinarily high acidity (and low pH), the wine never tastes very sweet. In fact, the razor-sharp grip and density of the wine can make it feel almost dry, at least on the rather gripping finish. For what it’s worth, I believe this is one of Florian’s – and one of the Saar’s – most profound expressions of Riesling.
As mentioned above, Unterstenberg is very much Stirn’s opposite, located only 300 feet down the hill. If you wanna have fun, open these bottles side by side and have a master-class in terroir. The difference between the two wines is night and day.
In 2020 the wine is fermented down to 9.3% alcohol with 37g/l of RS and a whopping 9.7g/l of acidity to balance.