Riesling Fass 6 Senior
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.
Here’s the open, obvious secret: Lauer’s “Senior” is one of the of the greatest values in German wine, and frankly white wine, period. While Lauer considers this a village-level wine (special Lauer label-reading tip: any bottle with a green circle on it is considered a village-level wine), the “Senior” is in fact a single-vineyard wine sourced completely from the Grand Cru Kupp. With an average vine age of around 70 years and a plethora of ungrafted vines, this is a wine that punches well above its price. It is Grand Cru for the price of village, plain and simple.
The wine is called “Senior” as a tribute to Florian’s grandfather who was already in the 1950s famous at least in the Saar Valley for his dry Riesling. So the story goes, he would walk through the cellar and taste all the barrels and then write “Senior” on the cask he wanted for his own drinking. Nine times out of ten, the cask he took was good ole “Fass, or barrel, #6,” sourced from parcels in the western-most part of the Kupp (to the left of the Kern site if you look at the Lauer Grand Cru map, available in the gallery to the left). This is one of the cooler parcels, farthest away from the moderating influence of the Saar River. As it happens, this wine nearly always ferments to a precarious, near-impossible-to-describe balance, in this gray area that is not at all sweet, but not legally dry either. I refer to this style of wine as “dry tasting.” In the old days, “dry” Saar wines often needed a little bit of residual sugar, not to make them taste fruity, but to just counter the ferocious acidities. So this is “Senior” not only named after Florian’s grandfather, but after an old-school style of wines common for the Saar. And while it is fashionable now to do natural ferments, and to seek a more natural balance for Rieslings, the Lauers are famous because they have been doing it for centuries, before it was in vogue.
You just have to taste this wine; while it normally ferments to about 12-14 grams residual sugar per liter (the 2019 version clocks in at 13 grams), the wine is dry tasting yet textural with amazing depth and clarity. Don’t worry about how dry or not it is – it’s just delicious. Focus on that.
In 2020 this wine has 13.2g/l of RS, 8.5g/l of acidity and a moderate 11.3% alcohol.