Scharzhofberg Riesling Auslese
Konz could be seen as a quaint, sleepy valley village in the Saar, surrounded by rolling vineyard hills, pastures and small houses with one modest church steeple–though it is anything but old-fashioned when Max von Kunow is around. Since assuming the estate in 2010, Max has nearly doubled von Hövel’s vineyard holdings, converted the estate to organic practices (including an intensive compost program) and he is in the process of transforming not only the viticulture, but also the style of the wines. Max’s father, Eberhard, preferred swift pressing of the grapes; Max is now working with some skin maceration, especially for the drier range, and a slower, gentler crush for the fruity range. In fact, a dry range really did not exist at this estate until Max arrived because his father did not prefer them. The wines destined to be fruity are less opulent than in vintages past; they are more crystalline and crunchy. In keeping with the organics practiced in the vineyards and the longer hang time prior to harvest, Max encourages indigenous yeast fermentations for all of his wines.
That’s a lot of change for such an iconic Saar estate in a short period of time, but Max is like a Tasmanian devil, wanting everything to evolve as quickly as possible. He seems up to the challenge! “Saar wines could be the best riesling on planet earth,” Max will tell you directly without any hint of irony or sarcasm. He is serious and he’s also a schatzi.
Farming organically was a necessary transition for Max and he has taken it seriously. In addition to completely eliminating the use of herbicides, he propagates regional plants and herbs, prepares his own compost and spreads local straw, marc and raw fertilizer throughout his vineyards. As is the goal of most mindful growers, Max lets the grapes hang as long as possible to ensure they reach—and in some cases exceed—physiological ripeness, or as Max refers to it, “mineral ripeness”; the Saar is the coolest and most windy region in Germany and often requires a longer hang-time than in warmer regions of the world. He avoids botrytis for the dry range but sometimes includes it for the Prädikat bottlings.
When the grapes enter the cellar, Max separates the fruit that he feels is destined for skin maceration (anywhere between 18-36 hours) from the rest in which undergoes gentle crushing before entering the press. Wines are fermented in either stainless steel tanks or neutral wooden 1000 liter Mosel fuder casks. All of the wines ferment spontaneously.