2019 may seem to need no introduction in Germany; its greatness has long since been confirmed.
What you may forget is that the warm and relatively abundant 2018 vintage was a stunning success for Mittelmosel growers like Eva Clüsserath.
And 2019 was far from a sure thing. “Klein und fein” is how Eva summed it up, reflecting the reduced yields as well as eventual finesse. Mosel vegetation started sprouting very quickly at the end of April, but growth was slowed by cooler temperatures in May, meaning the overall pace was a little behind the extremes of June 2018.
Drought was an early risk among the younger vines, but sporadic thunderstorms chimed in with rain. And then a few midsummer days brought extreme temperatures of 40 degrees and more, with sunburn significantly reducing yields.
In the middle of August the nights then became cooler, which promoted fruit ripening while acidities remained reassuringly stable. Harvest began at the end of September, punctuated by intermittent showers. This is the time when Eva’s team is bolstered by Rheinhessen reinforcements following the Westhofen harvest of husband Philipp Wittmann.
The team in Trittenheim brought in very ripe and healthy grapes which, with Eva’s trademark patience and purism, have turned into another beautiful set of wines.
2018 Ansgar Clüsserath Vom Schiefer Riesling Trocken $40
The dry Riesling “Vom Schiefer” (literally, from slate) provides an introduction to the world of steep-site Rieslings from the Middle Mosel.
The grapes for this wine are sourced from two individual sites. Trittenheimer Altärchen, on the left bank of the Mosel, with weathered, shale-based soils, brings forth Rieslings with aromas of citrus, grapefruit and orange peel. Neumagener Rosengärtchen, located north of Trittenheim, has loamy, weathered, shale-based soils. This cuvée is a sleek, sophisticated Riesling with a delicate minerality born of the internal dance between its two vineyards of origin. A spectrum of fruit flavours is on display here, from green apple to peach to grapefruit.
Mighty refreshing! So much herbal and white-fruit character, plus lemony acidity that gives this wonderful vitality. Drink now. Screw cap.91 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
A pungent, zesty impression of lemon and lime is allied to one of crushed stone, almost dusty on the nose and then expressed as suffusion on a flatteringly silken, alcoholically buoyant (at 11.6%) but palpably extract-rich palate. Suggestions of almond and hazelnut lend richness; bright citric juiciness serves for animation; while a dose of mineral salts triggers salivary action on a refreshing- and invigoratingly sustained finish. The extra textural allure here is probably attributable to the wine’s having been bottled later than usual – at the end of July 2019 – and rested on its lees until just before that.90 points. David Schildknecht, Vinous Media November 2020
2019 Ansgar Clüsserath Apotheke Trocken Riesling $100
This is Eva Clüsserath’s top dry bottling from this grand cru site.
Trittenheim’s finest individual vineyard, Apotheke, lies on the right bank of the Mosel, opposite the village of Trittenheim. Although Apotheke literally means pharmacy, the vineyard’s name does not refer to medicinal/healthful properties of its wines, but rather derives from a foundation established by the “Abtsberg” Abbey of Trier. It numbers among the top sites on the Mosel, not least due to its extreme slope of up to 78%.
The southwest-facing hillside benefits from direct solar radiation well into late evening, a lengthy time during which the slate soils store heat – warmth that lengthens the ripening period. Weathered slate slopes with subterranean water veins ensure an optimal supply of nutrients and enable the vines to develop deep roots. Single-stake training is practiced in the family’s oldest parcels in this site planted with 60- to 80-year-old vines. The grapes yield wines that have great aging potential and reflect complex minerality. In their youth, the wines show finesse; as they mature, rich fruitiness reminiscent of apricot and peach.
Stunning dry Mosel! Great citrusy freshness, but also ripe mini banana and grapefruit, then a lot of mineral power at the wonderfully uplifting finish. Drink or hold.95 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
The 2019 Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Trocken is clearly on GG level this year. The wine opens with an intense, pure and flinty bouquet of ripe and juicy lemons, lemon zests and crushed slate. Juicy, piquant and stimulating on the palate, this is an intense and powerful, rich and textured, very attractive dry Riesling from a roughly 100-year-old plot in the centre of the cru. It is stimulatingly salty on the grippy finish but always lush and sexy. Tasted as a cask sample in May 2020.93+ points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate
2018 Ansgar Clüsserath Trittenheimer Riesling Kabinett $43
The fruit for this village-designated Kabinett comes from the Apotheke grand cru, Trittenheim’s finest individual vineyard site.
The 2018 Trittenheimer Riesling Kabinett is super pure, fresh and slatey on the bright, fresh and crunchy nose. Bottled with 8.5% alcohol, this is a charmingly round and fruity Kabinett. It doesn’t have the mineral-piquant thrill of the outstanding 2017, but it serves all those who like their Riesling more graceful and less challenging. Or let me put it this way: You don’t need to be a Viking to love this wine. Tasted from AP 0219 in May 2020.92 points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate May 2020
2019 Ansgar Clüsserath Trittenheimer Apotheke Spätlese $59
The Spätlese grapes are harvested after the Kabinett in order to achieve greater ripeness. It’s challenging acidity and minerality brilliantly counterbalance the ripe fruit and subtle fresh herbs of this naturally sweet beauty. As befits a premium wine, the grapes are always hand-harvested and gently pressed. The must is then fermented with native yeasts in traditional Mosel fuder barrels and left on the lees until May. 8.5% alcohol.
Wonderful peach and lemon character. Succulent and vibrant with quite a discreet touch of natural grape sweetness, then a very crisp finish. Excellent depth at the finish. Drink or hold.94 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
The 2019 Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Spätlese is on GG level but in a sweet style. It is ripe but precise and flinty on the elegant, slate-driven nose, with bright fruit aromas and the purity of broken sate and herbs. On the palate, this is a racy-piquant, juicy and quite sweet Spätlese with a fine mineral grip and tension on the finish. It is very piquant and surely far too young to be served this year. Tasted in May 2020 as a cask sample ready to be bottled, this Spätlese should be kept for at least 5-6 years. The aging capacity, however, is much longer.93-94 points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate