It’s no exaggeration to say that Schieferterrassen is unique.
In 1980, when Reinhard Löwenstein and Cornelia Heymann founded the estate, they effectively invented a new style of Mosel Riesling.
Their patiently, naturally raised Riesling married the flavour and textural depth of very ripe berries from vines on these dizzying terraces with the Mosel Valley’s inherent energy and finesse.
And Schieferterrassen is the estate’s signature, accounting for the vast majority of its production and reflecting the premier-cru sites around the family home in Winningen.
But visionaries rarely stand still, which is why we’re able to present a couple of new iterations of this perennial favourite.
The first is Schieferterrassen Bohème, an off-dry rendition with a year’s extra lees aging.
And the second is Schieferterrassen in Orange, a skin-contact Riesling whose debut down under comes a few years after an instructive experimental bottling.
Along with those exceptional firsts from 2018, we’re delighted to be offering the original Schieferterrassen from the stupendous 2019 vintage.
The Schieferterrassen is a cuvée of premier cru vineyards in Heymann-Löwenstein’s home village of Winningen, supplemented by a small proportion from the grands crus. These vineyards all have the strong character and identity of the Terrassenmosel. The composition of the wine is the same every year: parcels in “Erste Lagen” Hamm and Brückstück, combined with declassified grand-cru fruit. The vineyards are all terraced, steep and slate-driven, all farmed purely by hand with exceptionally low yields. Then you have the individual site’s contribution, such as Hamm’s floral characters but also earthy, slaty touch.
What follows after the sorting table is similar every year. The main point is that the fruit has to be perfect. If this is guaranteed, then there’s not much that can go wrong later on. The quality of each plot is designated by the old classification map. All plots from the same terroir get pressed together, until we’re able to fill up a barrel.
So the fruit gets crushed and macerates for about 12 hours in the cooling room. Then we do quite long press cycles – about nine hours with very gentle pressures, always taking it up very gradually. So you can say that the grapes macerate even longer in the press. The juice can free run downstairs, no pumping needed, which is also quite an oxidative way of treating the juice. After a rough filtration we settle the musts once again. We taste regularly to check on phenolic reactions. After a certain amount of time, because of the contact with air, the harsh phenolics polymerise and settle. By racking off we can separate this nicely and get rid of undesirable phenolics. After racking the musts go into big (2600L+) “Dopppelstück Fässer” and stainless steel (about 30-50%). The wines ferment with their own yeasts, usually over four to five months. We’re not able to control the temperatures in the barrels, but fermentation doesn’t usually go crazy anyway with these natural yeasts.
Towards the end of fermentation we taste to start understanding the vintage. As soon as we see the wines are in good balance we stop the fermentation. We don’t look at the numbers for it, because it doesn’t really matter, and the numbers don’t tell us the truth anyway. It’s the palate that matters.
The barrels stay separate as raw material until around May. We taste them all regularly but this is the time when we start doing the cuvées for each wine. This is also the moment when we decide what is good enough for the grand cru and what is not. Those decisions may take a few months because the wines are very young to evaluate. They don´t necessarily already show their true character. In total the wines stay in barrel for 12 months before being bottled unfined . – Heymann-Löwenstein
The 2019 Riesling Schieferterrassen opens with a clear, intense, floral, herbal and finely slatey bouquet that is the most beautiful, complex and refined I have ever had from this wine. Löwenstein’s 2019s are so generously open yet at the same time so precise and authentic, without any reduction stealing the show. There is a coolish and flinty tone that makes this a Mosel and no Alsace Riesling. Generous yet refined and frisky on the palate, this as medium-bodied, fresh, salty-crystalline and highly stimulating dry Riesling with a lot of character and fine grip on the finish. What a giant step ahead for this wine! Tasted as a still slightly cloudy sample in June 2020.92 points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate
Heymann-Löwenstein turned 40 in 2020. Reinhard, Connie and Sarah Löwenstein decided to release limited-edition magnums of a long lees-aged, off-dry rendition of Schieferterrassen to help their longest-standing German customers celebrate. “We bottled a wine that was slightly off-dry from various Schieferterrassen plots,” recalls winemaker Kaddi Starker. “We like this wine because it animates you to celebrate and not to think too much. Easy to understand without being sweet. To celebrate life and being together, enjoying good food and a wine that suits everybody’s taste.” Indeed the wine was loved by customers, and the team.
And as 2020 wore on and became, courtesy of the pandemic, a gruelling, isolating experience, the idea bubbled up to repeat the exercise with a broader release from 2018 fruit. “We’ve found ourselves often dreaming of a return to the days of uncomplicated gatherings, traveling and dancing,” said Sarah Löwenstein at the time. “And so we took that as our inspiration for a new wine: Schieferterrassen Bohème. Following a long period on the lees, these bottles — like last year’s anniversary blend — reveal a joyful character: juicy, radiant, and playful with a slate spice, and an eccentric, approachable charm.”
“So again, like with Schieferterrassen in Orange, we are playing a different style of what Schieferterrassen can be,” concludes Kaddi. “We’re still on our journey trying to find out what the truth is, like any winemaker I suppose.”
Heymann-Löwenstein winemaker Kathrin Starker – Kaddi to her friends – got interested in skin-contact whites while working vintage in New Zealand years ago. In 2015, Reinhard Löwenstein kindly gave her some Riesling grapes from Winningen’s Schieferterrassen vineyards, to allow her to make an experimental wine. The experience taught some valuable lessons, as well as giving the team the encouragement to produce a normal-scale batch in 2018.
“From the first attempt in 2015 we learned not to go too hard on the phenolic side,” says Kaddi. “So, we decided just to hand-plunge it once a day, pushing the cap down to get it nice and juicy without over-extracting phenolics.” The Riesling grapes were fermented and macerated on skins for three weeks. “We pressed it off to a combination of barrel and tank for a long, long time,” Kaddi continues. “We learned that the wines need time for the phenolics and all parts of the wine come together. So we tasted and tasted and tasted and we made the decision based on taste that we wanted to bottle it after two and a half years.” The wine was bottled in March 2021, with the lowest possible level of SO2 to prevent oxidation.
“We’re pretty happy with how it came out,” Kaddi concludes. “Phenolics are there but they’re not too harsh. It’s still Riesling. It’s doesn’t show the vineyard, but that’s not the idea. It’s a facet of Schieferterrassen we’re trying to point out.”