At some point I noticed I had a good bunch of different Van Volxem Rieslings from the acclaimed 2015 vintages, so I decided to source a few more and throw a horizontal tasting around that theme. A friend who had a few 2013’s, stashed away threw them in for comparative purposes.
For those who don’t know this winery for some reason, I can say a few words (sentences) first.
This winery has been in operation in the town of Wiltingen since 1743 and is one of the oldest wineries in Mosel. Originally it was a Jesuit monastery for a century or so, until it was purchased by a brewer named Gustav van Volxem in the early 20th century. The winery remained in the Van Volxem family for four generations, although only the first one was actually interested in running it. The winery was in a rather dilapidated condition when it was purchased by Weingut Jordan & Jordan in 1993.
The renaissance of this winery begins in 1999 when Roman Niewodniczanski (of the brewing family who owns the huge Bitburger Bräuerei) purchased the Van Volxem winery and 12 hectares (30 acres) of its vineyards. He had a plan to return the winery back to its early 20th century glory when Mosel Rieslings were some of the most esteemed (and expensive) white wines in the world. He started to dig into 100 years old tax maps of the local vineyards with an aim to see which were the original Great Vineyards back then. He sold off those vineyards which were not considered to be top of their game in the early 1900’s and started slowly purchasing those vineyards considered to be the best a hundred years ago. Only in 20 years has Van Volxem grown from those 12 hectares into a winery with 70 hectares (175 acres) of vineyards, currently being one of the biggest privately owned wineries in Mosel.
Niewodniczanski’s vision is rather simple: the wines should be made in the same way they were made a century ago. The grapes are supposed to be picked late, since the best vineyards are supposed to make the grapes retain high acidity even though they were harvested late. Thus the grapes of Van Volxem are usually picked very late compared to the surrounding wineries, often after mid-October. The wines are made in a very hands-off fashion without any cultured yeasts, filtration or fining. Only the use of sulfites is a key difference telling Van Volxem apart from natural wineries.
Niewodniczsanski doesn’t really care for the quality classifications of German wine law; the wines are the way they turn out to be. Several times Van Volxem has had to waive the Großes Gewächs classification when the wines have finished fermentation at higher residual sugar levels allowed for GG wines. This has never really stopped Niewodniczanski - the wines are bottled without the GG denomination (and normally the Großes Gewächs text can be found only in fine print from the back labels).
Van Volxem’s wines haven’t avoided criticism: several critics consider their wines too ripe, too big, too burly and very atypical for Saar wines, since this sub-region of Mosel is known specifically for their weightless and steely Riesling wines. Niewodniczanski has answered that this is the style in which the wines were made 100 years ago and this is the style the region was famed for back then. The delicate, weightless and off-dry-to-medium-sweet Rieslings are a contemporary invention enabled by the modern vinification methods.
Then, the wines:
2015 Van Volxem Schiefer Riesling - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
The entry level-Riesling of the Van Volxem range. 12% alcohol, 8 g/l residual sugar and 7,9 g/l acidity.
Youthful and quite concentrated neon green color. Tiny bubbles start to form on the inside of the glass. The nose feels ripe, youthful and very slightly reductive with a faint touch of skunky Böckser along with aromas of chalky minerality, some beeswax, a little bit of golden apple and a zesty hint of citrus rind. The wine is crisp, clean and lively on the palate with medium body and ripe yet dry flavors of juicy Granny Smith apple, some stony minerality, a little bit of reductive smoke, a hint of tart lemony citrus fruit and a touch of honeyed richness. Balanced high acidity. The mouth-watering finish is clean, dry and lively with flavors of tart lemony citrus fruits and tart green apples, some stony minerality, a little bit of key lime and a hint of crunchy white fruit.
A clean, youthful and precise Riesling with quite a bit of ripeness, but even more freshness and structure. Comes across as somewhat linear and straightforward when compared to the better wines in the Van Volxem range, but is a solid entry-level Riesling that holds well on its own. Will develop from here, but drinks nicely already now. Perhaps a bit pricey for the style at 18,92€. (87 pts.)
2015 Van Volxem Saar Riesling - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
The regional entry level-Riesling of the Van Volxem range, quality-wise just above the Schiefer Riesling. 12% alcohol.
Intense, youthful yellow-green color. Youthful, but also surprisingly restrained and underwhelming nose with quite subtle aromas of chalky minerality, some waxy tones, a little bit of rubbery reduction, light candied gummi bear tones and a hint of ripe peach. The wine is intense, medium-bodied and rather lean on the palate with somewhat reductive feel and slightly understated flavors of gunpowder smoke, stony minerality, some ripe citrus fruits, a little bit of tart green apple, a concentrated hint of sweet white peach and a touch of chalky mineral bitterness. High acidity. The finish is crisp, lean and quite long with flavors of saline minerality and wet stones, some fresh lemony citrus fruits, a little bit of tart green apple, light steely mineral notes, a perfumed hint of white flowers and a sweeter touch of white peach.
A sophisticated and precise but also rather lean Saar Riesling that shows some ripeness, but overall comes across as rather linear and understated. Most likely suffering from reduction, but the wine really didn’t start to open up in an hour or so. Most likely the wine is just in a slump right now, since it didn’t feel faulty in any way and there’s definitely an impressive streak of concentration running underneath the minerality. Slightly better and more serious than the basic Schiefer Riesling, but not by much, thanks to the somewhat closed, reductive nature of the wine. I’d let it wait for another 9-12 years, just to let the wine open up and resolve a bit more. Excellent value at 12,60€.
2015 Van Volxem Riesling Alte Reben - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
This is the Alte Reben (old vines) version of the regional entry-level Saar Riesling of the Van Volxem range, made exclusively from grapes sourced from old vines - many ungrafted and some up to 130 years old. 11,5% alcohol.
Quite pale yellow-green color. Ripe, fleshy and rather powerful nose with open, concentrated aromas of juicy yellow fruits, sweet peach-driven stone fruits, some lemon marmalade, a little bit of honeyed richness, light notes of pineapple, a hint of honeycomb and a touch of petrol. The wine is medium-to-moderately full-bodied on the palate with ripe, focused flavors of peach, steely minerality, ripe red apples, some beeswax, a little bit of tangy salinity and a perfumed hint of apple blossom. The wine is wonderfully high in acidity, yet the concentrated feel lends a somewhat oily touch to the mouthfeel. The finish is concentrated, steely and mineral with intense flavors lemony citrus fruits, some peach-driven stone fruits, a little bit of pithy grapefruit, light sweet notes of honey and beeswax, a hint of steely minerality and a touch of salinity.
A very impressive, precise and concentrated Riesling that combines power and freshness with remarkable ease. Doesn’t really need further aging to be enjoyable, but seeing how very youthful the wine is right now, it’s quite obvious that it will take many more years before the wine hits its peak. Very convincing effort for an entry-level estate wine and probably the best Van Volxem non-single vineyard wine. Excellent value at 16,90€. (91 pts.)
2015 Van Volxem Wiltinger Riesling trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
The basic bottling in the Van Volxem single vineyard range, fruit sourced from the Wiltinger Braunfels vineyard. 12% alcohol.
Youthful pale green color. Somewhat restrained and slightly reductive nose with aromas of some apple juice, a little bit of steely minerality, light notes of sponti skunk, a hint of ripe white pear and a touch of lemon zest. The wine is crisp, racy and intense on the palate with medium body and intense, mouth-cleansing and slightly sweet-toned flavors lemony citrus fruits, mineral chalk dust, some tangy salinity, a little bit of white flowers, light steely tones, a hint of apple peel bitterness and a touch of ripe white fruit. The bracing acidity keeps the wine tremendously focused and structure-driven. The long, mouth-cleansing finish feels crisp and racy with flavors of lemon juice, apple peel bitterness, some mineral spice, a little bit of beeswax, light honeyed tones and a hint of crunchy white fruit.
A very youthful, tightly-knit and crisp Riesling with tons on emphasis on the clean, mineral and very mouth-cleansing flavor profile and bracing acidity. Brimming with intensity, but due to its very lean and youthful nature, the wine comes across somewhat nervous. Terrific stuff, but could really use some more age to unwind; now the wine feels more about development potential than immediate enjoyment. Terrific value at 13,90€. (90 pts.)
2015 Van Volxem Wawerner Goldberg Riesling - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
A Riesling from the VDP.Grosse Lage Wawerner Goldberg and, according to the back label, this is a GG Riesling. 12% alcohol.
Very youthful, intense neon-green color. Somewhat restrained but also very attractive nose with harmonious aromas of sweet apple jam, some stony minerality, light perfumed notes of white flowers, a little bit of ripe white peach, a hint of fresh pineapple and a touch of chalk dust. The wine is dry, moderately full-bodied and firm on the palate, coming across more delicate and airy than concentrated with lean yet not too tightly-knit flavors of fresh white fruits, some chalky bitterness, a little bit of tangy salinity, light crunchy notes of star fruit, a hint of apple blossom and a touch of key lime. Unlike most other 2015 Van Volxems, this seems to lack the waxiness and viscous sense of concentration, yet without compromising the intensity. High acidity. The finish is clean, crisp and lively with dry flavors of fresh green apples, some ripe lemony citrus fruits, a little bit of tangy salinity, light steely mineral tones, a hint of herbal spice and a touch of star fruit.
A very youthful, mineral and noticeably saline Riesling that feels lighter and more delicate than any other single-vineyard Van Volxem Riesling. This seems to be more about finesse and harmony than power and concentration, yet without compromising the intensity and precision. Stylistically this was not only the most delicate Van Volxem in the tasting, but also the one with the most saline overall character. Drinkable now, but could benefit from at least a few years in a cellar. A delightful effort, priced according to its quality at 26€. (91 pts.)
2015 Van Volxem Riesling Rotschiefer Kabinett - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
Unlike typical Van Volxem Rieslings that are vinified dry, this Kabinett is a made in Feinherb (off-dry) style. Made from grapes sourced from iron-rich red slate vineyards of Gottesfuss, Klosterberg and Kupp. 10% alcohol.
Very youthful, intense neon-green color. Sweet, fragrant yet slightly reticent nose with attractive aromas of apple juice, some peach candies, a little bit of pear marmalade, light waxy tones and a floral hint of apple blossom. The wine is lively, fresh and firm on the palate with medium-dry-to-semi-sweet flavors of focused stony minerality, some ripe red apples, a little bit of mineral spice, light primary notes of pear marmalade, a hint of sour apple candies and a touch of peach. Bright, high acidity. The finish is clean, long and rather acid-driven with quite lengthy, off-dry flavors of tart green apples, saline minerality, some pithy grapefruit, a little bit of stony minerality, light floral notes of white flowers and sweeter hints of lemon marmalade and peach.
A clean, fresh and very precise Kabinett with very balanced overall feel and great combination of residual sugar and high acidity - the wine is crisp, yet not lean or austere. Still very youthful and perhaps lacking a bit in complexity, but showing great potential for future development. Open for business right now, but will perform a lot better if given age - another 6-10 years couldn’t really hurt. Pricey for a Kabinett at 22,50€, but delivers for the price. (90 pts.)
2015 Van Volxem Wawerner Ritterpfad Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
Unlike typical Van Volxem Rieslings that are vinified dry, this Kabinett is a made in the classic Feinherb (off-dry) style typical of Mosel. Made from grapes sourced from the slatey vineyard of Wawerner Ritterpfad. 9% alcohol.
Youthful, luminous pale green color. Dull, closed and dusty nose with vague aromas of ripe lemon and some musty hints of damp paper. Medium-sweet, acid-driven with very mineral and fruitless flavors of wet stones and some tangy salinity. Feels mute.
Most likely a slightly corked bottle: musty nose and no fruit to speak of. The bottle cost 14,90€. NR (flawed)
2015 Van Volxem Volz Riesling - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
A Riesling from the VDP.Grosse Lage Wiltinger Braunfels and, according to the back label, this is a GG Riesling. Historically Volz was a separately named site within the Braunfels and considered to be one of the best sites in Saar. Van Volxem vinifies this plot separately, honoring the historical vineyard maps. 12% alcohol.
Youthful and quite concentrated, medium-deep neon-green color. Rather sweet-toned and very slightly reductive nose with nuanced aromas of sugared lemons, some layered notes of petrol, a little bit of waxy tones, light floral notes of apple blossom, a sponti hint of skunky Böckser and a candied touch of gummi bear. The nose doesn’t feel that powerful, but it doesn’t lack intensity either. The wine is ripe and full-bodied yet super-serious and bone-dry on the palate with very focused flavors of salted lemon wedges, fresh nectarines, some mineral spice, a little bit of reductive smoke and gunpowder, light tangy notes of Granny Smith apple, a hint of quinine bitterness and a touch of exotic fruit. The overall feel isn’t super lean or tightly-knit, but it definitely isn’t soft or mellow either. Bright, racy acidity. The finish is crisp, dry and precise with very long, incisive flavors of tart lemony citrus fruits, tangy salinity, some apple peel bitterness, a little bit of reductive gunpowder and flint smoke, light notes of mineral spice, a hint of ripe peach and a touch of beeswax.
A very concentrated and super-serious GG Riesling that shows quite a bit of ripeness and fruit, yet certainly doesn’t come across as a crowdpleaser. Very powerful, chiseled and high-strung overall feel that is full of everything yet has nothing in excess. Doesn’t feel closed or too tightly-knit at the moment, so in the sense is quite drinkable already. However, the wine feels like it is more about aging potential than immediate pleasure. Most likely won’t be hitting its peak within the next 10-15 years. Outstanding stuff and superb value at 28€. Perhaps the best Van Volxem wine in 2015? Highly recommended. (95 pts.)
2015 Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Riesling Großes Gewächs - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
A Riesling from the VDP.Grosse Lage Scharzhofberg in Wiltingen and, according to the back label, this is a GG Riesling. 12% alcohol.
Intense and very youthful pale yellow-green color. Brooding and somewhat restrained nose with youthful aromas of beeswax, some lemon marmalade, light notes of powdered salmiac, a little bit of apple juice, a hint of sandy soil and a floral touch of white flowers. The wine is ripe, medium-bodied and rather linear with clean and very mineral-driven taste of stony minerality, lemony citrus fruits, some apple peel, light chalky bitter notes, a little bit of tangy salinity, a hint of crunchy white fruit and a slightest touch of savory old wood. Quite high in acidity, but less so than Van Volxem Volz 2015 that was tasted alongside. Although the wine feels pretty young, it isn’t primary anymore. The finish is long, clean and quite acid-driven with a rather mineral aftertaste of lemony citrus fruits, tangy salinity, some tart green apples, a little bit of pithy grapefruit, light chalky tones, a hint of wet stones and a touch of apple peel bitterness.
An impressive, chiseled and mineral GG Riesling that feels very youthful but not at all primary. Shows laser-like focus and good sense of ripeness, but flavor-wise is rather shy and mainly about minerality in all its forms without much fruit to counterpoint the mineral tones. Overall the wine feels like it is more about aging potential than immediate enjoyment; it really requires a lot more age to bring out the nuance and complexity that is hidden underneath the cold, hard shell of Scharzhofberger minerality. I’d let the wine wait for another 10-15 years, since it really feels like it is built for the long haul. Expect the score to go up with age. Good value at 26,90€. (93 pts.)
2015 Van Volxem Wiltinger Gottesfuss Riesling Großes Gewächs Alte Reben - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
An old-vine Riesling from the VDP.Grosse Lage Wiltinger Gottesfuss and, according to the back label, this is a GG Riesling. This “God’s foot” vineyard owned by Van Volxem is planted 120 years ago and the low-yielding vines are ungrafted, growing on their own roots. 12% alcohol.
Youthful lime-green color. Sweet, somewhat primary and not particularly expressive nose with restrained aromas of ripe pear, some mineral notes of chalk dust, a little bit of honeyed richness, light candied gummi bear tones, spicy notes of white pepper and dried herbs and a reductive touch of gunpowder smoke. The wine is moderately full-bodied, powerful and quite concentrated on the palate with intense flavors of steely minerality, nectarine, some tangy salinity, light notes of beeswax, a little bit of spicy red apple, a reductive hint of smoke and a touch of lemon marmalade. Moderately high acidity. The finish is ripe, long and intense with youthful flavors of ripe citrus fruits, tart green apples, some herbal spice, a little bit of apple peel bitterness, a hint of fresh and crunchy peach and a touch of honeycomb.
An impressive and remarkably concentrated powerhouse that feels a bit closed down at the moment. The overall feel is very muscular with some real tactile feel to it, but there’s a slightest hint of reduction that makes the wine to hold back a little. At the moment the equally impressive Van Volxem Volz 2015 performs better than this, but only by a small margin. I can imagine this wine will turn out to be better of these two with enough cellaring, but most likely it will take some time. Let this wine wait - it is certainly built for the long haul. Priced according to its quality at 38€. (94 pts.)
2013 Van Volxem Wiltinger Braunfels Riesling - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
Youthful yellow-green color with a deeper neon-green core. Fragrant, somewhat sweet-toned and slightly floral nose with aromas of lime marmalade, some steely mineral tones, a little bit of herbal spice, light perfumed notes of lychee, a hint of wet stones and a touch of honey. The wine is firm, medium-bodied and broad yet not fleshy on the palate with intense and quite complex flavors of juicy lemon, some chalk dust minerality, a little bit of apple peel bitterness, light notes of honeyed richness, a hint of developed waxy character and a touch of fragrant floral character. Structured high acidity. The finish is quite long and somewhat concentrated with flavors of ripe citrus fruits, some lemon marmalade, light chalky mineral tones, a little bit of pithy grapefruit, a hint of herbal bitterness and a touch of tart key lime.
A refreshing, harmonious and quite structured Saar Riesling. Feels slightly more evolved than the Van Volxem 2015 Rieslings that were tasted alongside (unsurprisingly), but overall comes across as very youthful and precise nonetheless. Very enjoyable and ready for business already now, but shows good potential for future development. Stunning value at 14€. (92 pts.)
2013 Van Volxem Wawerner Goldberg Riesling - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
A Riesling from the VDP.Grosse Lage Wawerner Goldberg. 12% alcohol.
Pale and still quite youthful lime-green color. Somewhat restrained and rather mineral nose with fine-tuned aromas of mealy golden apple, wet stones, some perfumed floral notes of apple blossom, light waxy tones of more developed characteristics, a little bit of dried herbs, a hint of candied ginger and a touch of honeycomb. The wine is impressively ripe and full-bodied on the palate, yet still surprisingly sinewy and weightless at the same time. Youthful and rather concentrated flavors of sweet red apples, some wet stones, a little bit of ripe white fruits, light mineral notes of tangy salinity, a hint of incisive steely character and a touch of ripe peach. Showing great sense of density with impressive structure, thanks to the very high acidity and the slightest hint of tannic tug on the gums. The finish is long, clean and lively with bright, youthful flavors of ripe lemony citrus fruits, some stony minerality, a little bit of beeswax, light tangy notes of salinity, a hint of mealy golden apples and a touch of juicy, sweet stone fruits.
A very impressive, complex and rather concentrated Riesling with lots of everything. Showing surprisingly little development now, at 6 years of age, promising tons of future aging potential. Although big, ripe and concentrated in style, the wine still doesn’t feel heavy or ponderous at all, partly thanks to the cool minerality and partly thanks to the impressive structural backbone that comes from the high acidity. Although the nose feels slightly closed at the moment, the wine is performing wonderfully at the moment. However, I have no doubts this will continue to improve for years more. Outstanding value at 19€. (94 pts.)
2013 Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Riesling Großes Gewächs - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (7.12.2019)
A Riesling from the VDP.Grosse Lage Scharzhofberg in Wiltingen. 12% alcohol.
Surprisingly pale and limpid whitish-green color. Sweet-toned and slightly restrained nose with aromas of sweet golden apples, some cool stony minerality, a little bit of honeyed richness, light notes of apricots, a hint of flint smoke and a fragrant whiff of white flowers. The wine is light-to-medium-bodied, clean and weightless with precise and very youthful flavors of fresh citrus fruits, some tart key lime, a little bit of wet stones, light apple peel bitterness, crunchy hints of white currants and star fruits and an incisive touch of steely minerality. The racy acidity lends tremendous freshness, intensity and sense of focus to the wine. The finish is long, crisp and relatively light with intense flavors of tart lemony citrus fruits and tangy green apples, some steely minerality, light stony notes, a little bit of apple peel bitterness and a hint of pithy grapefruit.
A surprisingly light-bodied and delicate effort for a Van Volxem - given how the winery is known for their powerful and ripe style - but every bit as focused and mineral as one would expect from a Scharzhofberger Riesling. Tremendously youthful at 6 years of age, showing no sense of development whatsoever; it feels like the wine has just lost its most primary characteristics, but is yet to evolve any more developed characteristics. Perhaps slightly underwhelming at the moment, if not very seductive with its precise, lean and acid-driven style. Most likely will take years before starting to sing. Very promising, but perhaps not that captivating this young. A wine that will reward prolonged aging. Good value at 20€, if one is willing to wait. Recommended. (91 pts.)
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