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The Renaissance of Mosel Riesling: Ernst Loosen's Historical Winemaking Revolution

Updated: Jul 6

In the heart of Germany's Mosel region, a quiet revolution is taking place. Ernst Loosen, a name synonymous with exceptional Riesling, is reviving historical winemaking techniques, and in doing so, he's propelling German wines back to their rightful place among the world's most prestigious.

Loosen's journey began in the 1990s, sparked by a desire to recapture the glory days of German wine. "I wanted to understand why our wines were once so highly regarded," Loosen explains, his eyes gleaming with the passion of a true innovator. This curiosity led him down a path of historical exploration, ultimately resulting in the creation of his "Tradition" Prädikat wines in 2012.

But Loosen wasn't content to stop there. His latest venture, the Zach. Bergweiler-Prüm Erben project, takes this historical approach to new heights. Named after his great-grandfather, this collection of wines represents the pinnacle of traditional Mosel winemaking.

Now, with the introduction of these "über historical" wines to La Place de Bordeaux, Loosen is poised to reach an even wider audience. It's a bold move, placing these Mosel Rieslings alongside some of the world's most renowned wines, but Loosen's confidence in his wines is unwavering.

At the heart of this project lies the iconic Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard. Imagine a steep, south-facing slope of blue Devonian slate, with vines so old they've witnessed over a century of vintages. These 130-year-old vines, still on their original rootstock, are tended to with a level of care that borders on reverence.

"We're essentially recreating the winemaking practices of the early 20th century," Loosen says, his voice filled with excitement. This means eschewing modern conveniences in favor of hand cultivation, organic soil nutrients, and natural materials for vine management. It's a labor-intensive process, but one that Loosen believes is essential to producing truly exceptional wines.

The result of this painstaking work is a trio of wines that showcase the versatility and complexity of old-vine Riesling from this legendary site. A dry Riesling Grosses Gewächs, an off-dry Kabinett, and a partially botrytis-affected Auslese each offer a unique expression of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr terroir.

But what sets these wines apart isn't just their pedigree or their production methods. It's the way they challenge our perceptions of what German Riesling can be. Loosen's wines challenge the perception of German Riesling as cheap and mass-produced that plagued the region's reputation in the 1970s and '80s. In their place, Loosen is crafting wines of remarkable depth, intensity, and age-worthiness.

The winemaking process itself is a testament to Loosen's commitment to tradition.

Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, extended lees aging in large, neutral oak casks - these are techniques that harken back to a time when winemaking was as much an art as a science. "We're not trying to manipulate the wines," Loosen insists. "We're letting the vineyard speak for itself."

This approach is paying dividends not just in the quality of the wines, but in the renewed interest they're generating in the international wine market. Loosen's tireless promotion of high-quality German Riesling has played a significant role in the variety's renaissance.

"These wines represent the true potential of the Mosel," he says, cradling a glass of his Wehlener Sonnenuhr Grosses Gewächs. "They're a bridge between our past and our future."

As we taste through the lineup, it's clear that Loosen's confidence is well-founded. Each wine is a revelation, offering layers of complexity that unfold with each sip. The dry Grosses Gewächs is a study in tension, its razor-sharp acidity perfectly balanced by rich, ripe fruit.

The Kabinett offers a more delicate expression, its subtle sweetness acting as a counterpoint to the slate-driven minerality. And the Auslese is simply stunning, its botrytis-influenced notes adding an extra dimension of complexity to the wine.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about these wines is their ability to age. "These are wines that will outlive us all," Loosen says with a chuckle. It's not hard to believe him. Even in their youth, these wines show a concentration and structure that suggests decades of development ahead.

As our tasting concludes, it's clear that Ernst Loosen has achieved something truly special with his Zach. Bergweiler-Prüm Erben project. By looking to the past, he's created wines that are not only relevant to the present but are poised to shape the future of German winemaking.

In a world where technology often reigns supreme, Loosen's dedication to traditional methods serves as a powerful reminder of the value of craftsmanship and patience in winemaking. His "über historical" Rieslings are more than just excellent wines - they're a testament to the enduring power of tradition and the endless potential of the Mosel terroir.

As we leave the tasting, Loosen's parting words linger: "These wines are not just a product. They're a piece of history, a snapshot of a place and time." And with each bottle that makes its way into the cellars of wine lovers around the world, a little piece of that history is preserved, ready to be discovered and appreciated for generations to come.

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