Thursday, December 10, 2015

Max Ferd. Richter - Three Centuries of History and Tradition in the Mosel

Making wine in the Mosel of northern Germany for over three centuries, Max Ferd. Richter produces world-class Rieslings from some of the most esteemed vineyards in the region. Langdon Shiverick has been importing their wines since 1986, making them a cornerstone in our portfolio. David Shiverick explains some of their history and what makes them special in the context of such a prestigious region:

“Dirk is the 9th generation of family that has been making wine in Mülheim since 1680. He joined his father after working for a couple of years for Martel (a well-known Cognac house). He came home and started working with his father. His father just passed away least year at the age of 94. And now Dirk’s son, Constantine, has joined him as the 10th generation. Constantine studied at Geisenhem, the famous wine school in the Rheingau, then worked for a while in the Finger Lakes district in New York. He is very involved in the running of the estate now.

It’s an impressive estate because they’re fairly large landowners. Most of the domaines are very small in this area, but they are one of the bigger ones and all their wines are estate bottled. Importantly, they control vineyard sites all throughout the Mittelmosel, particularly in Brauneberg, Brauneberg Juffer and Brauneberg Juffer-Sonnenhur, which is the grand cru. The Brauneberg vineyard faces the village of Mülheim, where the Richter family has lived for centuries, and they have a strong presence there. They also have two monopoles in Mülheimer Helenenkloster, which is where Richter makes his Eiswein, as he has every year since 1961, and Mülheimer Sonnenlay, which is where he makes the Zeppelin wine.  

The third monopole, Veldenzer Elisenberg, is a vineyard that was given to the Richter family at the time that Napoleon Bonaparte was retreating through Germany from Russia. The army was in a very bad way, as you can imagine, and were sacking cities as they went along. As they came towards the town of Mülheim, one of Dirk’s ancestors went to Napoleon’s camp and persuaded him to leave the town in peace. So as a reward, the town gave him the vineyard Elisenberg.”

Max Ferd. Richter has many years of traditions passed down from generation to generation. While the estate has also maintained an eye to the future in utilizing modern techniques, Dirk holds to some winemaking regimes that reflect the styles of times past:

“The estate is really unique in that he still ages his wines in barrels. In the big foudre, not small barrels, but bigger ones. And if you visit his cellar, you see these dark, brown, very old barrels. Most people have gone to vinify their Rieslings in tank. But Richter has stayed the course and it makes his wines very special.

What Richter does, he just got a new barrel five years ago, and he’s just now starting to use that barrel. For the first five years, he filled it with water, drained it out, and kept repeating the process to get rid of the oaky taste, which isn’t a component you want in Riesling. Barrel aging makes a difference because there is a porosity to barrels, and it allows wine to breathe as it ages, which the tank doesn’t do, resulting in a signature softness to the wines.”

Rieslings, both dry and sweet, have gained popularity in recent years for several reasons, not least of all because the grape is a natural fit on the dinner table:

“Riesling is the perfect food wine. It is the greatest, most noble varietal, because it goes with all kinds of food. First of all you’ve got the different styles of wine, sweet, dry, and they age so well, better than any other wine. People say minerality to describe wine from almost anywhere, you can use it for anything, it’s a new buzzword. But this is the real minerality. You’ve got a real earthiness with a mineral quality. You’ve got beautiful peach aromas, sometimes red currant, then you get this wonderful acidity that no other wines have and the combination of acidity, fruitiness, minerals, and earthiness, that’s what makes the wine age worthy and great with food.” 

In the excellent hands of Dirk and Constantine, Max Ferd. Richter promises to continue its attention to detail and quality. Form the QBAs on up through the Eisweins, their hallmark balance is evident in every glass.

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