If you're thinking, "well, Spätlese, that's not exactly my thing," I'm not really here to convince you otherwise. Some things will always be for a tiny audience, and in some ways that makes it all the more beautiful.
Yet the brutal reality of the market is that as wines with residual sugar become evermore unfashionable, Spätlese becomes harder to sell. Kabinett is having a renaissance, it has found a place in our contemporary culture. I'm joyful for that.
Spätlese, so far, has not. John and I sit around and drink Spätlese and amuse ourselves by saying, "Well, you know Spätlese is the new Kabinett? Right?" Of course it is most definitely not the new Spätlese, but that's I guess why it's funny?
Anyway, there I was with Florian Lauer in the late spring of this year, sitting at a table with him and tasting - I dunno - seven different Spätlese? Eight? After a while I lost count.
I drank them all, utterly amazed by how beautiful and pristine they all were (more on why, below), while thinking simultaneously that there was no chance in hell I could sell all these wines. So, being very subtle and elegant, I said the following: "Good lord, don't you have a problem selling all this Spätlese?"
Florian, not in the least insulted, paused for only a moment briefly considering my question and then just blurted out, without hesitation or bravado, the following remark: "No, we don't really have problems selling these wines... I guess because from here they taste nearly dry?"
I laughed out loud.
Florian said all this in just such a dry, honest, matter-of-fact way, as if he were simultaneously bored and amazed by what the Saar could do. Musicians with extraordinary technical ability often show a similar laconic attitude when you gush about their playing. They look at you, bored and confused, with an expression that seems to say: "I was just playing the notes on the page? Leave me alone."
Yet Lauer's statement is about as insightful a comment as I've ever heard trying to describe why the Saar is such a magical place. The acrobatics of Saar wines simply can't be matched in nearly any other place on earth.
So here we are, Spätlese that speak to rigor and mineral, Spätlese that have fruit (and residual sugar, for sure), yet have such radical acidities, such inconceivable pHs, that the wines flaunt a supernatural balance, an extraordinary tension and energy.
Make no mistake, these are Spätlese and they have some sweetness. But they also taste nearly dry. I'm sorry that this doesn't make any sense, but here we are. That's the magic.
Yet beyond this magic, the reason these wines are so superb, in my eyes, is that they do not succumb to sweetness, or lavish fruit and fireworks. They show terroir. The Lambertskirch is one of the top Spätlese of the vintage. It is rigorous and mineral-flower; it almost makes me weep. The "Sonne" Spätlese is a bit more traditional in style, more fruit and flourish. It still has that Saar rigor, but it does have a more opulent mid-palate. Think of J.J. Prüm but from the Saar.
The fun part is having these wines side-by-side. Terroir in a Spätlese? Hell yeah.
This is an authentic take on a clichéd line, but truly: "If you pull the trigger on only one Spätlese offer this year, this is your moment."
Only a few cases of these wines came to the U.S., thus trying to parse out bottles to multiple markets makes little to no sense. So this is likely your only chance, here and now. Reviews from Mosel Fine Wines below.
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"The 2022er Lambertskirch Spätlese, as it is referred to in the central part of the label, was made from fruit harvested in this south-east facing site overseeing the Saar, and was fermented down sweet levels of residual sugar (75 g/l). It has a splendid and captivating nose of elderflower, candied citrus, ginger, yellow flowers, almond cream, pina colada, and minty herbs. The wine is beautifully playful on the palate, where juicy and ripe fruits interplay with fresher notes of greengage, herbs, and cassis. The finish is very pure and vibrating. This is a breathtaking Spätlese."
"The 2022er Sonne Spätlese, as it is referred to in the central part of the label, was made from fruit harvested in the Sonnenberg sector (hence the name Sonne) and was fermented down to sweet levels of residual sugar (84 g/l). It has a very rich and ripe nose of pineapple, almond cream, toffee, William’s pear, acacia, apricot, and honeyed peach. The wine is very fruity and sweet on the palate, with plenty of creamy elements clearly bringing it into the Auslese category. This beautiful sweet wine even has some upside potential if it gains finesse over time."