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Egon Müller
is a small grower
in the Saar

{ This may be a bizarre way to introduce one of the most famous estates in the world... }
sold out

…but it's always struck me as a bit incongruent, this blurring of the person (Egon Müller), the estate (Weingut Egon Müller-Scharzhof), and what I suppose I'd call, "the brand."

The brand is the world-famous luxury good; it's what one has in mind when discussing or reading about some of the jaw-dropping prices these wines can command, like the 2003 TBA that went for over $16,000 a bottle. The estate itself however is quite small, with just over 10 hectares under vine. The Scharzhof, the manner house where the family lives and the wine is made, is an imposing building set perfectly, poetically askew of one of the most dramatic slopes of the Scharzhofberg vineyard, as if made for a postcard (see the photos, above).

Which leaves the one final question in my trilogy: Who is Egon, the person? And with that, we return full circle to my title: "Egon Müller is a small grower in the Saar."

This simple fact is so often overlooked, that I felt like it needed to be emphasized, or maybe even introduced to a new generation of younger German wine buyers.

Egon's Scharzhof bottling perhaps best expresses this aspect, Egon Müller as a small grower in the Saar... or perhaps, we are introducing it. The absolute truth is Egon's Scharzhof bottling is one of my favorite Saar wines, an ultra-light, delicately off-dry Riesling that so perfectly expresses the intensity and restraint of the Saar, "the austerity coupled with delicacy and extreme finesse," to quote one of my favorite lines in all of wine writing (written by Frank Schoonmaker in his 1955 book The Wines of Germany, describing Saar wines).

In 2020, it is superb, flirting with, yet never quite reaching, Kabinett-level sweetness; the cool tones of 2020, the energy and lightness, refresh and reverberate.

This is a wine I try and buy a solid case of every vintage (I found and photographed a few of the cases in my cellar, the rest are buried behind other boxes). At least a little of the impetus to do this offer was to secure my own case for 2020; that's the honest-to-god truth. This wine is a gateway drug to Riesling, to the Saar, to Egon. We don't have a lot to offer, but the wine is worth seeking out. Please find more about Egon Müller's 2020 collection including the specifics on the Scharzhof, below.

While not an inexpensive bottle, it can at least be a consideration for a wider audience than many of Egon's other wines; to my palate its fine-ness can challenge many bottles at much higher tariffs.

My other motivation for this offer was to talk about Egon, the grower. I've visited Egon for well over a decade, and if it's too much to say he's a good friend - if that suggests an intimacy that seeing someone a few times a year can't quite contain - I would say that I'm very fond of him. I love his curious mix of stillness, of restraint, of quiet warmth and generosity, his insight - if you are quiet enough to listen. I think - maybe I just hope? - that there is a good amount of mutual respect. We both love Riesling and, after all, Egon is a grower.

Egon was born in 1959 and studied oenology; he took over the estate from his father (Egon Müller the third; our Egon is the fourth) in the mid-1980s. Things were good then too - this has been a very famous estate for many decades - but this was a bit before the age of glossy wealth. In addition, being a grower was not easy in the 1980s when ripeness was truly a concern, especially in the Saar. And even now, with the international wine machine well-oiled and things more, well, lucrative, Egon maintains a certain distance from this flash and glamour. It is there, clearly, but in the most obvious ways it doesn't seem to interest Egon all that much. I have heard stories of grand VDP tastings in the Saar, with Mercedes and BMWs lined up outside the venue, only to have Egon show up, quietly, riding his bicycle.

There is a beautiful article about Egon by Fiona Morrison - she so perfectly captures the unpretentiousness of the home, the rustic, beautifully weathered quality of the estate, its honesty and charm. She writes: "I love the resolutely old-fashioned aspect of the house at Scharzhof; its tiled kitchen, its large dark salons hung with portraits and scattered with photos, statues, mementos and curios and faded rugs, its darkened corridors with their creaky floorboards... There have been cursory nods to modern comfort – new furnishings, better lighting – but the smells of generations of the family, the dust that settles on the books in the library and the equestrian paintings that adorn many of the walls, the wax used to polish the oak floors, the gustative memory of shared meals, take one back through the generations." There's a drawing, photographed above, of a young Putti urinating on what I presume to be a drunken Bacchus from the top of a barrel (which is curiously close to the size of a Mosel Fuder). I've always loved this drawing, with its irreverent, childish humor challenging the stately grandeur of the place. It just always felt right, hanging there; a gentle reminder to never take yourself that seriously?

The black and white photos above were taken by Robert when we visited in 2014; I love the one of the library. As the mythology of visiting Egon developed, shared among tasters hoping to visit, you would always formally taste in the foyer, with the glasses neatly arranged on a circular table (also photographed above). If you were lucky, you would then be invited into the library to sit quietly while Egon went to the cellar, to open something for fun. This wine would always be served blind (most of the bottles are either not labeled or the labels have deteriorated in the cellar) and Egon would always ask for guesses; I've always been horribly wrong.

If the Egon that shows up to tasting events in New York (or London or Tokyo, etc.) is always in perfect form, in a bespoke suit flawlessly styled, the Egon at home is normally in shorts and sneakers; he is an avid runner and cyclist. At the estate, the front door is often partly open; in year's past his younger children's toys would be scattered across the cobblestone courtyard.

If many of the absolute greatest bottles of Egon Müller are among the most expensive, most storied, longest-lived and greatest wines on earth - and they are - it's important to remember that this greatness comes from a small grower, who loves his vineyards. This fact deserves more attention. And it's important to remember that if the Kabinett and Spätlesen, the rare Auslesen and dessert-level wines are beyond your reach, the Scharzhof is also an expression of this great estate, and this wine deserves perhaps more attention too.

2020 Egon Müller Scharzhof, Le Gallais and Scharzhofberger
Egon's Scharzhof Riesling is named after the estate, not the Scharzhofberg vineyard. While the Scharzhofberg is Egon's most famous site (it is, arguably, one of the most famous sites in Germany and the world), he does have small holdings in a number of other sites, including Wiltinger Braunfels, Oberemmeler Rosenberg and the Saarburger Rausch - the Scharzhof is sourced from these parcels. Normally, it is fermented to a delicately off-dry place (15-20 grams RS), where it can be something of a chameleon, showing both a dry and an off-dry quality. Curiously, the 2020 edition has a bit more power to it; the wine flaunts a slightly higher level of RS, clocking in somewhere around 25 grams. While it does not quite have the sweetness of a Kabinett, it feels to me like a slightly more bracing Kabinett, a wine flirting with this Prädikat level. I love its generosity and yet, the vintage has a pull to it, a tensile acidity. I've had Scharzhofs at close to 20 years (I have two final 2008ers in my cellar; I think I bought 18-24 at one point, going a little overboard) and my best guess is that the 2020 will age beautifully for some time. If you have the cellar space, cellar this wine. Thank me later.

I had dinner with Egon in New York in early 2020, literally weeks before the pandemic began. We emailed a bit through the pandemic, but I hadn't seen him until I was able to visit Germany, in August of2021. We went through the entire collection, including the Le Gallais wines, which any lover of Egon's wines or Saar wines in general should also pay attention to. For me, the young 2020 Le Gallais bottlings (there is only a Kabinett and a Spätlese in 2020) were the best young wines I've ever had from these sites. As for the 2020 collection from the Scharzhofberg, they are superb; again, there is only a Kabinett and a Spätlese for 2020, though there will be three auction wines, a Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese GK. All are great, though the Auslese GK is perhaps one of the most ethereal and transparent dessert wines I've ever had. For the serious collectors, this is a wine to seek out.

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