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Hermann Ludes
The Thörnicher Ritsch is angry
A Quarter-Century Spätlese Vertical

{ every bottle direct from the domaine }
sold out

Maybe it would have been more impactful to present a photograph of the Ritsch, above. Yet we wanted to feature the growers, because to some extent this offering is an homage, a celebration of generations, of people, of a dedication to a place, for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health.

For over half a century, Hermann Ludes (pronounced LOOD-es, pictured above right) has quietly worked the steepest, oldest parcels of the angry Thörnicher Ritsch (we'll discuss the anger of this site, below). Hermann came of age as Mosel wines were becoming ever-sweeter, ever-more plush and fruity. Flying in the face of the whims of fashion, and any discernible economic logic, Hermann kept to tradition, shaping wines of extraordinary structure, of a bracing, whiplash acidity.

Hermann Ludes made wines that required time just as the wine world entered the era of immediate gratification. The 1994 Spätlese is a celebration of this rigor; a wine approaching its 30th birthday and only gaining in momentum and energy.

In 2016 Julian Ludes (pictured left, above) began working with his uncle Hermann. As a testament to the strong-willed gene they both seem to carry, their first collective decision was to sell off the entire 2016 vintage as bulk wine. That is one year's worth of blood, sweat and tears, sold at a hefty discount. They simply didn't think the quality was good enough.

The 2020 Spätlese represents one of Julian's first wines; a handing off of the torch as it were. In the gentler 2020 vintage, this wine still shivers with tension and electrical current. It has only around thirty grams of residual sugar, maybe half the amount of residual sugar that many so-called Kabinetts carry around. This is a Spätlese that refreshes.

As for the 2010 Spätlese, well, this is, as Julian said: "maybe the single greatest bottle in our cellar."

This wine is seriously a ****ing force of nature, well beyond our descriptive powers. When we asked for everything we could get, they basically said "no," which is an interesting thing to hear honestly. You don't get that many flat-out "no's" on the buying trail. Maybe they saw our look of astonished confusion, because they eventually agreed to release a few cases.

I think Julian said something like: "Just a little taste now; this is a wine that needs another decade or two. We want to have some around when it's ready."

This is one of those opportunities that gives us goosebumps; every bottle has only recently been pulled from the cellar, direct from the estate. 

A valid question now is this: Where did this estate come from and why have I never heard of the Thörnicher Ritsch - and why the hell is it so angry?

These things are not unrelated. Hermann Ludes, much like other German-wine elders now getting their appropriate recognition, simply made wines that were too structured, too acid-driven, too dry for the American export market obsessed with sugar. The same thing happened to Ulrich "Ulli" Stein, Erich Weber of Hofgut Falkenstein, and Hans Josef Becker in the Rheingau, to name only a few.

Yet, the rigor of Ludes' style represents an extreme dance of both winemaker and vineyard. You see, the Thörnicher Ritsch is famous for its near-brutal acidities; it is an angry vineyard. The vineyard has a profile very uncommon to the Mosel, being wildly open on both sides, allowing the cold air from the plateau to wrap itself around the site, preserving acidities well into the harvest. Those of you familiar with the open landscape of the Saar would find some similarities with the island-like Ritsch. Many tasters over many decades have made comparisons with this site and the nervier wines of the Saar. (Scroll through the pictures above for a great profile of the Ritsch.)

For this reason, there has been a healthy trade in bulk wines from the Ritsch for many decades. Presumably, other winemakers in the Mosel valley wanted a little bit of that Ritsch-energy for their wines. The problem, however, was that the name "Ritsch" was lost in these bulk sales and the site never quite garnered the fame it deserved. For this reason too, the Ritsch is angry.

Yet things are changing and there is reason for considerable optimism for the future of the Ritsch. Julian and Hermann Ludes are the largest single owners of this site, with nearly all of the steep, old-vine holdings. They are still doing what they have done for many decades.

Perhaps the only thing that's different is now we are listening?

Get ready to hear a lot more about Hermann and Julian Ludes; but here's your first look.

Stephen and Robert

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