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saving the final terraces of the Obermosel
and one of Europe's oldest grapes

{ The disappearance of the terraces is easy to document; we can do it in two pictures below. }
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Hild Elbling 'Zehnkommanull' 2022

The black-and-white photograph above was taken in the 1960s. These are Matthias Hild's sisters, smiling in front of a small ridge that runs behind the estate and was completely terraced and covered with Elbling vineyards, as you can see.

Fast forward a half-century: scroll to the right in the image gallery and you'll see an updated photo from Google Earth. It shows the same ridge, now nearly completely overgrown - fallow. There are only two small parcels of these terraced vineyards still healthy, still producing. The largest, most important is outlined in blue. A smaller parcel is above and to the left.

This is all that remains.

From these two parcels, a total of only .15 hectares - 1,500 square meters - Matthias Hild and his son Jonas make one wine, the rare "Zehnkommanull." Only a small amount of this wine is made; only an even smaller amount comes to the U.S.

This is the last Elbling in Germany, so far as we know, made exclusively from old vines on the last remaining terraces in the Obermosel.

For us, this is nothing less than a sacred bottle of wine. A sacred bottle of wine that sells for under $25. The whole situation is ludicrous, but this is the Obermosel and Elbling. Overlooked, forgotten... undervalued.

Though this is changing, albeit slowly. The Hilds, Jonas Dostert and a number of other growers are slowly making serious buyers reconsider the Obermosel.

A recent 2013 vintage tasting in New York in June 2023 brought this bottle sharply back into Robert's and my mind. To begin the evening, Robert pulled from his cellar a 2013 "Zehnkommanull," now ten years old... and it was lovely.

Still youthful and fresh, time had simply polished some of the limestone, the citrus was more airy and expansive. The normal fine-ness of the wine, was... finer. At a table with the absolute best wines of Germany from Keller, Lauer, Julian Haart, Willi Schaefer, Egon Müller, J.J. Prüm, Schäfer-Fröhlich, Emrich-Schönleber and more, this wine had a place.

Elbling is not Riesling, and limestone is not slate. There were, obviously, profound differences. But the "Zehnkommanull" was a superb wine on its own terms - linear, refreshing, finessed. What a joyous damn wine.

Old-vine Elbling, grown on the Kimmeridgian limestone of the Obermosel, has a chiseled fine-ness to it that recalls in some ways Chablis and in some ways Muscadet. If not as broad and complex as the former, it can have a lightness and delicacy to it that feels more refined than Muscadet. Others have compared the extreme buoyancy of Elbling to Txakoli.

But these references are just to contextualize this wine, this place... which remains, relatively unknown.

The greatest Elblings are wines of pure refreshment, clarity, minerality. Yet the rare "Zehnkommanull" is something more. It is nothing less than an act of cultural preservation - the wine speaks profoundly of a place... a place that is almost gone, except for this bottle.

Feel free to cellar some for 10 years, or drink it all this summer with family and loved ones. 

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