This trip to Germany contained many great visits, I enjoyed them all and learnt something from each. At Tesch I really felt that I, at last, began to understand terroir.
Tesch is a small winery with a 300 year past, but a very modern present under the leadership of Dr Martin Tesch. His excitement and enthusiasm is infectious and must in part explain why I so enjoyed the visit.
We arrived at his beautiful vineyards overlooking the Nahe River, it felt peaceful and the vine covered hills seemed gentle, until we climbed them anyway. Martin said that all wineries are the same, so we were only going to see his vineyards, which was music to my ears and the walk was a true delight, a trip highlight indeed. Surrounded by his vines Martin told us that he had taken over the winery in 2000 and quickly constituted changes.He wanted to get away from producing Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Sylvaner, Scheurebe & Geürztraminer and more, at QbA, Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese levels in Feinherb, trocken & halb-trocken styles. He removed all the grapes that he thought did not suit the terroir (as well as Gewürztraminer which he just doesn’t like) leaving the focus on Riesling with tiny amounts of Weisseburgunder and Spätburgunder.
He does not want an international wine making style in his wines. Of all the wines we tasted his were the ones that most exhibited austerity, something that I think suits Riesling. The wine making imprint is very slight at Tesch, as he says “Riesling has a backbone, it is not an easy drinking peachy, sweet wine.”
So he basically just makes dry Rieslings, with some tiny amounts of other grapes and Eiswein when conditions allow. He bottles it all under Stelvin Lux closure, as that is more resilient to knocks and, because it has no externally visible screw-thread, it looks much smarter than normal Stelvin.
The only non vineyard site wine is his standard bearer: Riesling Unplugged, an exemplary modern take on Riesling, bone dry, austere, fresh and cleanly mineral with a long finish and amazing balance.
The other 5 wines he showed us all came from named vineyard sites and all were 2007. They were all different and all had more weight and finesse than Riesling Unplugged:
Löhrer Berg (Empty Mountain)
Where fertile soils and unstressed vines gives richness and a pale gold colour.
Where little water and high quartz content gives a pale silver hue and a pure mineral character.
Königsschild (Kings Shield)
Where ancient seashells and loess gives an explosion of clean mineral acidity and a pale colour.
Karthäuser (belonged to the Carthusian monks)
Where sandstone soils give a deeper (very) pale gold and a rounded, softer wine.
Volcanic soils, but appreciably higher sweetness in the wine slightly clouded the terroir issue even if the wine was lovely.
For me these were tremendously exciting wines as there was little or nothing between the taster and the wine, no oak, no blockbuster power, no overwhelming winemaking imprint, just Riesling and the terroir right there before you in the glass.
I liked all the wines, their purity and finesse really spoke to me, but even more I loved the simple message they conveyed. These were wines from a specific place, with a heart and a soul. The fact that they were delicious was a bonus.