Selbach-Oster

“Johannes Selbach, this estate’s winemaker and director (as well as Terry Theise’s man-on-the-ground in Germany) is on fire. His wines are top flight and yet his winemaking appears to be improving with each vintage. Readers should note that Selbach’s wines typically appear substantially better after a few years of cellaring.” – Pierre Rovani, Wine Advocate

Good guy alert! This was one of the few estates to lower prices to help us offset the weakened Dollar. Johannes Selbach and I are the classic pair who agree 99.75% of the time and bicker endlessly about the other .25%! We’re also both eldest-children. We were also born in power-vintages, `53 for me and `59 for him. Mine was the elegant one, though, and his was the muscular one . . . . I tell you this because I don’t want to sound mawkish when I say I trust Johannes as I trust very few other people. He’s not only highly intelligent, he’s also smart and judicious. So when I asked him if a certain grower’s statement that 2002 was comparable to `71 was merely the usual early euphoria, he considered, smiled his gioconda smile, and said yes, it was.

“You may have noticed our wines are a bit drier the last two vintages than they used to be,” said Johannes Selbach. “We know how to make reductive fruit-bombs that get high scores and stand out in big tastings,” he continued, “but the problem is everyone writes about those wines but nobody drinks them. We want to make wines for food, that people can use in their everyday lives.”

The results are some of the deepest of all Mosel wines. They refuse to be merely aesthetic. They strive for (and often attain) a sine qua non of Mosel-ness. They take you through the gift-wrapping of mere flavor and they show you something you may not know how to see.  ~Terry Theise

GSO381 Generic

Producer website

Available Wines

Selbach-Oster 2010 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese

The Schlossberg is located in the town of Zeltingen. This vineyard lies between the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Zeltinger Himmelreich. The name Schlossberg translates to Castle Mountain, because the partial ruins of the local castle still stand prominently in this vineyard. It’s a south facing slope so it gets maximum sunshine and heat. The site is 100% Devonian slate. It heats up fast, and provides extra warmth for the grapes all day long. The grade of the slope hits 70 degrees in some parts, which means everything must be hand picked. Because the wine is labeled as Spätlese, it legaly must reach a minimum of 76 degrees Oechsle. In this case, the wine was harvested at 88 degrees and could have been legally designated an Auslese, but Selbach preferred to have it as a Spätlese.

Selbach-Oster 2011 Riesling Spätlese

More slate-liqueur now, a creamy-salty texture that isn’t at all sweet, but speaks directly to the Mosel soul. The Schlossberg is located in the town of Zeltingen. This vineyard lies between the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Zeltinger Himmelreich. The name Schlossberg translates to Castle Mountain, because the partial ruins of the local castle still stand prominently in this vineyard. It’s a south facing slope so it gets maximum sunshine and heat. The site is 100% Devonian slate. It heats up fast, and provides extra warmth for the grapes all day long. The grade of the slope hits 70 degrees in some parts, which means everything must be hand picked. Because the wine is labeled as Spätlese, it legaly must reach a minimum of 76 degrees Oechsle. In this case, the wine was harvested at 88 degrees and could have been legally designated an Auslese, but Selbach preferred to have it as a Spätlese.

Selbach-Oster 2011 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling ‘Anrecht’ [6/750ml]

Wine Advocate (R. Parker) 94, IWC (Stephen Tanzer) 92

Selbach-Oster 2011 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling ‘Schmitt’ [6/750ml]

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker) 93

Selbach-Oster 2011 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling ‘Rotlay’ [6/750ml]

Wine Advocate (Robert Parker) 91+

Selbach-Oster 2012 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Schmitt [6/750]

In steel this year; not deliberately, just logistics, what was available at which time. But this wine has everything, an herbal aloe fundament of Schlossberg, fabulous mintiness and an absurd equipoise of richness and cut; as digital as Dönnhoff ’s Hermannshöhles, it resolves into a verbena-like finish that starts sweet and gets more green-tea like as it spreads and glows. Schmitt is a micro-parcel in Schlossberg. It is steep and has a perfect southern exposure, and it’s subsoil is deep of crumbly, broken slate, mixed with organic matter and loam. The vineyard is more distant from the Mosel and gets less of the effect from the wide water surface but sits smack behind the church and the warm bodies of the village houses beneath which radiate warmth back into the vineyard (a privileged situation akin to that of the Bernkasteler DoctoR).

Selbach-Oster 2012 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese

Tasting Notes unavailable…

Selbach-Oster 2013 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese

N/A

Selbach-Oster 2013 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese

N/A

Selbach-Oster 2013 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett

CORE-LIST WINE. There is also a 2012 vintage available, but this may be an instance where the ’13 more than holds its own, and is likely the great Selbach ’13 below the level of the en-blocs. A round, complex, thorough Mosel Riesling that touches all bases; herbs, wintergreen, pitted-fruits, slate, succulent mineral shimmer; just delicious, long and classy. ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Anrecht [6/750]

The ’14 is less arch and stinging than usual; it was done (again like ’13) in Fuder. Botrytis is an element here but subsumed into an exegesis of every different lime for the last 6,000 years. The finish is a vapor of mint and verbena. Certainly important and impressive, but I want to see how its elements finally play together.  ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinet halbtrocken

Sommelier Alert! It’s richer and less minty than usual but I like the richness in this vintage, which can use a little gras; so anticipate a wine with more apple and less spearmint; crunchy stuff. The parcel is called Heel and it’s to the right of Anrecht, from which one of the great trio of en-bloc wines comes. This is a marked triumph in ’14. ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett

Sommelier Alert!
Beautiful and typical. Every classic descriptor applies, plus it is racy and long, and aloe and linden, and basically dry thanks to its psychotic acidity. Yum-m-m-m-m-m!  ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Schmitt [6/750] or [6/1500]

More streamlined and linear now but no les intricate or mysterious; indeed the genius of Johannes’ wine is the willingness to admit mystery, to offer the clear stream of the enigmatic. Back to the matter at hand: this is all steel (and only because it fit into the only available vessel at that point in the harvest) and it’s the first essentially “sweet” wine. It’s a cerebral hedonist, doing math in his head while getting his feet massaged.  ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese

Core List Wine. Lime-blossom and pepperminty; botrytis discernible but discreet; the greater impact is slaty and salty. It’s a little ‘wild’ just now, but bottling will civilize it. ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Rotlay [6/750]

Whither Rotlay in 2014? There’s a veil of botrytis over the fruit and the red-slatey skeleton. I actually don’t know what this wine will eventually taste like. But I don’t want to miss it—there isn’t much, and there wasn’t any in 2013. So…   ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese

Again masterly. Apple compote strained through slate-dust. Rich but disciplined, gorgeous and brainy; the botrytis iron is a grind of pepper, not over the fruit but bound to the minerality, which is like a ball of titanium, napped with key-lime.  ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese (1-star)

My wine of the vintage is a stunning and amazing old-vines miracle; not a gnarl of botrytis in view (except maybe for a mere wisp of talc); it’s like a soufflé of delicate chervil or fennel with cox orange, and an epiphany of slate; it expands like the heart expands, like the eyes of the penitent at the gates of Paradise, and then it rends the heart, as great and difficult beauty always does. ~Terry Theise

GSO-485M = 6/1500ml

Selbach-Oster 2014 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese feinherb “Uralte Reben”

Sommelier Alert!  Ur-alt means extremely old; in this case most vines over 80 and many over 100.  Ungrafted goes without saying.  You know, when I hear people say that dry Rieslings were “traditional” or even that they prevailed most of the time back in the day, I think the young listener has no way of knowing that it’s wines like this being talked about.

Those halcyon days of mostly dry Riesling had zero to do with the modern cellar style: stainless steel, ice-cold fermentation, whole-cluster pressing, early bottling. Those old wines were wines like this, fermented in cask after settling by gravity as best they could (before the days of separators, centrifuges and micropore filters), all of them spontis, bottled after multiple rackings and often 2-3 years after the vintage. They were naturally softer than today’s wines, and even THEN it was widely known the best casks were those that weren’t entirely dry.

This is a masterpiece in any vintage and a miracle in ’14; as exotic as a Mosel classic can be; pink peppercorn and wet cereal  apple cellar and fresh mutsu; green balsam notes (like a Christmas tree)  all into the most complex finish almost inconceivably intricate and delicious.  ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2015 Riesling Kabinett

SOMMELIER ALERT!
A little bit of new-Fuder here. I’ll share the numbers…. acid about 9.2g/l and RS 35-ish (many Mosel grower’s Kabs are twice that sweet.) ’15 is the best vintage EVER of this utter Mosel paradigm.  ~Terry Theise

Selbach-Oster 2015 Riesling Spätlese

Pending Tasting Notes

Selbach-Oster 2015 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling “Rotlay” [6/750]

This one’s the Granddaddy, the silent soul of the rocks, the keeper of the heavy boulders. On a hot day, eons ago, a tree’s worth of cherries and apples fell off their branches onto the sun-boiled rocks, they nearly sizzled when their skins split, and while much of the juice evaporated in the pitiless heat, some of it soaked into the stone, and became part of the stone, and then later, who even knows how much later, the rocks themselves dissolved, and the fruit was still embedded inside, and at some point a wine was made from vines planted in the warm rocks, and at long last, this wine tells the story, to you and to me. I plan to listen.