For five generations, spanning over 200 years, the Melsheimer family has quietly fashioned some of the world’s finest Rieslings, grown on the precariously steep slopes along the Mosel River. Today, Thorsten Melsheimer manages the estate, and three generations work at the winery. Truly a family estate.
About half of their 12 hectares of vineyards are classified as Steilstlage, are the steepest (freakishly so) vineyards in Mosel, terraced and supported by slate walls, certified as a historical cultural landscape. Along the Mosel, only 5 per cent of the vineyards are classified as Steilstlage. Click on the photo to the left to see a larger view of these terraces.
Hand-harvesting is the rule in the Mosel, as the vineyards are too steep for machinery. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see helicopters hovering over some Mosel vineyards, as workers apply sprays or other treatments! In Melsheimer’s Steilstlage vineyards, each terrace may contain as little as a single row of vines. This is absolutely grueling, death-defying work, but it produces the finest wines. The slate soils in the vineyards contain very little organic matter, so the vines must work extremely hard to get nutrients and produce their concentrated fruit.
Thorsten firmly believes that healthy, ecologically balanced vineyards produce the best wines. Since 1995, all of their vineyards have been farmed organically, and was certified organic in 1997 by ECOVIN. This return to the ancient production methods allows all the natural flora and fauna of the vineyard to thrive, unladen by chemicals or fertilizers. This naturally controls the yields as well, giving their wines deep concentration and complexity.
Melsheimer only grows Riesling, perhaps the most noble of all white varietals. Thorsten produces about 50,000 bottles annually, such a tiny amount that they supplement the family’s income by managing two guest houses that they rent to tourists. And each acre of vineyard land requires approximately 1500 man-hours per year — it’s amazing that these wines don’t cost exponentially more.
Reiler Mullay-Hofberg is Melsheimer’s favorite vineyard. It lies on the Mosel river stretching for about a kilometer. The northeastern portion of the vineyard is the steepest — where mighty rocks jut out through the vines. Here the vines are planted on tiny ledges that are breathtakingly steep.
2009 Reiler Mullay-Hofberg Riesling Kabinett
From vines up to 80 years old, from the Schäf parcel. The soil here is dark blue slate. Fermented in 1000L Fuderbarrel (large oak barrels) for 2-4 months, aged on the lees for 5 months until bottling. Partial wild-yeast fermentation (50%). Minerally and intense, with great acidity and tremendous balance.
2010 Riesling Trocken QBA
From adjacent vineyards in Reiler Mullay-Hofberg and Reiler Goldlay, this basic Riesling shows the typicity of the Mosel. Sourced from both red and blue slate vineyards, this wine is intriguingly delicious. Partially-fermented with wild yeast, fermented in 1000 liter old oak foudre, and with no sulfur added until a tiny amount at bottling, these wines are unusual and exciting.
Vinecraft proudly distributes the Melsheimer wines in Florida.