For purists, there is nothing like the Saar. The magic here is intensity without weight, grandiosity without size: rocks and acidity. Lauer is currently one of greatest estates in this sacred place. The style here is 180 degrees removed from his famous neighbors Egon Müller and Zilliken. The focus here is on dry and dry-tasting Riesling. While the source of most of the bottlings is the famed Ayler Kupp, Florian uses the pre-1971 vineyard names – Neuenberg, Stirn, Unterstenberg. Rigorous vineyard work, indigenous yeasts and spontaneous fermentations mean the wines find their own balance. The results are undeniable: depth, texture, dimension, clarity, CUT. For Lauer, the large site of the Ayler Kupp has many different terroirs rather than a single, defining character. Soil composition, exposition, altitude, and microclimate in combination with vine age all make contributions to the individual character of each wine.
Vineyard Work: All vineyard work is done by hand due to the incline of the vineyards. Absolutely no use of insecticides/pesticides or fertilizers; the work is completely organic but not certified as such because Florian refuses to spray copper on the vines. He is alarmed and disturbed by the amount of copper buildup in many organic vineyards and the impact the copper has on the microorganisms in the soil.
Wine Notes: “Unterstenberg” can be translated, roughly, as “under the mountain” – the “unter” being “under,” the “berg” translating to “mountain.” And indeed when you click the map to the left, you see the white rectangle denoting the vineyard, there at the base, the bottom, of the Kupp.
The location of this vineyard shapes absolutely everything about the wine; everything runs down the mountain after all. Thus the Unterstenberg is one of the few sites that rarely lacks for water, even in drier years. The vineyard’s location means it is also the final resting place for most of the fine, weathered slate and soil that has been washed down over the centuries. The larger rock, unable to be moved by water, remains up top, while Unterstenberg has a relatively deep, mineral-rich soil. The water and the soil mean that this is a rather vigorous site; the growth here can be explosive. Finally, the site’s location at the bottom, nearing the valley, means that there can be some botrytis down here, though of course Florian will select most of this out.
What does this mean for the wine itself? It tends to be one of the broadest and most powerful of Lauer’s dry wines. Because of the ample water, it has a mineral expression that is multifaceted, complex, deep. Interestingly, Unterstenberg is one of the few Lauer wines that has changed its signature dramatically at times; in the late 2000s the wine tended to be rather “Feinherb” in style. Since 2012, for reasons unknown to Florian, the wine has been fermenting closer to dry, having a “dry tasting” style not dissimilar to “Senior.”
Stirn is very much Unterstenberg’s opposite, located only 300 feet up the hill. If you wanna have fun, open these bottles side by side and have a master-class in terroir. Only 300 feet apart, yet the difference between them is night and day.
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