“Mosel is perfect for riesling, why should I grow something else?”
Sybille Kuntz is the latest generation in a long line of wine growers in the Mosel Valley. After taking over her family’s vineyard more than 30 years ago, quality has moved up to a different dimension. Unlike many others in Germany, she makes a small number of wines, six. They range from crispy dry to overwhelmingly sweet. BKWine Magazine’s reporter Sven-Olof Johansson met Sybille in Stockholm and tasted the wines, plus some bonus.
Often, the label says a lot about the producer. Cheap wine with ostentatious and elaborate labels with golden ornaments that could be made for the French court. Or the young and cocky producer who chose a cartoon of a boxer to decorate his bottle. Sybille Kuntz’ labels are clean, clear, unconventional and without sprawling details. Just like the way I perceive her as a winemaker. An uncompromising focus on the contents of the bottle.
If you take the time to read about different producers, it is often striking to see how many generations have cultivated the same plot. From the early nineteenth century and sometimes much longer than that. But many times I get the feeling that it’s the current generation that puts its mark on the wine. Not always of course but this is the impression I get of Sybille Kuntz. She is the latest generation in a long line of wine producers and today she runs the Sybille Kuntz Weingut in Lieser in the Mosel Valley.
Sybille Kuntz knows exactly how the vines should be trained, which pesticides that cannot be used, exactly when the harvest should be done and, above all, what grape to grow. Here it is only riesling that counts. She repeatedly said the phrase “why should I grow something else when the soil is perfect for riesling?” Weeds and various herbs that grow between the rows of ranks are rolled back into the soil to give new fuel to what is going to grow.
A family with a long tradition of cultivation, but the character of the wines must be attributed to herself. A conscious work since she took over in 1981, grown organically since 1990, decided to switch to biodynamic cultivation in 2011 and finally biodynamically certified in 2016. Thirty-seven harvests leave traces.
Today, production is focussed on six wines. Riesling Qualitätswein 2016 for ~19 euro. Bright tones with crispy freshness.
Kuntz Riesling Spätlese Trocken 2012 is a real step up in detail and distinct characters. A rich and powerful start, beautiful tones of maturity with yellow fruits, minerals and spices. The acidity is youthful, the minerals are there and the taste is long. It’s always tempting to recommend more ageing, but here are all the details are already in place. Well worth ~28 euro.
From the experience above to pure contemplation when the glass was filled with Kuntz Riesling Goldkapsel 2003. Discreet, elegant and lots of subtle details. A lovely dry auslese where high viscosity gives a good mouthfeel. 15 years of ageing create new dimensions. The acidity was perceived as with a long and beautiful grip. This clearly shows the ageing capacity of Sybille’s wines. 14% alcohol.
All nice events end with something sweet and Sybille served an enchanting trio with increasing sweetness. People at the table were chirping and in happy moods, matching the desserts. I did not interrupt them at the table but here behind the keyboard, I can say what I want. Why should you wait for the final dish of the meal with wines that with a wonderful acidity gives you so much freshness?
Kuntz Riesling Helden 2005 with 50g sugar per litre, an acidity of 8.5 grams and 14% alcohol. A magic combination of sweetness and acidity. Or a Kuntz Beerenauslese 2011 with the same fantastic freshness and where 100 grams of sugar is fully baked and balanced by the acidity that feels deliciously fresh. The heavyweight, Kuntz Trockenbeerenauslese 2011, measures a grand total of 285 grams of sugar per litre, has an insanely rich nose, velvety feel and enriching sweetness. This wine is specially treated at harvest the grapes that go into it are placed in a separate box where all grapes are fully attacked by botrytis. If the guests have become a little tipsy when you arrive at the dessert, it is best to keep the wine and instead take a glass another time when you with fresh taste buds are cooking.
Finally, one cannot not flag up a beautiful rosé wine, Riedlin Rosé 2016. Now is Christmas time, you say perhaps, but what about being a bit crazy for a little while? Look at the Yanks, where rosés are gulped down in volumes at the after-ski in Aspen.
Sybille and her husband Marcus Kuntz-Riedlin also make wine in Baden. 100% spätburgunder, destemmed, 1-2 hour skin contact, then saignée, low-temperature fermentation and finally the wine will rest on its lees until spring. No malolactic fermentation.
Invite your guests to a tasteful trip with two glasses in parallel with your old favourite from Provence in the second glass. Fresh red tones, freshly ground spices and an acidity with wide elbows and that lingers in a lovely way.
After the tasting, a question was asked if they ever had considered joining the VDP (the German private association which comprises about 200 German quality producers). The answer was a distinct no followed by a rather detailed explanation about the unwillingness of allowing someone else to control the details of the winemaking and the benefits of making all decisions oneself. There, I can only agree that the winemaking is already at a really high level and it will be a real pleasure to follow Sybille Kuntz’s production in the future.
If you would like to know more about the wines, I suggest you go to sybillekuntz.de where there is excellent background material for all the vintage and wines. Among other things, the suggestion that her Trockenbeerenauslese 2011 can be kept until 2045, so keep your fingers away from it for a while.
Sven-Olof Johansson is a wine enthusiast in Stockholm with a long history of wine tasting experience.
This post is also available in: Swedish