Weingut Schätzel winery has been quietly attracting the attention of critics. Specialising in riesling, the Schätzel familyhas been making wines for 650 years in the Rheinhessen, Germany’s largest wine region. Its wine styles are pure expressions of restraint and elegance, with each bottle encapsulating the origins of its making.
According to winemaker Kai Schätzel, the Rheinhessen is far from being an homogenous region, with diverse subregions and terroirs. Schätzel takes a Burgundian approach, saying that each vineyard site has a unique topography and soil composition, as well as its own micro climate. He says the two defining features in the Rheinhessen are the “limestone dominated vineyards around Westhofen and the slate red slopes in Nierstein that face the Rhine River”.
Schätzel is a man of nature. “I love to be out in the vineyards,” he says. “Listening and talking to thousands of vines is thrilling. You recognise fast that we are only the translators of nature but we can do it with an accent.”
He sees his work as a creative process. “We try to grow the best grapes possible under the circumstances,” he says. “From the day of picking, the challenge is to keep and protect the natural gift and to develop the most impressive interpretation.”
Schätzel’s winemaking methods remain traditional. “We pick and select the grapes carefully by hand, crush them by foot and take the juice to the 800-year-old cellar,” he says. “Here it will ferment with wild yeasts in old oak barrels. Then it’s time to wait until the young wines find their balance.”
Climate change is causing extreme and unpredictable weather that is affecting yields and fruit quality. Flexibility is proving key to adapting to warmer conditions, but Schätzel does not see this as being a negative.
“We developed new methods to slow down everything,” he says. “The result is a super organic and self-controlling microsystem. Today we pick far better balanced grapes than before. Less sugar in the grapes means less alcohol in the wines. A higher acidity level stabilises the ageing process and delivers a refreshing drinking pleasure.”
Schätzel Riesling 2015
This is Weingut Schätzel’s entry-level wine. Vibrant green apples, citrus minerality with discreet petrol notes. Medium-light body with refreshing acidity balanced by some residual sugar. Accessible and well made with attractive, simple fruits. HK$188
Schätzel Nierstein Silvaner 2015
Silvaner is a grape variety overshadowed by riesling but which deserves more attention. “The big thing about silvaner is its understatement,” Schätzel says. “It will never be as primary and fruity as riesling. We believe in very pure silvaners that are not dominated by oak or alcohol. It’s the sound of silence that makes a good silvaner a classic.”
Lime, floral and honey with mineral notes. Medium body with zesty acidity, and well-balanced with an off-dry finish. An ethereal wine that is discreet and deserving of more attention. HK$258
Schätzel Pettenthal Riesling 2014
Intense minerality, stony flavours with apple, lime and floral notes. Powerful and austere in structure with flinty steel, tight acidic structure and finishing dry and long. An incredible wine showing great potential. Still youthful and will get better with time. HK$548
The wines are available from Kerry Wines.