Willi Schaefer is Willy Willy Good
(And we're excited to be able to share them with you!)
“2019 is a great vintage for this tiny icon producer in Graach.”
—Stephen Reinhardt, Wine Advocate
Willi Schaefer isn’t the kind of producer we post about much. We just don’t get enough wine to call attention to it.
Willi Schaefer is one of the great producers of Germany’s Mosel Valley and, back in the day, sure, we could offer it by email and put multiple bottlings on the shelf. But people have caught on and the wines are harder and harder to find. For the last few years we’ve had to reserve what we could get our hands on for the customers who responded to our Riesling DI offers (you can sign up for our Newsletter here, and be sure to hear about opportunities like that)
But this year, as we are all too keenly aware, is different. And we’ve got just enough of this mind-alteringly beautiful Spätlese to put it online and write about it here.
Why is this wine so limited? Christoph and Andrea Schaefer don’t have much land (just over four hectares), but that’s not really why their wines are so hard to get. If they had twice the acreage it would still sell out many times over. The wines are just that good – and that coveted by collectors (and drinkers!) worldwide.
In fact, they’re a sort of platonic ideal of Mosel Riesling. The family is one of Germany’s great traditionalist producers, doing everything old school and low tech, but making absolute pure and marvelously complex wines – the kind that are often called “filigreed.” With lots of ungrafted old vines (phylloxera doesn’t do so well in the stony slate soils) they have intense minerality. But with plenty of sun on the steep, steep slopes, there’s tons of laser-focused fruit, too.
If you’re new to German wines, the long names can be a little challenging. But it’s actually not that hard to understand this label, once you get into it, and it helps to understand what the fuss is about. Here's a blog we posted about understanding German wine and their labels!
Willi Schaefer, of course, is the (amazing!) producer. What of “Graacher”? Graach, actually, is the village that the wine comes from, so it means the wine is from Grach. Just like putting “Meursault” on the label of a wine from that part of Burugndy. And like Meursault, Graach is a real superstar village. It’s right in the heart of the Mosel, with amazing terroir and a few very top vineyards
And if you guessed that “Himmelreich” refers to one of those very top vineyards, you’d be spot on! Himmelreich, the single vineyard this wine comes from, isn’t just a great Graach vineyard, it is the great vineyard for early drinking. It’s one of Graach’s three Grand Crus (Grosse Lage, in German; you’ll note one way in which Graach beats Meursault, which has no Grand Cru vineyards of its own). It’s delicious and complex and can age, but Himmelreich’s wines are the most accessible, on release anyway, of the three Grosse Lages, with a light texture, and a lifted feel that are perfect for that filigreed Mosel spirit.
2019 is a flat-out beautiful vintage, and an ideal vintage for this site, with lots of sun to make delicious fruit, but plenty of acid too, to preserve focus and delicate detail.
If you already know Will Schaefer you’ve probably already clicked through to buy some bottles. But if you haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know this producer yet, this is could be your lucky day. Just don’t wait, because we don’t have much wine and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
The 2019 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese is precise, fresh and pure on the nose that displays notes grated lemon rind and crushed stones. Round, piquant and juicy on the palate, this is an utterly refined yet sustainable and firmly structured Spätlese with dense and vibrating fresh Riesling fruit whose sweetness is well-compensated by mineral grip, salinity and tension. 7.5% alcohol. Tasted from AP 08 20 in June 2010. (SR)