Germany's Mosel River Valley is the most frightful place on earth to make wine. Its dangerously steep slate slopes — perfect for capturing sunlight and radiating heat to ripen Riesling in this marginal climate — are being abandoned. The (sometimes literal) backbreaking labor and cost to work them has proven too great for many of the farmers of the region, especially considering the pitiful prices many of the wines fetch in today’s market.But one man, Ulli Stein, is on a crusade to save them. Like your favorite eccentric uncle, he’s educated, passionate and not afraid to step on toes to do what he feels is right. He’s fought the German government and the EU to save historical traditions of the region, and won. He refuses to submit to wine critics for reviews, letting the wines garner their own attention — which they do.Ulli isn’t fighting just to prove a point. He’s fighting for his national treasure. The Alfer Holle vineyard (or “Hell”) is his pinnacle. The vines were planted, like the name of the wine suggests, in 1900. They are, like most of Ulli’s vines, ungrafted on single stakes in pure slate at death defying angles. With tiny berries on little bunches, the airflow is constant, botrytis is never a problem and the juice to skin ratio means these are some of the most concentrated wines out there.
Is there a better grape than Riesling? Is there a better value? Its fruit purity, its perfume, and its mineral nuance are all unparalleled. And for centuries, the top German Rieslings were priced accordingly: at least as expensive as the top red wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. But nowadays you could spend a lifetime exploring Germany’s great Riesling-producing regions while staying well within your budget. You might take an occasional break to try Germany’s other white grapes or perhaps a glass of Spätburgunder (the local name for Pinot Noir). It’s time to get started!