Ambition in the Saar: Van Volxem 2008

Posted by CrushWine

2008 Van Volxem: Ambition in the Saar
Special Pre-Arrival Pricing on the 2008 Collection
See Below for Details on "2008 Van Volxem Primer"

There is no denying
that Van Volxem is one of the most important estates in Germany's historic Saar Valley

The fact is, Roman Niewodniczanski, the heir to the Bitburger Beer fortune, has been on a buying spree the last 10 years or so, securing some of the grandest, oldest-vine sites in the Saar.

For example, Roman's parcel in the famed Gottesfuss includes ungrafted, pre-phylloxera vines that are between 100 and 150 years old, though he also owns top parcels in the legendary Scharzhofberger (think Egon Müller), Altenberg and Braunfels, among others.

This is an estate with *massive* ambition. Roman wants nothing less than to put Saar Riesling back on the world's map where it was at the beginning of the 20th Century, which is to say more coveted, and more expensive, than first growth Bordeaux.

The results have been very impressive. Joel Payne of Stephen Tanzer's IWC has already declared the 2008 Gottesfuss: "My call for the best off-dry wine of the vintage."

Every German wine lover's ear should be perked up by this point.

David Schildknecht nails the style at Van Volxem perfectly: These Rieslings are "texturally rich, plush, profoundly-layered." It's impossible to over-emphasize the dramatic concentration of the wines, the tactile and complex mid-palates, the near-creamy textures and pushing acidities.

Harvests at Van Volxem are very late. Roman often employs extended pre-fermentation macerations and long lees contacts, all aimed at building this density. Long fermentations allow the wines to find their own balance - all of the Rieslings on offer today are "dry tasting" rather than dry. While they may have more residual sugar than is allowed in a "legally dry" Riesling, they have that crisp Saar acidity, they actually taste dry.

Roman believes this style is the historical truth of Saar Riesling; much like his Saar neighbor Florian Lauer, Roman remembers his father and grandfather drinking this style of "dry" Riesling and completely ignores the entire debate within German wine regarding sweet, not sweet, Kabinett, Spätlese.  All the wines are simply labeled with their vineyard site and made in a classic way.

The site is at the heart of Van Volxem. Few estates in Germany, or the world, give such a loud and clear voice to a more stunning array of terroir. Given the many expressions of place, sitting down for a Van Volxem tasting can be a daunting experience and, at the same time, it's thrilling to bear witness to the unique voices of each wine.

Last year we had a small dinner with Roman at Hearth. This year we took the collection (and a few friends) and went to Craft Bar to survey the wines. A photo from the dinner is above, our complete notes are below, along with Joel Payne's of Stephen Tanzer's IWC.

For those who are intrigued yet overwhelmed by the options, let us recommend our "Van Volxem 5-Pack Primer" at only $159.41. This includes two of the value-riddled "Saar Riesling," along with an "Alte Reben," Roman's killer "Scharzhofberger" and the simply opulent, old-vine "Gottesfuss."

Think of the package as a tour through the Saar, and about 100-150 years of its history.

Quantities are *extremely* limited. We sold nearly all of last year's allocation after our small dinner with Roman; this year we have access to more wine but it is still not enough to offer out to our entire list - this offer is exclusively for those of you who have supported our German/Austrian program.

Please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463 to order. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact either myself or Joe at the store.

Stephen Bitterolf
Joe Salamone
Wine Buyers
Crush Wine & Spirits

Van Volxem 2008

2008 Van Volxem 5-Pack Primer!
2 x 2008 Van Volxem "Saar"
1 x 2008 Van Volxem "Alte Reben"
1 x 2008 Van Volxem Scharzhofberger "P"
1 x 2008 Van Volxem Gottesfuss
5-Pack Price: $159.41
Pricing based on individual-bottle pricing below

2008 Van Volxem "Saar"
Special Bottle Price: $17.85

Normal retail $20+
One of the *silly* values in the German wine world. The “Saar” bottling is sourced from various sites, though the 2008 relies heavily upon the Wiltinger Braunfels and the Wawerner Goldberg. Average age of the vines is 35 years; the harvest takes place earlier for the “Saar,” usually before November 1st. The first impression is bright, fruity and pure – clear washes of pear and peach. The effect is simple, but sort of stirring and very pretty. This is leaner, a nice restrained mix of flowers, citrus and mineral.

2008 Van Volxem "Alte Reben"
Special Bottle Price: $25.95

Normal retail $30
A considerable step up from the Saar in terms of density, palate weight and size. The 2008, I’m told, contains a good amount of juice from the Gottesfuss vineyard, including the parcel of pre-phylloxera, un-grafted vines. Other sites used in the 2008 Alte Reben include the Wiltinger Klosenberg and the Kanzemer Eisenberg. Average age of the vines here is 50 years. Though this is a big, mouth-filling Riesling, with the creamy density typical of Van Volxem, the Alte Reben begins on the more austere side, dense with mineral, earth and salt. I got a very distinct quinine note on the nose. With time, more fruit emerges and the wine shows a more lanolin, caramelized, darker fruit tone.

2008 Van Volxem Goldberg
Special Bottle Price: $29.80

Normal retail $33
The Goldberg is one of the darker, more brooding Rieslings in the Van Volxem lineup. There is a surprising buoyancy in the 2008 Goldberg, a bright spicy pear and apple combination that lifts up and away from the dark, waxy minerals that underlie the wine. The form is blunt, powerful and creamy.

2008 Van Volxem Gottesfuss Alte Reben
Special Bottle Price: $48.88

Normal retail $54
Van Volxem owns a small parcel within the Gottesfuss that contains pre-phylloxera, un-grafted vines that are between 100 and 120 years old. This is nearly always the star of the stable, the creamiest, richest Riesling of the bunch. This texture buffers the thick core of acidity that is so prominent with most of the other 2008 bottlings, giving the Gottesfuss an almost soft feel. There is obviously a massive, massive phenolic density here, and with this, the potential for impressive development in the cellar. 

Stephen Tanzer's IWC: "Pale golden yellow with a green tinge. Vibrant aromas of white peach, blackcurrant, honey and woodsmoke. Creamy nectarine flavor is at once dense, brisk and refreshing. Wonderfully balanced riesling with real depth and pronounced spicy minerality on the rich, complex finish. This is my call for the best off-dry wine of the vintage."

2008 Van Volxem Altenberg Alte Reben
Special Bottle Price: $48.88

Normal retail $54
A bright and juicy, very pure lemon-inspired citrus easily lifts what is, again, a rather rich and textured Saar Riesling. As with the Gottesfuss, the old vines offer this wine a massive amount of concentration, indeed the wine feels thick through the mid-palate though it has much more tension and pull than the Gottesfuss. 

Stephen Tanzer's IWC: "Enticing aromas of wild peach, sweet herbs and nut oils. Pungent, almost smoky apricot pit flavor shows riveting nerve and an uplifting mineral finish. The finish of this show-stopper is subtle and seductively long, displaying an element of toasted almond. In a pure, classical style."

2008 Van Volxem Scharzhofberger "P"
Special Bottle Price: $48.88

Normal retail $54
The “P” stands for “Pergentsknopp,” a prime, blue-slated site within the famous Scharzhofberger. Undoubtedly the most impressive Scharzhofberger outside of Egon Müller, it shows an uncommon (and obvious) depth of fruit with a taut, polished mineral core. This is a tense, wound-up monster of a Saar Riesling. Though it has the density and palate-weight typical of a Van Volxem, it feels clearer, more transparent and finessed. A very impressive wine.

Stephen Tanzer's IWC: "Apricot, white pepper and sweet lime on the nose. Impressively bright and clear on the palate, with rich peach fruit supported by wet-stone slate. Nicely juxtaposes restrained residual sugar, bracing minerality and clove on the finish. Like the Volz, this is one of the ten best off-dry wines of the vintage."


Van Volxem arrives next week!
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