Schloss Lieser: Trocken Comes a Knockin..

Posted by CrushWine

2008 Schloss Lieser Spatlese Trocken
The Mosel Speaks the Language of "Dry"

The last name at Schloss Lieser is Haag. Since 1997, Thomas Haag has been bringing the small town of Lieser back into the spotlight. The 2008 Trocken is a needle-fine dry Riesling of exquisite purity and for the quality (essentially Grosses Gewachs), it is an absolute steal. CRUSH EXCLUSIVE!

Why do we love dry Riesling? Because the best have more snap, crackle and pop than a bowl of Rice Krispies, dish out more minerals than a Centrum daily and provide more refreshment than a gallon of Gatorade.

Not bad, eh?

The quality of (and your demand for) dry German Riesling continues to skyrocket and today's offering is a Middle Mosel example of the chiseled, laser-like form that trocken bottlings can take when shaped by one of Germany's best: Thomas Haag. While the 2008 Schloss Lieser Spätlese Trocken (dry) will no doubt gain in flesh over the next year, providing a more expansive and layered expression of fruit, at the moment there's an ethereal lightness to this wine, a razor-sharp cut that makes it a natural (and stunning) foil to the clumsy, sticky, gloppy humidity of August. (Yes, this humidity-basher is in stock right now.) See full tasting note below.

Keep in mind this bottling is sourced 100% from the Niederberg Helden vineyard and would be Thomas's Grosses Gewächs, or Grand Cru dry Riesling, had he chosen to bottle it as such. The VDP requires, however, the Grosses Gewächs are held back from the market until September, and this was just too much financial strain for the smaller Schloss Lieser estate. In previous vintages, the bottling carried the Niederberg Helden vineyard name (click here to "Get to know a Vineyard!") but some VDP regulation that we don't quite understand now prevents the vineyard from appearing on the label. So be it. The truth is in the bottle and in this case the truth is beautiful.

This offer is also part-and-parcel of our quest to stock the most comprehensive U.S. selection of the great wines of Germany . This is not an "obvious" wine; it doesn't have a name that drives the easy sell, nor are there many bottles available (a local favorite, 90%+ is consumed domestically). We have, in fact, secured the only 10 cases that Thomas Haag has released to the country (Vielen Dank Thomas!)

The small town of Lieser has had the unfortunate geographical destiny of being sandwiched between the famous towns of Brauneberg and Bernkastel with their celebrity vineyards, the Jüffer-Sonnenuhr and the Doctor. While Lieser's great site, the Niederberg Helden, had a run of fame and fortune in the first part of the 20th Century, it fell into disrepair in the 1970s and was soon overwhelmed by its neighbors.

To be perfectly honest, I don't quite know why Thomas Haag, as the eldest son and scion of the Fritz Haag estate, chose to go out on his own and put his reputation (not to mention all of his money) into an estate with run-down vineyards, a crumbling manor house and absolutely no collection of back-vintage bottlings whatsoever. But the Haags are a clever lot and they've been around the Mosel for a long time; no doubt his father Wilhelm had tasted and/or heard stories about the great wines of the Niederberg Helden.

This is a story with a very happy ending because slowly, over the last decade plus, Schloss Lieser under Thomas's guidance has come back to the pinnacle of German wine. Check out David Schildknecht's German wine reviews over the last few years and you'll see Schloss Lieser and the Niederberg Helden at the very top of most of his lists. While Thomas farms parcels in the Jüffer-Sonnenuhr, when you walk with him through the Niederberg Helden, you can tell there is something about this site that particularly fascinates him. It's an awesome place, see more photos here.

Lieser is a producer we hang our hat on because of the quality of their wines, but also because of their courage. It's easy to buy lack-luster parcels of famous vineyards and to capitalize on the fame in the name, even if the wines themselves are sub-par. It's much harder and riskier to bring back to life a site that's fallen out of the public's consciousness, even if the wines were at one time known to be great. People learn things slowly and forget them very quickly.

Niederberg Helden is one of these temporarily forgotten sites that can produce outrageous wines, it just needs an author who believes in it and an audience willing to listen. The vineyard's ascent has begun, and it's awesome to bear witness to its return to public discussion at the highest level.

120 bottles...uh...119 bottles (I drank one this weekend) are available - then we have to wait another year for the next vintage. Click below or call the store at (212) 980-9463 to order.


Stephen Bitterolf
Joe Salamone
Wine Buyers
Crush Wine & Spirits

2008 Schloss Lieser Spatlese Trocken (dry)

SB: I've tasted this wine twice now. The first time was with Thomas at Schloss Lieser in April of this year. At this point the wine was a newborn, still exceedingly compact and shut down. Still, it showed great potential. It will be - as it always is - one of the values out there in world class dry Mosel Riesling. Deep monstrous lemon and stone fruit, steel, dried flowers and an almost Frankonian acidity, chewy and meaty. I drank another bottle this weekend and was sort of shocked how delicate it's become - if the great density of the wine remains, it's become leaner feeling and more delicate, like a carbon-fiber Riesling: Very strong with incredible rigidity, yet light and airy feeling at the same time. The pureness of the fruit remains though it is atypically sharp for the Niederberg Helden. It is fantastically fun to drink right now, though I do think with 6+ months of rest a more layered and nuanced fruit detail will come out. So drink one now and hang on to a few bottles.

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