The Rarest Wine in Germany?

Posted by CrushWine

The Rarest Wine in Germany?
TRUE German Kabinett
Willi Schaefer 2008 Kabinett DEAL

I'm not being as provocative as you think. With increasing temperatures and bountiful ripeness, the fleshy opera-singer Auslesen, BAs and TBAs are no longer so rare.

What's truly rare? The delicate, whistling Kabinett.

The misunderstood 2008 German vintage (almost without fail an obsession of wine geeks and terroir fanatics) has very likely given us some of the last of a dying breed: TRUE Kabinett.*

The TRUE Kabinett is NOT about power, or depth, or accolades and hype. These are wines that charm you, wines whose human, intimate proportions are meant for enjoyment, for drinking, for refreshment.

(Yes, these are wines for HOT New York afternoons when the blazing-muggy subway makes Dante's Inferno seem like a pleasant alternative.)

Today we are thrilled to present two of the legends of the 2008 Kabinett - wines that when I first tasted them in the early spring of 2009 I wrote: "...contenders for the 100-point Kabinett." Meaning that, within the context of what a Kabinett should be, these are just about perfect.

Both of these 2008 Schaefers are simply among the most elegant, angelic Kabinett on the face of God's great earth and for me, the 2008 Kabinett is what great Kabinett should be. This is what it should taste like.

When I was offered the final cases of these wines direct from the cellars of Willi and Christoph Schaefer, the obvious wine-geek answer was "yes." When the importer green-lighted a rather ludicrous price on the entire final parcel, nothing more really needed to be said.

The cult of Willi Schaefer will rise up and drain this offering quickly - if you're interested, don't delay. (We will likely have to cut back orders larger than 24 bottles - but do give us your maximum order and we'll do our best.)

After all, there are few wines at the $20, $30, $40, $50+ price that have the natural, easy grace that these wines have. These are magic little epiphanies, priced for Monday through Friday yet likely opened Saturday and Sunday too.

While both of these bottles sing a beautiful, high-toned mineral song right now, I very honestly wonder what their status will be in 5, 10 or 20 years, when even the most basic wines lumber around with 15%+ alcohol and the late 20th Century obsession with power and muscle seems quaint and perhaps a bit incomprehensible with the luxury of hindsight.

My best guess is these will be exactly the kind of wines you wish you had bought more of.

So how do the two Kabinetts differ?

The Domprobst is the better known bottling, a wine that pairs intensity and elegance of flavor with that uncanny airiness, that nimble, satiny feel that makes a Willi Schaefer Riesling so easily identifiable (and so totally seductive). It is the more obvious of the two wines (I mean that in a good way), with more flesh and fruit across the mid-palate. In other words: It's a stunner.

That said, the Wehlener Sonnenuhr is a personal favorite; I unabashedly love this wine. It is also a Willi Schaefer rarity, a ghost-like geek bottling that comes into the U.S. in tiny increments. The Sonnenuhr is always the most linear; it represents the very finest thread of a Willi Schaefer Riesling, and because of this slinky proportion, it always carries its minerality on its sleeve. It's a simple minerality, to be sure, but it is so compelling, so honest, so perfectly delivered.

It's funny that in comparison tastings, the Domprobst is always the more impressive (my original notes speak to this). Yet when it's really about drinking the wine, not just tasting it (as in last night when I casually spent a few hours with both bottles, writing this email among other things...), there is something about the Sonnenuhr that is so, so precious - perhaps exactly because of its subtlety, it's oh-so-beautiful whispers of mineral and flower.

Both wines flaunt a bountiful, gorgeous tapestry of acidity, the cool-blue signature of 2008 that gives these wines their electricity on the palate and that also reverberates on the finish, echoing and chilling and refreshing the palate for a minute plus.

The cellar of Willi and Christoph is not big - it is humble and human, like the size of the estate, the size of their home... the size of these wines. This is the final parcel of these glorious, beautiful, perhaps misunderstood wines. The price, honestly, is too good to beat and will never get better.

All orders will be taken on a first come, first served basis - mix and match as you like. To order, email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Stephen Bitterolf
Wine Director
Crush Wine & Spirits

The Truth about German Kabinett:
2008 Willi Schaefer

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett

Graacher Domprobst Kabinett

* Regarding the phrase "True Kabinett" - While I don't have the exact figures on the wines' ripeness levels (the Oechsle numbers), I'm aware that they are likely still much higher than has defined the historical 20th Century Kabinett. What I want to suggest by the phrase "true Kabinett," is rather the spirit, the energy, the feel of the wines, as opposed to their quantifiable attributes, if that makes sense.

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