Selbach-Oster might be one of the hottest domains along the Mosel, if not in all Germany.” – Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate.
Johannes (father), Barbara (mother & Sebastian (son) Selbach
Passion and respect for the history, tradition, culture and practices of Mosel Riesling. Wines with a clear sense of place but a fruity, juicy, inviting ease to them as well.
- Defined as very cold winters, hot, short, fairly rainy summers, with long, cool, dry autumns.
- Until climate change this was the very northern edge of where grapes could ripen fully, but usually an average of about 7 out of 10 years.
- Vineyards were planted on steep, south facing slopes to capture the maximum amount of sunlight every day, and often along rivers for the reflection of the sun back on the berries. Every little bit counted.
- Those long dry autumns are key to making great Riesling. It is a variety that can take advantage of super long ripening periods, getting ever riper and more flavorful skins (physiological ripeness), accumulating more sugar, without loosing acidity (needed for freshness and aging) the way other grapes do. Germany’s climate and Riesling are a heavenly match.
- Now: winters are usually not as cold, summers are much hotter, drought is a serious problem 4 or the last 5 years, and autumns start later and are often much wetter than they used to be.
- The unpredictability is what makes Mosel wines especially vintage sensitive and creates havoc (and high costs!) for winemakers.
- Cool climate wines are high in acid, low in alcohol, light in body, and often show a lot of mineral flavors rather than fruit.
- Usually white wines are made, but some light reds, like Pinot Noir can also ripen enough.
- Warmer vintages: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2015 produce wines with lower acidity, higher alcohols, and richer fruit flavors.
- Cooler vintages: 2021, 2013, 2010, 2008 produce what are now considered “classic” cool-climate wines
- 2022 is an enigma. It was hot and very dry for most of the growing season, but rain and long cold fall ended up giving us wines that taste more like “classic” cool-climate wines than rich, ripe wines.
24 hectares across 4 villages in the Middle Mosel.
Blue Devonian slate is found in every site. This is low pH, high iron and mineral content rock. It is very friable, allowing roots to penetrate very deep into the hillsides in search of water and nutrients.
- Zeltingen: Selbachs home village on the right bank. All vineyards here have blue Devonian slate.
- Himmelreich: The coolest site, now a boon in these warmer years. A very steep, due south facing, and warm parcel right behind the village, where Anrecht is located. Most of the hill faces west and many great Kabinetts come from the top section of the hill. Wines tend to be more lime green and herbal here, very zippy acidity.
- Schlossberg: Slightly warmer than Himmelreich and cooler than Sonnenuhr, middle in elevation and steepness as well. Aspect is west, south-west, with the Schmitt parcel facing due south. More clay and topsoil for more water retention with wines that fare well in drier years. From white pith to lime, orange peel and grapefruit to ripe peach and tropical mango.
- Sonnenuhr: An extension of its more famous neighbor Wehlener Sonnenur (thanks to a certain winery located in a village across the river). It too has a sundial (this one is older), and is steeper, high elevation Grand Cru facing due south with very little topsoil. The wines here are deep, can get very ripe and spicy but with a salty minerality, in cooler years have that perfect balance of levity and concentration.
- Wehlen: Across and down river from Zeltingen. Blue devonian slate soils. Home to J.J. Prum.
- Sonnenuhr: Also blue Devonian slate as it is a continuation of the Zeltinger Sonnenhur. The same steep slopes in most places, same altitude, same rocky meager stop soil. Different sundial. These can be some of the most gossamer, intriguing and yet perfectly fruity wines in the world.
- Graach: A unique village and set of vineyards downriver from Wehlen on the right bank of the river with a south, south-west exposure. Natural springs throughout the vineyards provide water to the vines, even in the driest of years. It has the same blue Devonian slate with big chunks so quartzite as its neighbors in Wehlen and Zeltingen but a deeper layer of loam on top for more water retention. It is also set a little further back from the river than most other villages, making it slightly cooler, with less direct sun reflection as well. There is a very specific flavor profile from these sites, an earthy-peach note that comes through in the wine no matter the producer. Home to Willi Schaefer.
- Himmelreich: fruity, charming, delicate and elegant, more easy going.
- Domprobst: Darker, herbs, darker fruit, earthier, takes longer to open up, ages even longer.
- Bernkastel: Blue devonian slate soils and home to possibly the most famous site in Germany the Doktor. This is the start of the Miracle Mile and the village is large enough to span both sides of the river.
- Badstube: a large 68 hectare, gently sloping hill behind the village. Doktor, Graben are individual sites within it. Wines tend to be fruity and rich with notes of berries and peach and effusive aromatics.. They have a parcel of ungrafted vines.
- Graben: A recent purchase of a plot with 100 year old vines to the left of the Doktor. Very hot, but shut down during ripening, which kept the fruit from producing too much sugar. Intensely concentrated wines brimming with minerality and a shockingly high amount of acidity.
Grape Varieties |
- The King of White Grapes.
- High acid, semi aromatic
- A huge variation in style potential from very light and dry, sparkling to the most unctuously sweet wines on the planet.
- Divisive for its high acidity and sugar retaining capabilities
- Perfect in its dynamic nature, ability to transmit the slightest nuance of terroir and being capable of aging for hundreds of years.
- Pinot Noir:
- German Pinot Noir wines are vinified as dry red wines with complex cherry aroma with subtle hints of smoke and almond, slight tannins, and high acidity, with a long finish.
- Had a poor reputation thanks to high yielding, work-horse, clonal material.
- Now Burgundy clones dominate vineyards for the best producers showcasing this incredible variety's true potential.
- A white skinned mutation of Pinot Noir
- The secret weapon of the Teutonics. They make the best versions of this grape, and they don’t share them.
- Germany is now the world’s leading producer of Pinot Blanc
- pale to straw yellow in color, and delicate on the nose. A slightly nutlike aroma is typical. Vinified dry, its medium to full body and fine acidity complement many types of food.
- Good examples age very well, although generally made with the aim of everyday fresh and dry wines in mind. Even these seemingly innocuous wines have the ability to age over decades..
Cellar Work |
Very traditional, low intervention
- Even with a state of the art facility and all the gadgets available at hand the majority of these wines are made simply.
- Spontaneous fermentation, no temperature control, allowed to take as long as it needs.
- Fermentation and aging of most of the wines is in large old Fuder (1000L barrels)
- Some of the younger, fruitier wines are made in stainless steel.
- Nothing added except sulfur.
About the winery |
This is a happy place full of smart, dedicated, and passionate people. Johannes is like a walking, talking history book, always connecting the dots, with an incredibly deep understanding and insight into his home region and its wines.
The Selbachs have been in the Mosel wine business since the 1600s. Johannes' great-grandfather Mathias Oster started a negotiation business, which is still thriving today. It provides some of the best value Riesling in the US.
Sebastian, while not as effusive as his father, has the intense concentration and dedication of someone much older than himself. He’s an incredibly talented winemaker with some of the best wines of the estate being made on his watch.
The best thing about Selbach-Oster is that while they are rooted in tradition, it's their understanding of it that allows them to push forward into the future. From the new GG’s to Pet-Nat’s and zero alcohol wines, they are always innovating, always trying something new, and always striving to do so in the most loving and inviting way possible.
What do the wines taste like?
Happiness. Fruity, and juicy, but with enough freshness to keep them alive on your palate and in bottles should you choose to cellar some.
There are a number of very old vine bottlings with deep, intense mineral concentration.
The GG’s are great for beginners to the style. A new addition to the already extensive line up, but with the structure and composure to make you think they’ve been around all along. These are on the easier drinking side, dry, but not harsh, fruity but also with a salty, stoney intensity.
And finally, there are few things in life as good as the single parcel “snap-shot” wines Anrecht, Rotlay, Bömer, and Schmitt. All harvested at once, towards the end of harvest with everything on the vine, no matter ripe, underripe or botrytized for a perfect expression of place. Picked at an “Auslese'' level of ripeness, but never with a designation. They are dizzyingly complex, with a steely core of mouthwatering acidity from the under ripe grapes and a silky, mouth filling texture. I have never, ever had wines that lasted so long on the palate as these. Worth every penny, and underpriced as far as I’m concerned.
Wines on Offer |
Selbach-Oster, Pinot Blanc, 2021 ( 3-btl min.) $21.99 $19.35
Selbach-Oster, Pinot Brut Sekt, 2017 ( 3-btl min.) $32.99 $29.03
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Above the Clouds Pét-Nat, 2021 ( 3-btl min.) $30.99 $27.27
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Bernkastler Graben Grosses Gewächs, 2021 $44.99 $39.59
100 year old vines, un-grafted from a parcel to the left of the Doktor. 12% abv. This used to be the Badstube Auslese, but now suits a GG more. It got so hot it stopped ripening and then got cooler with some rain at the end of September. It gave the wines power without being stuffy or heavy. Hiding on the nose, still so young, light yellow fruit, citrus and peaches. Pop rocks and sparkles. A GG I can really love. Only 1400 bottles produced.
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Bömer Trocken, 2021 $47.99 $42.23
An old cadastre name of the best parcel of the Schlossberg, located just behind the village (low, warm, south facing). Picked at an Auslese or GG level of sugar ripeness, but everything is brought in near the last day of harvest, with no sorting (except for rot) for a snapshot of the vineyard. This means green, and botrytized, over ripe and under, perfect berries and everything in between for a crazy complex bottle of wine. Fruit flavors run the gamut from white peach to orange juice, a dash of pineapple and a touch of mango.
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Feinherb, 2021 $21.99 $19.35
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Graacher Domprobst Alte Reben Spätlese Feinherb, 2021 $37.99 $33.43
Harvested from a plot of un-grafted 70 to 90 year old vines situated further from the river, so it's less humid, and with access to underground springs (does well in dry years). Darker minerality with warmer fruit, but still lean with ripping acid, ripe peach, orange peel, dusty phenolic texture, heaps of that old-vine concentration and a very long lingering finish.
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Graacher Domprobst Auslese, 2019 $44.99 $39.59
Coming from a lower plot straight behind the commune, the 2019 Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese is based on 15% botrytis grapes that is expressed with a very delicate raisin and finely flinty slate bouquet. Round and piquant on the palate, this is a crystalline, rich and intense, even sweet but racy and persistently piquant acidity that asks for a decade to integrate. This is another laser sword of the vintage but is combined with the intense and lush fruit of the Domprobst. Tasted at the domain in September 2020. 94 pts -- Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Kabinett, 2021 $23.99 $21.11
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Kabinett, 2021 (375ml) $16.99 $14.95
Selbach-Oster, Riesling OMG Trocken, 2020 ( 3-btl min.) $47.99 $42.23
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Sekt Brut, 2019 ( 3-btl min.) $30.99 $27.27
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Spätlese, 2021 $30.99 $27.27
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Spätlese, 2021 (375ml) $20.99 $18.47
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese*, 2021 $39.99 $35.19
Selbach's 2021 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese * opens with a generous and aromatic bouquet that is much less reductive than so many Mosel Rieslings but offers a concentrated fruity nose. Salty, savory and lush on the palate, this is a mouthfilling and textured WSU Spätlese with crystalline acidity structuring the rich and almost creamy texture. 8% stated alcohol. Natural cork. Tasted in October 2022. 92 pts -- Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltingen Sonnenuhr Grosses Gewächs, 2021 $49.99 $43.99
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Alte Reben Trocken, 2021 $35.99 $31.67
Technically picked at a Spätlese level, grapes are from Himmelreich and Sonnenhur at 40 to 45 year old vines mostly from a parcel below and to the left of Anrecht. The acidity is as you would expect for the vintage, laserbeams, smells like steel wool, and jalapeño poppers. Juicy and mouthwatering. (Barrel Sample)
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Himmelreich Anrecht Auslese, 2021 $59.99 $52.79
One of the “snap shot” wines, a perfect expression of what the vintage has to offer and a great transposition of terroir. All the fruit from the shaded bunches, still green, the perfectly ripe, plus the raisins and the botrytized berries and thrown together for an electrifying perfect wine. Gobstopper = never ending flavors.
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Himmelreich Anrecht Auslese, 2021 (1.5L) $129.99 $114.39
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Himmelreich Kabinett Halbtrocken, 2021 $26.99 $23.75
A scrubby-steel-wool smell, like mineral incarnate, herbal, tense, lime, salty, searing acidity, clean edges, almost cutting, perfectly textured, outstandingly fresh, mostly in stainless steel, pool water finish (like a mineral spring), drink with some food (Sunday supper of roast chicken, chips and salad would do well). Trocken even with 15 g/L of residual sugar, they’ve been making this cuvee for 30 years mostly picked from a west facing, gently sloped site (cooler), with more topsoil (easier to drink).
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Himmelreich Kabinett Halbtrocken, 2021 (375ml) $17.99 $15.83
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Grosses Gewächs, 2021 $47.99 $42.23
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Kabinett, 2021 $27.99 $24.63
Harvested from an upper, cooler, windier part of the slope. Green jalapeño, lime skin, white peach, herbs, wind-whipping-electrifying acidity. I could chug this one with its longevity, levity, ethereal, zippiness. Chug It!
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Schmitt Auslese, 2021 $73.99 $65.11
😀 The story of the micro parcels (Anrecht, Rotlay, Bömer, and Schmitt) started with an argument between Johannes and his father over some micro partials in the cadastre of Scmitt in 2004. Johannes argued that to make a perfect wine you have to do a great job at selection, going through several times, harvesting each berry at the optimum quality. His father argued that it would be “too perfect” and to have the best wine you needed to pick everything all at once. They each made wine “their way” that year. His father chose the Schmitt parcel, one of his very best, on the last day of harvest. Johannes conceded that his wine had nothing on the complexity, and structure of his fathers. The snapshot series were born and without a doubt are some of the greatest white wines in the world. A warmer parcel closer to the river. Oh my God, so good! This has a sour-citrus-peach fruit, deeper-darker minerality, laser beams of acid shooting out of the core. Another Gobstopper.
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Schmitt Auslese, 2021 (1.5L) $159.99 $140.79
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Spätlese, 2021 $32.99 $29.03
Subtle, almost dry, especially for a Spätlese, riper fruit, darker peaches, and deeper pineapple-mango, just bursting with happiness.
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Kabinett, 2021 $27.99 $24.63
Zeltinginger Sonnenhur is very similar to Wehlen, just a continuation of the same slope, but belonging to the village next door. Not a big difference between the two, but more recognition from the Prum’s made Wehlen the more famous vineyard. Meaning Z.S is a very good deal. Very wispy, lighter, more elegant, like a cloud, pretty perfect, Kabinett evaporates off your tongue. Must buy!!!
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Rotlay Auslese, 2021 $73.99 $65.11
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese*, 2021 $37.99 $33.43
Technically this is picked as an Auslese, but the style is somewhere between Aus and Spät. Whiter, cooler, peach, lime, stony, very silky, richer, deeper, sexy, intense with a long finish.
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Uralte Reben Spätlese Feinherb, 2021 $47.99 $42.23
11.5% abv. Harvest from the oldest plantings the Selbach’s own, planted from 1910 with a mere 2 to 3 bunches per vine, and lentil sized berries on super loose clusters, just to the left of the Rotlay cadastre. They never press more than 1.9 bars for a super careful, delicate extraction and very silky texture. Bigger, spicier, peachy, mineral, pithy, high juice to skin ratio, richer, but not heavy, creamier but not syrupy, super long finish.
Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Uralte Reben Spätlese Feinherb, 2021 (1.5L) $114.99 $101.19
Selbach-Oster, Spätburgunder, 2021 ( 3-btl min.) $30.99 $27.27