Christoph & Andrea Schaefer
Riesling perfection from the Graach. Tiny, crafted production, impossible not to love, impossible to get.
- 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 only about 7 out of 10 years.
- 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.
4.5 hectares total, mostly in his home of Graach
- 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.
- Himmelreich: Up river, just over a little crest from the Domprobst. These are slightly fruitier, with white and green character, charming, delicate and elegant, more easy going and ready younger, but still with that beguiling earthy peach thing.
- Domprobst: Very steep with a darker, herb and deeper fruit profile, the earthiness is more pronounced, these take longer to open up and unwind and find their pleasure but they age forever.
- Wehlener Sonnenuhr: Blue devonian slate soils and 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 with a yellow to red fruit profile, most vintages. Home to J.J. Prum. Willi Schaefer has a tiny .25 hectare parcel.
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.
- Harvest is not my analytics but only by taste
Cellar Work |
Traditional - Low Intervention
- Grapes are very gently crushed
- Low pressure in pneumatic press
- Gravity fed to stainless steel tanks for sedimentation
- Gravity fed into old Mosel Fuder (1,000 L)
- Spontaneous fermentation with natural yeats
- Allowed to ferment as long as it takes
- Careful monitoring of each barrel to check for perfect balance of sweetness and acid balance.
- Uses a temperature controlling steel tube inserted into each barrel if it is going to fast to chill it down.
- Slowly lowers the temperature in each, so the yeast die off slowly and naturally
- Long lees contact for further stabilization
- Comparatively small amounts of sulfur needed for these lightly sweet wines.
About the winery |
Without a doubt one of the greatest addresses in the Mosel. Incredible wines, no matter what the vintage brings.
This is a family operation based in love and appreciation for great Riesling. Starting in the 12th century with the first vineyard donated to the family and documentation of winegrowing in 1590. Notoriety of the estate started with Christoph’s grandfather Willi, who established the “house style” of very lightly sweet wines with perfect structure after the cold snap of 43-44 left wines with unfermented sugar. He spent the next 30 perfecting his techniques.
Son of grandfather Willi was Christoph’s father Willi who took over from his father in 1971 and brought further global attention to the estate. The first exported wines were to the US in 1983 and since then have become some of the most coveted wines in the world.
Christoph started working for his father in 2002 after studying in Geisenheim and interning at Schlossgut Diel, in South Africa and at Saintsbury in California. He brought in his wife Andrea whom he met at school and gained business experience staying at wineries around the world. They took over completely in 2015 and carried on the legacy of his fathers before him.
They only farm 4.5 hectares of land, which is all they can handle with the intensive amount of work they put into their vines. This is work which pays off no matter the vintage, the character of which is what Christoph feels is the most important thing to capture. Ask him to compare vintages and he has difficulty, as for him, each stands on his own as a testament to the singularity that is every year and every moment.
With so little land, there are never enough bottles to sate the thirsty palates of Schaefer fanatics. To know them is to love them, is to be disappointed that you will never have enough.
What do the wines taste like?
They’re silly delicious. You cannot be unhappy drinking these perfect ur-Mosel Rieslings. And as crystalline as they are, as ethereally complex and limpidly clear, they have a quality of calm; they don’t fuss at you with how amazing they are.
Wines on Offer |
Willi Schaefer, Riesling Graacher Domprobst Kabinett, 2022 $49.99 $43.99
The 2022 Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett is pure, cool and flinty on the deep, dark and discreet, more aristocratic nose compared to the Himmelreich. It is utterly complex and with bright shimmers in the darkness of the Domprobst due to the flavors of juicy Sicilian lemons. Round, lush and elegant on the palate, this is a highly refined and saline, beautifully balanced and weightless as well as seamless Kabinett with a savory finish. Perfect balance. 7.5% stated alcohol. Natural cork. Tasted at the domaine in May 2023. 94 pts -- Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Willi Schaefer, Riesling Graacher Domprobst Kabinett, 2022 (1.5L) $167.99 $147.83
Willi Schaefer, Riesling Graacher Domprobst Spätlese #5, 2022 $71.99 $63.35
The 2022 Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5 is the only one next to the Domprobst Spätlese reserved for the auction (AP 13), so the more classic AP 10 wasn't been produced in 2022. The AP 5 Domprobst offers a very bright, clear, flinty and aristocratic nose that is still discreet and quite citric but most of all coolish and stony. On the palate, the wine becomes immediately hedonistic; it is round but refined and elegant, with great balance and a mouth-tickling, saline, crystalline and salivating finish. This is the Spätlese to be cellared, whereas the Himmelreich is already so seductive that it will be hard to forget it for a couple of years. The Domprobst is a classic that will surely improve with more bottle age. 7.5% stated alcohol. Natural cork. Tasted at the domaine in May 2023. 96 pts -- Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Willi Schaefer, Riesling Graacher Feinherb, 2022 $35.99 $31.67
Predominantly from the Himmelreich but from different parcels than its dry counterpart, the 2022 Graacher Riesling feinherb is bright and refined on the fresh and pure nose that reveals white peach aromas intertwined with discreetly flinty slate aromas. Round and lush on the palate, this is a quite intense and textured Graacher with ripe, elegant acidity, yet it (still?) doesn't have the sharpness and precision of the dry Graacher. The finish is mouth-filling and fruity, though, and delicate in acidity, with good length. 10.5% stated alcohol. Screw-cap closure. Tasted in May 2023. 92 pts -- Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Willi Schaefer, Riesling Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett, 2022 $49.99 $43.99
The 2022 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett is clear, bright and fresh on the still young and yeasty nose that shows a coolish, flinty character with ripe, well-concentrated fruit and dark slate notes. On the palate, this is a round and charming, mouth-filling and fruity but finessed and balanced Kabinett from the Himmelreich. This is a very elegant and alluring style, but it will be even more so after some years of bottle age. The finish is delicate, fresh and frisky, saline and citric but not at all aggressive; in fact, it is mouth-tickling and caressing but also salivating. Another gorgeous Kabinett from the Schaefer family. 7.5% stated alcohol. Screw-cap closure. Tasted in May 2023. 93 pts -- Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Willi Schaefer, Riesling Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett, 2022 (1.5L) $167.99 $147.83
Willi Schaefer, Riesling Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese, 2022 $56.99 $50.15
Sourced in the same parcel as the legendary 1976 Auslese and picked rather early, the 2022 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese opens with a clear, precise and elegant nose of white fruits and flinty notes of coolish crushed slate. Intense and lush on the palate, this is mouth-filling and charming, very long and mineral/saline Spätlese that doesn't show exceptionally high acidity but a ripe one that is completely interwoven with the mineral/phenolic structure. This is a hedonistically juicy but weightless and finessed, stimulating and saline Spätlese from the Himmelreich, which didn't produce an Auslese in 2022. All the fully ripe and golden berries went into the Spätlese. 7.5% stated alcohol. Natural cork. Tasted at the domaine in May 2023. 96 pts -- Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
Willi Schaefer, Riesling Graacher Trocken, 2022 $35.99 $31.67
Sourced predominantly in the Himmelreich and racked from the lees until March due to a slow fermentation of the dry and feinherb wines, the 2022 Graacher Riesling trocken opens with a clear, deep and flinty, still nicely reductive bouquet of ripe, aromatic and juicy yellow stone fruits. Bottled in late April, this is a round and elegant, mouth-filling, juicy and well-balanced Graacher with savory acidity and a stimulating, saline and citric finish. This is a gorgeous dry Riesling from Graach that didn't suffer any heatwaves like in 2018, 2019 or 2020, although it was an extraordinarily warm and dry vintage. 11.5% stated alcohol. Screw-cap closure. Tasted in May 2023. -- 93pts Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate