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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, October 20 2009. 16:07

Mosel Wineries: Touching the Top

There are several wineries in Mosel which are in the fast lane to become one of the Top Five producers of the region, each being eligible to find a place in a specific vintage. Markus Molitor, St. Urbans-Hof, Selbach-Oster and Geltz- Zilliken are in hot pursuit, writes Subhash Arora who visited them recently.

Weingut Markus Molitor
54470 Bernkastel Wehlen
Klosterberg (mail: 54429 Zeltingen)
Telephone: +49 6532 3939
Fax: +49 6532 4225

Markus Molitor with his winery being renovated- in the hills behind

Markus Molitor, the owner and passionate winemaker of this well-known winery is already flirting with the heights as the top producer. Into his 25th year as a winemaker who took over from his father in 1984, he has multiplied the tiny estate of 3 hAs to an astounding 45 hAs, making it one of the fastest growing estates.

Ask him about his efforts to be considered in the Top Five producers, and he says in Deutsch with a chuckle, ‘it took me 25 years to reach thus far- would perhaps take me another 25 to reach there!’ In a region where centuries of winemaking is the family tradition for most top producers, Markus has proved that one can be on the fast track too. Seemingly oblivious to the outside ratings he gives 1-3 stars for his own wines, based on his own rating.

The best compliment came from his staff who told me that they all feel a part of his family and not employees. His export manager Laura Dreher says, ‘when we are short of help at the peak of the season, he would come and help us even with labelling!’

Known more for his Auslese, BA and TBA Rieslings, with several famous First Growth vineyards like Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Graacher Domprobst, he is also marketing savvy and is completely renovating his winery with a modern tasting room which he feels will be a showcase in the entire area.

Old sculpture of a boat showing wine barrels being carried, in Neumagen

I tasted 11 of his wines and found the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese 1996 a perfect 10 whereas the off-dry Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese Feinherb was quite minerally, complex, balanced and long. A ’98 icewine was the perfect ending for this winery visit.

Markus is focusing on the Asian markets and is participating in Wine for Asia 2009 Singapore, Hong Kong Wine Show and a visit to India is also being planned later this month by Laura. With quality levels touching the skies and the prices looking more to the ground, this winery will be a prize catch for an established importer and the 5-star hotels who understand German wines and more particularly the beauties from Mosel. 

Weingut St. Urbans-Hof
Urbanusstraße 16
54340 Leiwen
Phone: +49 6507 93770
Fax: +49 6507 937730

Nik Weis,  who came to India in May this year, is the third generation owner of this winery located in Leiwen, a town almost in the middle of Bernkastel and Trier, though technically in the Bernkastel district. To reach this winery, one passes through the historic village of Neumagen, supposedly the oldest wine producing village of Germany. One also must pass a small winery with a similar name, Weingut St. Nikolaus- Hof which is not connected with this winery.

Tasting St. Urbans-Hof Rieslings with Nik Weis

The 38 hectare estate has several premium vineyards, the most notable ones being the Leiwener Laurentiuslay (in Leiwen), Ockfener Bockstein in the Saar region, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen where his family used to grow grapes on the leased land, but was able to buy it about 7 years ago. During a visit to the vineyard site, Nik explained about the importance and uniqueness of the soil and location of Goldtröpfchen vineyards and the premium the wines from this region enjoyed due to the quality of grapes from these slopes-unfortunately it is the Piesporter name that seemingly stuck in the minds of foreign consumers, especially in the US and UK and the area started making too much quantity of lower quality wine, lamented Nik.

Nik Weis showing a piece of slate from his vineyard

Nik’s grandfather was a well-known politician in the area (think Maharashtra!!) and had the interest of wine makers at heart when he started this winery in 1947 (see any connection? Our Independence year!). This is one winery which produces good quality at all levels, making it a prize catch for Indian retail as well as the high end connoisseurs who cherish the thought of extraordinary complex flavour on their palate with open purse strings. Vishal Kadakia of the Wine Park has been importing these wines for over a year now.

All the wines tasted were of very good to exceptional quality, with the Beerenauslese being the top of the heap in terms of kudos the wines deserve. Nik has shown a lot of dynamism and a tremendous growth in quality during the last 10-15 years and is steadily coming up, almost touching the top. With the more affordable prices, his wines are expected to do well in India.

I had attended a tasting at the Rick’s in Delhi on his previous visit. You may like to visit for the previous article.

Weingut Selbach-Oster
Uferalle 23, 54492 Zeltingen
Telephone: +49 6532 2081
Fax: +49 6532 4014

Tasting with Barbara Selbach

The story of tradition of centuries of family holding in this area continues with Johannes and Barbara Selbach running the winery that has been with the family since 1881. The family owns 20 hA of prime vineyards in Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Schlossberg, Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Graacher Domprobst, mostly with slate and producing about 10,000 cases only, mostly Riesling.

Mosel steep slate vineyards have quality such that at higher spots, the old vines which survived Phylloxera don’t need to be grafted. It is no surprise that all the vines are ungrafted and antique for this producer, although a 2007 law does not allow the new planting of ungrafted vines.

Weingut Forstmeister Geltz- Zilliken
Heckingstrasse 20, 54439 Saarburg
Telephone: +49 6581 2456
Fax: +49 6581 6763

Zilliken wines tasted with Hans-Joachim Zilliken

Hans- Joachim Zilliken owns and runs this winery situated in the Saar region- less than a kilometre from downtown Saarburg. If you are looking for the winery, you are bound to miss it, passing by their building on your left because it looks like a modern house, possibly akin to a two storey apartment building. What gives it away is the well-known VDP sign on the door which indicates that this winery is also a member of the VDP- the well-known German Association of quality wine producers, Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter -Prädikat Wine Estates.

I was very keen to visit this winery because of its exponential rise in terms of quality production during the last two decades and also because Tom Stevenson’s Wine Report 2009 listed it as one of the Top Ten producers throughout Germany- the only other Mosel winery to be featured in this august list was Reinhold Haart from Piesport which I could not visit during this trip due to lack of time.

Residence and Winery- Geltz Zilliken

Like many other wineries owned by the top Mosel producers, this one seemed to be tucked in the basement of a modern house, situated on the river tributary Saar. Sitting in a beautiful tasting room and looking out through the huge glass windows, one felt at home while Hans- Joachim gave a bit of history. My thoughts also went home where many businesses had been shut down last year in Delhi due to the court orders for sealing the businesses doing unauthorised businesses from their reidence. Here I was, a few steps above the winery, sitting and sipping a range of wines from this premium producer who is acclaimed for both dry and sweet styles.

Walking out on the terrace of the tasting room, one cannot but glance sloppy hills close by through the buildings- Saarburger Rausch, a very famous vineyard of this region beckons you.

A small estate of 11 hAs, producing barely 5500 cases (9L) of premium Riesling was a good example of how the persistent efforts in quality upgradation may be recognised by the connoisseurs throughout the wine world.

Assisted by his daughter Dorothee, Hans- Joachim's winery wins laurels from the wines made out of grapes from the Rausch vineyards which form about 70% of their total holding. With the zest for the best, it is a matter of time, when Zilliken might dislodge one of the Top Five to make a place for itself.

Subhash Arora
<Watch for the concluding part of the 4-part series on Mosel Wineries visited>

The earlier 2 articles may be found at


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