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Delhi Wine Club
Mosel Producer Heymann-Loewenstein

Posted: Thursday, 14 February 2013 15:07

Passing By: Mosel Producer Heymann-Loewenstein

Feb 14: Reinhard and Cornelia Loewenstein, owners of the Winningen-based Weingut Heymann-Loewenstein in Mosel, known for producing high quality dry Riesling wines were in India last week for a pre-release visit with their prospective customers in the hospitality industry to talk about their region, wines and two of their premium Riesling labels in April, writes Subhash Arora

Although Reinhard started this estate with his wife Cornelia in 1980 using the best slope sites in the lower Mosel for his 5 hAs vine plantations which stands today at 16 hA, he is very proud of the 500 year history of winemaking in his family - he is the 13th generation winemaker carrying on the family name since the 16th century. “We have been able to trace the documents in my family’s name till then - perhaps the tradition goes back further”, says this passionate winemaker who is slowly developing a cult following for his terroir driven dry Riesling wines.

His winery is located by the bewitching slate slopes with terraces that have made the Lower Mosel area also known as Terrassenmosel, barely 15 minutes from Coblenz from where the Mosel region starts and the famous river starts the winding journey that ends up in Luxembourg after completing the German side at Trier. ‘Although we are part of the Mosel (the long-winded area is divided into 3 parts - lower, middle and upper Mosel), people don’t visit us often enough as most of the internationally known wineries are located in the Middle Mosel (closer to the Frankfurt – Hahn Airport). But that is changing with Prowein in Dusseldorf as we are closer and people like to visit us before or after the Show.'

Being passionate is a common factor for the small family-run wine estates, but Reinhard is fiercely a terroir-driven wine producer who believes in soil (the 400-million year old rocky area with slate soil is a God-given gift to Mosel), climate including the microclimate, temperature but winemaker is the big factor defining the terroir as well.

'Our wines must show the terroir. It is not about sugar which many people in Germany as well as outside tend to project. It’s the acidity, sharpness, bitterness and in short the harmony in the wine which is essential,' says the winemaker who believes in occasional chaptalisation but is anti-irrigation. ‘If we irrigate, levels of alcohol go up and the wine is not elegant anymore,’ he says. His wines generally have an alcohol level of 12-13%. He is very much in favour of low yields. ‘The problem with German laws and the psyche is to go for higher yields, unfortunately and this has compromised the quality,’ he says.

Reinhard uses natural yeasts and fermentation at low temperatures for a long period. Sometimes too long, he says. But they let the grapes ripen fully with 160 days average period after flowering compared to 100-120 everywhere else, including India. Around 75% of the wine is fermented in wooden barrels. Why not in the stainless steel? I ask.

Loewenstein, who believes wine is about art and craft and also believes in the vagaries of nature, admits candidly, ‘I don’t know why using barrels is fermentation. All I know is it does make the wine more rounded,’ he says adding,’ Wine for me is all about me interacting with nature and fighting with it. Sometime I am against nature; other times nature is against me. It’s the uncertainty that humbles you and you are looking for the best solution every time. The day I have all the answers, I will become a product manager rather than a winemaker and I would hate that!’

He likes to make wines that can age. ‘This is a winemaker’s style. I believe my wines should have the capability of aging 20 years or more,’ says he about the Riesling even though they are dry wines, low on sugar. ‘But in the end, we are looking for serious wines which are authentic and terroir driven.’

'We cannot be as precise as Burgundy estates since they have all the records of vintages and their characteristics till date, which is there for centuries. In the case of Germany, because of the two wars, a lot of material has been destroyed and we have to start all over again based on experience. Also  the clones of Riesling were quite bad in the '70s.'

Weingut Heymann-Loewenstein is a member of the prestigious VDP since 1997. The fact that the estate was founded in 1980 and that the 200-member VDP (several articles have been published in delWine) is very selective in taking in new members, speaks volumes of the quality standards the boutique winery has achieved in such a short time of 30 years only. Reinhard is also one of the Vice Presidents of the association, representing Mosel region.

Reinhard is quite impressed by the Stelvin screw tops which he uses for 80% of the 100,000 bottles he produces (8,400 cases a year). “My problem is marketing - many people still think the screwcaps are only for cheap wines, so in some markets I am forced to use a cork closure. But after educating people and after trials, I am adding more numbers in this category. If I had a choice, I would use screwcap on 100% of bottles.” This producer of only white wines, 99% of which are Riesling, is confident that although he may not have adequate experience with the aging of wines, he sees no problem. “I bottle my wines when they are fully ripe in the bottle. We leave them on yeast and bottle them usually in April rather than January and February like many other producers and sometimes wait even until September.  It’s when you bottle the wine too early that you face the problem of reduction.’ For the same reason, he does not use cold stabilization. For more details, visit

Click For Large ViewDr. Ulrich, Chairman of the Krus Germany, who was accompanying the Loewensteins in India, was taking the couple to meet prospective clients in Delhi and Mumbai with the Indian Krus rep. He was evasive about the sales figures of last year though he did not  vehemently debate the sales of 2500-3000 cases of wines last year, as estimated by delWine. Krus Spirits already has 35 labels in India - with French being the surprising leader in their portfolio. But they hope to add 17 more labels including 2 from his estate during the next financial year.

Vom Blauen Schiefer and the Kirchberg are 2 of their labels that are awaiting April 2013 excise registration for 2013-14 so that they are offered on-trade to the discerning Riesling lovers. These are not the cheapest of Rieslings from the estate which is rated a 4-star (Deutsche Spitze - meaning 'Great') in the Gault Millau Annual German Guide (5-star is the highest rating and only 3-4 wineries in Mosel are privileged to have this rating which is variable every year).

With the addition of wines from Heymann-Loewenstein and Robert Weil from Rheingau, the Indians with an evolved palate and love for complex Rieslings will have more choice after a couple of months - but only while ordering in a restaurant. ‘The storage conditions are generally quite pathetic in retail shops and despite high prices, these wines may not survive the harsh storage,’ says Reinhard in conclusion.

Krus is already importing 4 labels from another 4-star Mosel producer, Clemens Busch, bringing the number of German estates represented in India to three.

Subhash Arora

Tags: Riesling, Terrassenmosel, Mosel , VDP, Gault Millau, Rheingau, Krus, Reinhard Loewenstein, Cornelia


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