- WinemakerClemens & Rita Busch
- Farming MethodCertified Biodynamic
Clemens Busch Riesling (Dry) Pundericher Marienburg Rothenpfad GG 2020
Seriously, just 10 cases total of this magical ambrosia. For now - this fresh, enchanting wine offers a beautiful nose of golden mango, cantaloupe, Rainier cherry, and dragonfruit – all woven with exotic spices of cardamom, anise, lemongrass, tarragon, and smoky, chipped flint. Voluptuously intense in flavors and overall spiciness – the wine spirals elegantly into a zingy, zesty finish that is quite dry, and also polished amber smooth. Drink over the next 15 years and be blown away at all stages of the wine’s development. In other words… if you like world class riesling… you better go get some of this, quick!
Now, back to this marvelous estate. The winery was originally built in 1663, across the river from the town of Pünderich, directly on the banks of the Mosel with views over their Marienburg vineyard. Clemens and Rita Busch have built the estate into its current form, alongside their sonS, Florian and Johannes, who have started to work the vines, as well. Clemens is the fifth generation winemaker at this estate (all the previous ones were also named Clemens; he broke the tradition with his sons.) Clemens started working his father’s 2-hectare estate in 1975 and has spent four decades expanding his holdings to 18 hectares, almost all on the slopes of the Marienburg. Clemens Busch stopped using herbicides in 1976, converting entirely to organic agriculture by 1984. Pioneers amongst the harsh farming and growing conditions in the region, they led the movement to establish an organic grower’s association in 1986, eventually going full biodynamic themselves in 2005. Today, they are members of a number of organic and biodynamic international wine groups, including the “Return to Terroir”, founded by the Loire’s biodynamic guru, Nicolas Joly.
The site for this wine is known as The Rothenpfad, or more colloquially as “The Big Red One”. A parcel of iron and copper-rich red slate that starts in the Saar, pops up at the Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Prälat and Enkircher Steffensberg sites in the Middle Mosel, and ends here, at the Marienburg site that lies at the dividing line between the Middle and Lower Mosel. The geology here is based on a volcanic formation hundreds of millions of years old, resulting in a long, undulating cliff face that is the defining characteristic of Marienburg ’s steep, rocky vineyard. The Rothenpfad site, set just above the Pünderich viaduct, is characterized by slate and iron oxide, which colors the stone a rusty red. The 80+ year old vines are positioned on a southeastern orientation, which helps to mitigate excessive heat, especially during warm growing seasons, like 2020. This site has been revered for over 150 years, even marked as “first category” in ancient maps of the Mosel.
The Marienburg contains all three of the Mosel’s primary slates (blue, red, and grey,) at different parcels all along the slopes. In spite of the varied slate profiles and other topography, the German government problematically lumped all these parcels together under the name, Marienburg, in 1971. Furthermore, they expanded what was a 23-hectare geographically driven site into a 90-hectare politically drawn one, even including a series of flat sites on the opposite side of the river. Clemens has devoted his career to rectifying this mistake, identifying the different terroirs of the original hillside on his labels by their historical names: Fahrlay, Falkenlay, Rothenpfad, Felsterrasse, and Raffes. He further delineates his wines by their soil type, using an ingenious method: the color of the capsule on the bottles indicates the type of slate (blue, grey or red) that dominates the source from which each wine comes. Each vine is tended and harvested by hand, in hazardous conditions of very loose, slick, rock topsoils on very steep slopes. This arduously slow process allows plenty of time to observe the ripening of the berries, and optimal picking, into small baskets, is the result.
Just as important as the team’s work in the vineyard is following through with a careful vinification. The majority of the wines are raised in the traditional Fuder-Fass (1000-liter barrels), though small amounts of stainless steel are used as well. The large barrels provide the yeasts with the necessary air to breathe, allowing fermentation to flow more smoothly, achieving the full extraction of fruit aromas and mineral components. No additives are used, and any mechanical stress is kept to a minimum. Spontaneous fermentations, often requiring a full 8-10 months to complete are the norm, with wines spending a full year or more in barrel before bottling.
Listed under the Grosses Gewächs (G.G.) designation, which is part Champagne “Special Club” Collection and part Burgundy grand cru… all G.G. wines come from a Grosses Lage (‘great site’) according to the German VDP classification system overseen by a group of producers called the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP). Like the grand crus of Burgundy, these wines take the name of the vineyard and not the village. However, more akin to a “Special Club” Champagne, the VDP is an invitation-only, industry body numbering around 200 producers and its rules are not officially part of German wine law. There are limited yields, harvesting methods and overall grape ripeness requirements, and the resulting wine must be dry in order to qualify, with the wines being released on September 1st one year following harvest.
Clemens Busch just absolutely slaying the riesling game, with hit after hit of world-class riesling. While it lasts!