Markus Molitor has had an ambitious and definite vision since he was young: to restore the reputation of Mosel wines by crafting excellent Rieslings that reflect the identity of their terroir.
The star of German Riesling
At the age of just 20, in 1984, Markus Molitor took up his family domain in Germany’s Mosel region, which we find within the winemaking area of Wehlener Klosterberg. Here, he set his intention to put terroir front and centre in his work, producing Rieslings that would carry the family name held by eight generations of vignerons.
Around a century ago, the wines of Mosel were among the world’s most coveted and expensive, more so than those from Bordeaux. Unsurprising, then, that Markus has always believed in the potential of this terroir, so he set out to bring this glorious past back to the region’s viticultural produce. In his 34 years of winemaking, he has propelled his cuvées to world-class status. He produces almost 90 micro-cuvées, sometimes just a few litres’ worth, and a few of these prestigious bottles have been given a top 100/100 score by the illustrious Robert Parker.
Such success does not mean, however, that this is an extensive domain run with complicated procedures or a web of workers. Markus doesn’t employ a cellar master, for example. He himself spends his days between the vineyard and the winery, surveying and managing the vinification of his cuvées. This way, he gets to oversee the meticulous, minute-by-minute development of his many, wonderful cuvées.
A precise art
Mosel is an interesting region for winemaking, a hilly landscape with little variation in its temperature and rainfall, as well as one of the sunniest spots in Germany.
Shared across 15 different vineyards in some of the region’s finest parcels, the domain’s vines enjoy a unique position with good geological roots. The slopes, looking out over the Mosel river, are remarkably steep, and the soil is rich in volcanic slate, blue slate, and sandstone, all features that confer a striking minerality to the resulting wines.
An eco-friendly philosophy has always been important, so organic and biodynamic methods are applied where possible. However, the sloping terrain makes it a challenge to carry these through faultlessly. Nonetheless, everything is done by hand here, the abrupt hills making it impossible for machines and vehicles to function. To begin with, Markus’ vineland covered 7.5 hectares, and this has been built up over the years. Today, he counts 38 hectares of grapevines in his care. 95% of these plants are Riesling grapes, and this is topped up with a small amount of Späetburgunder (Pinot noir) and Weißburgunder (Pinot blanc).
Work on the vines is meticulous and, of course, carried out by hand. When it comes to harvesting the grapes, selection takes place in stages in order for the best fruit to be picked. This also gives the grapes a chance to ripen properly before being collected. Markus tends to harvest his grapes late – even waiting until the weather gets much colder for his ice wines – so that the fruit develops a high sugar concentration and much acidity. These features form a good base for a long cellaring wine.
The diversity of terroirs that fall under the proud ownership of Markus Molitor are expressed wonderfully through the precise work he carries out in the winery. Fermentation is long and begins with native yeasts inside stainless steel vats that reside within the ancient walls of Markus’ vaulted cellar. The wines are left on their lees for many months during which time they develop excellent structure, freshness, and remarkable longevity. Produced in around 200 to 300,000 bottles a year, these wines are best known for their aromatic depth and fine minerality.
This impassioned winemaker, dedicated to his native Mosel, has a philosophy that rests on simple principles: nature, terroir, complexity, and aging potential. Every single one of his cuvées fulfils these criteria.