Reverchon – a Saar star
Written by Michael Schmidt, 4 Mar 2019
An under-the-radar Saar estate restored to its former glory.
Once upon a time the estate of Reverchon at Konz-Filzen near Trier, less than a mile away from the confluence of the rivers Saar and Mosel, was considered one of the foremost wine producers of this venerable region. The Reverchon family acquired the estate in the 1920s and soon established such a reputation for its Riesling wines that they were keenly sought after by Germany’s top restaurants and hotels.
In 1967 Eddie Reverchon took over the reins of the estate and, light-years ahead of his time, began to concentrate on the production of dry Saar wines from his Herrenberg and Steinberg vineyards in the small village of Filzen. And that’s not all. Although Riesling had absolute priority, he was also one of the first, if not the first altogether, to plant a little Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay on the slopes of the Saar. He also produced a small amount of the more traditional fruity-sweet style of Riesling, most of which was sold in Scandinavia. (Scandinavia is a booming market for German wines today but was then a virtually non-existent export destination.)
Unfortunately young rabble-rousers rarely manage to sustain their revolutionary energy throughout the whole of their career and, although I am not familiar with the exact circumstances, towards the end of the 1990s standards had slipped and by the beginning of this century the estate had virtually fallen into a vinous coma, ending in insolvency.
This might have spelt the end of the house of Reverchon, had it not been for an intervention by Trier-born investor Hans Maret (pictured below), who, after many years of working in the international financial sector, decided that it was time to put something back into the region he had loved so much as a child. The local wines played an important part in his affection since in his youth he was allowed to assist his father, a passionate enthusiast of the region’s wines, in the organisation of frequent blind tastings, often with the owners of the most renowned estates in the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer.
On 1 May 2007 he bought the Reverchon property with the old mansion and 8 ha (20 acres) of vineyard with the firm resolve to bring back the former glory days. Renovation works began more or less immediately, and new production and storage facilities were installed to provide his cellarmaster with state-of-the-art equipment and technology. For the first few years Bernhart Maas was estate manager, until in 2013 Maret hired Ralph Herke (below), who had been in charge of winemaking at the prestigious Rheingau estate Schloss Vollrads for the previous 20 years.
More local vineyard parcels were purchased as they came on the market, soon taking the estate’s holdings in the Filzener Herrenberg (sole ownership) and Pulchen up to 20 ha. A real scoop was landed in 2017 when Hans Maret managed to acquire 15 ha of the Ockfener Bockstein, a remarkable third of the total of one of the Saar’s, if not Germany’s, most prestigious sites.
Reverchon’s current membership of the Fair’n Green Association shows that despite availing itself of the latest technological advances, the estate firmly subscribes to the principles of sustainable viticulture, based on a holistic approach in terms of environmental protection, promotion of biodiversity, preservation of natural resources and cultural landscape, as well as social responsibility. Working within those parameters, Reverchon aims to produce wines according to its owner’s philosophy of trocken, leicht, pur – dry, light and pure. Ninety per cent of the wines are vinified dry or feinherb, and even the fruitier renditions are fairly moderate in terms of residual sweetness. The ‚light‘ signals the intention of aiming for an elegant style with relatively low alcohol while ‚pure‘ means expression of the natural attributes of the terroir, using healthy grapes only. Even botrytis is not welcome here, so Beerenauslesen and TBAs are not on the agenda.
In addition to Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, Reverchon has also begun to cultivate a little Spätburgunder, most of which is currently used in the production of a vintage Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine. Sekt has become an important part of the estate’s portfolio over the last ten years, accounting for between 15% and 20% of production. The élevage of the house sparkler, a non-vintage Riesling Brut, is handled by a local contract Sekt manufacturer, but for their two premium vintage editions, a Blanc de Noirs Brut and a Riesling Crémant Brut, they use the services of Germany’s celebrated sparkling wine supremo Volker Raumland. No wonder then that at the Deutscher Sekt Awards 2018 hosted by wine magazine Vinum, Reverchon’s Riesling Crémant Brut 2010 won top honours as Sekt of the year.
One could say that, after almost 12 years of hard work and continuous improvement, Hans Maret’s commitment to the resurrection of a beleaguered Saar wine estate has been truly rewarded. In 2018 Reverchon not only won this Sekt award but also the title of German winemaker of the year 2018 at the International Wine and Spirit Competition, now in its fiftieth year. At the same presentation, the estate also won the Jancis Robinson Trophy for Riesling with their fruity Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese 2015. After a few years‘ sabbatical, Reverchon has also resumed its membership of the Bernkasteler Ring, the Mosel’s and Germany’s oldest wine auction association. Not bad going for a dozen years‘ work.
The 20 tasting notes below are presented in the order the wines were tasted:
2013 Saar Alte Reben Riesling – 16/20
Estate wines are generally intended for early consumption, but the combination of old vines and relatively high acidity of the 2013 vintage have provided this dryish Riesling with enough substance and backbone to last a little longer. There’s plenty of charm in its present expression of lime, lanolin and the merest hint of waxy kerosene. Drink 2014-2020
2013 Filzener Pulchen Riesling Kabinett – 16/20
Kabinett and complexity are rarely mentioned in the same breath, but that’s because Kabinett is regularly snatched from the cradle for its fresh and easy-drinking attraction. The Pulchen from 2013 has managed to get beyond the youthful titillation of delicious sweetness and tingling acidity to delight with subtlety and mellow charm. Drink 2014-2021
2014 Filzener Herrenberg Riesling G.C. trocken – 16,5/20
It was not an easy task to produce a premium trocken cru in 2014, but with painstaking selection of healthy grapes and an extended maceration on the skins, Reverchon managed to get enough substance and backbone to balance a reverberating acidity. Filigree fruit is just beginning to give way to a more waxy, mature expression. Drink 2015-2019
2014 Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Auslese – 17/20
The Herrenberg Auslese 2014 has a filigree complexity that bears witness to meticulous selectivity in a challenging vintage. The fruit is fine and still fresh, residual sugar measured rather than over-bearing, acidity present but not sharp. There is a racy elegance often lacking in more generous vintages, the merest notion of waxy and petrol notes indicating transition into a more intriguing mature phase of development. Drink 2016-2022
2015 Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Alte Reben trocken – 17/20
After the challenging 2013 and 2014 vintages, 2015 was probably the first year that allowed new winemaker Ralph Herke to exploit the full potential of the Herrenberg, and for this premium dry Riesling it paid off in a complex combination of mineral and herbal attributes. It’s probably at its best right now, having shed the superficial attraction of primary fruit, but not yet showing any signs of the petrol characteristics of advanced maturity. Spice, melissa and yellow fruit come together for a most enjoyable trocken experience. Drink 2016-2022
2015 Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese – 17,5/20
It’s not difficult to taste why this wine won the International Wine and Spirit Competition Riesling Trophy 2018 sponsored by our very own Jancis Robinson. In keeping with the vintage, acidity is showing itself in conciliatory mood, but the animating nature of Riesling is well preserved by a hint of petillance. A gentle expression of ripe yellow and stone fruit pampers the palate. Charming, light and very refreshing, as residual sweetness has been well moderated. Drink 2016-2022
2016 Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Alte Reben trocken – 16,5/20
One cannot fault the Herrenberg 2016 on fruit, as notes of peach and lime provide plenty of pleasure, and a fine notion of herbs adds a touch of complexity. In terms of trocken, I would call it a bit of a smoothie as far as dry Riesling goes, as acidity has been kept well in check and a hint of residual sugar serves to soften the finish. Drink 2017-2021
2016 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Alte Reben trocken – 17/20
The Bockstein is one of the most revered sites of the Saar region, and this trocken from old vines reveals more than a glimpse of its fascination with a filigree combination of herbs, spices and minerality. A hint of dusty cinnamon is well offset by an invigorating salty tang. Finesse oblige. Drink 2017-2023
2017 Saar Weißburgunder trocken – 15,5/20
In recent years Weissburgunder has gained in popularity in the region, not least because sometimes even hardened Riesling drinkers need a little respite from acidity. But although this estate Pinot has been through its malolactic fermentation, it’s far from toothless as a hint of oak adds a slight crunchy note to the fruit of ripe melon. A bit of an all-rounder, but far from bland. Drink 2018-2020
2017 Saar Riesling trocken – 15,5/20
This is all about easy-drinking fresh and clean Riesling without frills, but not without interest. A little stone fruit here, a hint of caraway there, not too much acidity, a deft touch of residual sugar just remaining within the trocken boundaries, it all adds up to early easy-drinking pleasure. Just the thing to quaff during the hot summer of 2018, but no need to panic if there’s still some left. Drink 2018-2020
2017 Saar Mineral Riesling feinherb – 16/20
Although pitched at the same price level as the Weissburgunder and Riesling trocken, the feinherb Mineral literally just gets its nose (and palate) in front with a little more fruit and minerality. The name may well work in an auto-suggestive way, but subtle fruity and salty notions are also on hand and suitably complemented by just a tad of residual sugar. Drink 2018-2021
2017 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Großes Gewächs – 17+/20
Maceration on the skins has added a little extra in terms of aromatics and phenolics, taking the Bockstein Grosses Gewächs 2017 into the realms of complexity and substance. It makes it also a little harder to assess at his early stage, when primary aromas will still have their say, but fresh green herbs, yellow fruit and a subtle spicy finish promise plenty of sensory fascination to come. Drink 2019-2025
2017 Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Alte Reben – 17/20
Not quite as multi-faceted as the Bockstein, the Herrenberg finds its strength in a successful mix of ripe fruit and salty minerality. Acidity is present but not too challenging, residual sugar has gone just a tad above the trocken limit. It all helps to make the Alte Reben very approachable even in its early days. Drink 2018-2023
2017 Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb – 16,5/20
The ideal introduction for newcomers to the world of Riesling. The acidity is animating rather than crisp, the finely tuned residual sweetness enticing rather than overwhelming, the fruit fresh and delicate, the alcohol moderate and hardly noticeable. An absolute tonic, including an ever so slight and titillatingly bitter notion akin to lime peel. Drink 2018-2021
2017 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spätlese – 17,5/20
If I had to pick one wine that for me represents the essence of Saar Riesling, it would have to be a Spätlese from a top site in a cooler growing season. The 2017 Bockstein may still be very young, but it encapsulates a perfect combination of fresh fruit, subtle minerality, refreshing acidity and fine herbal and spicy nuances. Drink 2018-2025
2018 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett feinherb – 16+/20
Cask sample. Far too early to make a conclusive pronouncement, but pleasant primary aromas seem to complement the off-dry style very well and promise straightforward, fruity drinking fun. Drink 2019-2022
2018 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett – 16+/20
Cask sample. With cask samples like this you could be tempted to drink straight from the cask! An excellent balance between crisp fruit, refreshing acidity and well moderated residual sugar lays the foundation for a few years of uncomplicated quaffing delight. Drink 2019-2022
Riesling brut – 16/20
Based on fruit from the 2016 vintage and after 12 months on its lees, the Riesling non-vintage brut may be quite shy on the nose, but it’s squeaky clean and delightfully fresh on the palate with gentle nuances of ripe green fruit and a hint of biscuit. Uncomplicated drinking pleasure. Drink 2018-2020
2012 Blanc et Noir brut – 17/20
The most Champagne-like of Reverchon’s sparklers, with whole-bunch pressing of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay grapes and six years on its lees, disgorged in December 2017. Seductively creamy, it combines the soft red berry fruit of Pinot Noir with the viscous quality of Pinot Blanc and mineral contribution of Chardonnay. Still in its infant stage, it nevertheless shows first signs of greater complexity to come. Drink 2018-2023
2010 Riesling Crémant brut – 17,5/20
Elegant restraint is how this recently disgorged Crémant might be best summed up in two words. A very subtle fragrance whispers of ripe regional fruit. Animating acidity and an almost taut minerality on the palate are softened by a hint of honey on the finish. A fine mousse gently distributes the filigree taste on the palate. Drink 2018-2023