What a beautiful wine the 2015 St. Urbans-Hof Wiltinger “Alte Reben” Kabinett Feinherb Riesling is… This estate bottled Riesling is only 10.5 percent alcohol. That lower alcohol level allows for such a delicious food and wine experience. With its bright, crisp, and very clean flavors, this wine is a delight. There’s only a hint of petrol, which gently rounds out its characteristic complexity. I loved the lemon grass and minerality flavors, above all else. From the Sar Valley, this 2015 Nik Weis is a unique example of a delicious Riesling; and not to be missed, if you’re looking for a superb and very affordable Riesling.

The paperwork that arrived with this wine stated: It’s an interesting wine, from an interesting place, made by an interesting man, so let’s explore, shall we? Information from the source…

Interesting Wine ~ St. Urbans-Hof Riesling

The wine is bottled as a “Kabinett Feinherb,”which means with about 22 grams per liter of residual sugar. It’s a bit drier than most Kabinetts, and has a thirst-quenching freshness typical of Saar wines. The wine, thanks to its iron-soil roots, finishes with a savory, smoky, rather than sweet note. And speaking of finishing, with alcohol levels often below 12 percent, a guilt-free second glass, or bottle even, is possible. That would suit Nik Weis just fine, who, when not painstakingly and precisely making his wines, is known for his exuberant, extroverted personality, a generous dash of which seems to go into the well-received St.-Urbans Hof Wiltinger “Alte Reben” Kabinett Feinherb Riesling.


Interesting Place ~ Sar Valley

The “Snake Pit” Wine from the Oh-So-Cool Saar

If the Rhine region has traditionally been considered as lying on the outer limits of cool-climate winegrowing, then its Saar Valley sub-region occupies the outer-outer limits. Here, in an under-the-radar area, not as well-known as the Mosel, lovers of classic, minerally, light-framed wines with notable depth of flavor have found their favorites, but often only in great vintages, when conditions are just right.

  • SUH Wiltinger “Alte Reben” is not from a “grand cru” site, but is a “village” wine.
  • It originates in the coolest area of the Saar. The Saar River is narrower than the Rhine, providing less warming. In addition, chilly nighttime winds from the Hunsrück Hills act as a refrigerant. This is especially true in Wiltingen, which, though in the southernmost part of the Saar, is actually the coolest.

Interesting Vineyard ~ The Schlangengraben

The Schlangengraben vineyard sits on Devonian slate. Its slopes shimmer with a hint of rust-red, an indicator of its rich iron content. As in Pouilly-Fumé, the iron-rich soil fosters wines with a minerally smokiness. St. Urbans-Hof’s Wiltinger “Alte Reben” offers a spicy, herbaceous aroma, suggesting notes of sweet woodruff, mint, gooseberry, apple, grapefruit, sometimes peach, and lemongrass on the palate, all wrapped in a salty, smokiness throughout.

SUH Wiltinger “Alte Reben” comes from a special 22-acre parcel of very old vines (“Alte Reben” in German), part of the Schlangengraben vineyard. The vineyard was established in the early 1900s, and some of its vines date back to that era. “Schlangengraben” means “snake pit” in German, but there are no snakes, or pits here, just a small canyon abutting the vineyard, where numerous little lizards scurry over hot slate stones during the summer months. Small veins of water course through the hill, ensuring that the south-facing vines never go thirsty, even during more prolonged heat spells.

The caned, arch-trained vines attached to individual stakes look for all the world like serried rows of Valentines dotting the hillside. While quality here is not necessarily synonymous with age, extra, individual, loving attention is devoted to the health of those senior vines – with some as old as 110 years.

Interesting Man ~ Nik Weis

These days, however, advances in viticulture, plus a dash of global warming, mean that palate-pleasing wines are more common here. Still, it takes the hand of a masterful winemaker such as Nik Weis, owner of St. Urbans-Hof, to achieve consistently rave reviews. And occasionally — surprisingly even — his St. Urbans-Hof Wiltinger “Alte Reben” Kabinett Feinherb Riesling (Wiltinger “Alte Reben” for short, with an approximate retail price of $18) has been described as “decadent,” “ripe” and “lush.” Times they are indeed a-changin’!

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