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The 2015 Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese *** (Golden Capsule) is clear, fresh and concentrated on the nose nose where deep and smoky flavors of crushed stones are displayed, giving just a hint of the true potential of this wine. Round and seamless on the palate, with perfectly ripe but vital and fresh fruit, this has a gorgeous mineral raciness and tension. There is also a quiet stream of perfectly balanced and concentrated melting stones and very fine salts that flows over the palate. This is an exiting, very well structured and tightly woven Riesling legend that will still fascinate wine lovers in 50, 60, maybe 70 years. This is a laser beam of great Riesling, tight and concentrated but still not that open like the corresponding Wehlener.
Due to the drought and heat, 2015 was an easy vintage in terms of plant protection. The summer was very dry and the vegetative growing of the plants was pretty moderate. Also, there was no pressure from any fungal diseases. It was crucial, though, to keep yields low and to have a sufficient layer of humus to protect the soils from drought stress. Also, to receive fully ripe and aromatic grapes, it was necessary to harvest as late as possible. "When the rain came in the beginning and in the end of September, many colleagues panicked because they feared another quick spreading of rot like in 2014," says Markus Molitor. "But in fact, we got a really perfect October! It was necessary to extend the hang time because the grapes needed some time to metabolize the biochemical processes caused by the September rain." Team Molitor started with some pre-selection in early September when the first nests of botrytis were also cut away. The main Riesling harvest did not start before the middle of October and wasn't finished before the middle of November. Several top producers tend to harvest sooner today to keep the acidity fresh and to avoid too big and fat wines, but that is not Molitor's strategy. A too early harvest might cause an atypical early aging of the wines, and they often get some bitter flavors, too, he says. "However, in 2015 there was no problem with acidity at all; the acidity was ripe but remained high even in October when we got perfectly ripe and intensely flavored grapes," Molitor says. "Since there was no rain forecasted, we could go wherever we wanted and pick whatever we wanted. There was so much time to sort and to select! In fact, we picked our grapes at roughly 100° Oechsle and with phantasmagoric acidity levels!" (Note that not a single wine underwent malolactic fermentation in 2015.) Molitor compares 2015 with 1990 but considers the 2015s even riper and finer. The perfect balance of ripe grapes and pronounced acidities let him select a cornucopia of the finest Auslese Rieslings, Beerenauslesen and no less that seven Trockenbeerenauslesen from "perfect berries" at 200°+ Oechsle. "We never had a series like this before, but I am sure we will produce similar quantities and qualities more often in the future because we have such a great collection of great vineyards and are able so select only top qualities for our highest predicates." Mind, that Molitor's noble sweet wines from the best vineyards are picked very late as well. Botrytis settled on fully ripe 100° Oechsle grapes here, which gives a completely different (riper) aromatic than sweet wines that were made with grapes that were attacked by the noble rot at a sugar ripeness level of just 80° Oechsle. But, that's a question of style rather than of quality. Readers should be aware that labor costs alone for the noble sweet wines are higher than many family domaines have to pay for the whole harvest. In four weeks, up to 40 workers select daily, evening by evening, up to three hours, selecting raisin by raisin. There is no greater luxury in wine than in a Molitor three star Auslese, Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese whose perfection is almost too good to be exciting in young years. However, these wines will shine the older they become and should be legends decades from now. Riesling lovers should take every chance to buy some of Molitor *** Auslese selections, which are available in reasonable price categories. These are terrific wines at 12.5% alcohol or less. Only a very few of them were made from botrytized grapes, and in fact they have been rarely that clear, fresh and elegant as well as dense, rich and persistent. They will age for decades, and only in 10 or more years we will really appreciate their true class. But, even Molitor's Kabinett Rieslings—with quantities of up to 20,000 bottles per label—are amazing in 2015. Analytically, these are Auslesen as well, but despite their intensity and structure, they taste lean, light and highly delicate like classic Kabinetts, ready to be enjoyed young although they will gain complexity over the years, too.