The Wines of Sybille Kuntz

Before being invited along to meet Sybille at an informal evening of food and wine at the excellent Brett Wine Bar in Glasgow, I wasn’t too familiar with her wines, though Scottish distributor and retailer de Burgh Wines has been importing them for some time.

Sybille KuntzWeingut Sybille Kuntz is located in the Mosel Valley in Germany, specialising in Riesling wines. Sybille has been in charge of her family estate for over 30 years, a bubbly but focused character who runs the esate with her husband Markus, producing a portfolio of wines encompassing the traditional styles, from almost dry Qualitätswein, to super-sweet Trockenbeerenauslese.  Farming organically since 1990, certification followed in 2013, with Demeter-certified biodynamic status in 2016.

The 18 hectares of vines here are old, aged between 45 and 80 years, and yields lower than average for the Mosel at 50 – 60 hl/ha. Sybille is not afraid of change and experimentaion, here also pouring two vintages of her ‘orange wine’, made with skin contact as a dry wine, and bottled unfiltered. While the other wines in the portfolio might be orthodox, these are gentle excursions into a new world, but made with attention to detail and no sign of oxidation or fault.  From the initial 2015 vintage, production has increased each year, the wines finding favour, especially in Scandinavia.

Kuntz winesOn the subject of natural wines and biodynamism, Sybille gave a pragmatic shrug: “There is only one convincing argument for organic or biodynamic wines, there is no explanation: the question is simply, ‘does it taste better?’.”

The range is simplified to an extent, according to the colour of the labels, meant to suggest the character of the wines in broad brushstrokes: green for the Qualitätswein, because it is early picked, violet for Auslese representing the berries as they colour, gold for the TBA to suggest the full effect of botrytis. It’s part of a minimalist approach to the range that in some ways reflects the wines and winemaking: natural and hands off, nothing too showy, nothing too loud, but just beautifully pitched and elegant wines.

On this occasion we did not have a chance to taste the wines that Sybille and Marcus make further south in the Baden region. These are vineyards inherited from Markus’ family, and bearing his family name, Riedlin. Two hectares of Pinot Noir fashion dry red and rosé wines, with lovely labels based on paintings by one of Markus’ ancestors, the highly acclaimed abstract artist, Adolf Riedlin (1892 – 1969).

The Wines

(2019) Fantastically dry, searing salt and lemon mineral acidity is the first thing that strikes about this wine, though it is softened on the palate by 8g/l of residual sugar. It has real concentration and substance despite being gossamer light. A bad spring frost delayed ripening and reduced the crop in 2017, but a very good summer meant harvest was actually a little early.
(2019) Lovely hints of nettle and wax join the fresh, clean and zipping citrus, again a distinct salty mineral tow to this. A lightly waxy and creamy texture to the acidity here giving a touch of roundness, with 7g/l of residual sugar. Markus suggests serving not too cold - 15 degrees C or so. There's a softened edge to the acid, but absolutely no lack of balance. A lovely, approachable wine.
(2019) A little more gold creeping into the colour, smells a little more ripe and has that touch of beeswax again, fat limey notes. The palate quite weighty, hinting at nectarine, but before that can take any hold, acidity sweeps in, cutting this with salts and pithy lemon into a long finish. 9g/l of residual sugar in this essentially dry wine.
(2019) With 25g/l of residual sugar, this 12-year-old wine from a warm vintage has around 25% Botrytis fruit in the blend. There is a lovely hint of barley sugar, golden Sharon fruit and yellow plum, beautifully balanced sweetness, a gorgeous weight and full texture, glittering acidity. Orange peel and clove hints and the first wine with the correct age to develop complexity says Sybille. Fabulous.
(2019) Made with skin contact during six weeks of fermentation, this is dry, unfiltered and spends a further period of six months in old Fuder (Foudre) large barrels. Light cider notes, a touch of wheat beer yeastiness, the fresh lemon juicy palate refreshing, bone dry impression on the finsih and clean. 7g/l of residual sugar.
(2019) Like the 2017, fermented and marcerated on skins for six weeks. After pressing the wine is aged in old 1,000-litre Fuder barrels for a futher six months. Immediatey more aromatic compared to the 2017, orange peel and clove, juicier, perhaps a little less 'orange character' at this stage, but beautifully drinkable.

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