There's no one in Germany quite like Dr. Ulrich Stein. In a country with some of the most stringent production laws and a large majority of producers happily making wine to meet market demands, "Ulli" Stein is an anomaly. He has forged his own path, even running afoul of the EU courts in his quest to reclaim the forgotten and ignored traditions of the Mosel. Most importantly, his wines are singular too, combining shimmering minerality and with the sheer wild intensity of the incredible sites he works.
Today, we're pleased to offer a selection of three wines from Ulli Stein, including his coveted "Alfer Hölle 1900" Riesling and Pinot Noir.
Ulli is a scholar of the overlooked in the Mosel Valley. The greatest expression of Mosel Riesling comes from vertiginously steep vineyards with slate soil (see above). These sites, only workable by hand by the most dedicated growers, provide that sense of decisive cut and pure mineral expression the region is famous for. While there's a core of famous names that most of the bigger producers work with – Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Treppchen, etc – many more are being abandoned or ripped out every year. Unfortunately, these vineyards don't have the name recognition to garner the financial returns that'd make it worth continuing to work them. But Ulli recognizes their greatness, and from them produces wines so thrilling that these less-recognized sites have to be taken seriously.
No wine encapsulates Ulli's ethos and skill like his Alfer Hölle 1900 bottling. It is his magnum opus. The wine comes from a parcel of ungrafted Riesling planted in 1900 in the town of Alf. There are less than three hectares of vines this old in the Mosel, and Ulli makes about 50 cases on average each year. This is one of the most unique and special wines in all of Germany, combining Stein's signature delicacy with the deep mineral core you only find in old vines. No Riesling lover should pass up the opportunity to try this wine.
But Ulli's determination doesn't end at Riesling. He has also made it his mission to reclaim the Mosel's tradition of red winemaking. For centuries, red varieties like Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder in German) grew alongside Riesling, until in 1971 German lawmakers banned the practice. Ulli fought the law, taking his case all the way to European Union courts, and won. And it has paid off: now Ulli has the oldest Pinot Noir vines in the Mosel, producing an expression of the grape you don't find anywhere else. Gevrey-like structure and density combines with Mosel raciness and delicacy to produce one of the most singular bottles of Pinot we've come across outside of Burgundy.
While Ulli is still relatively unknown in the US, he has a fanatical following across Europe, including in some of the EU's best-known restaurants, like Noma in Copenhagen. These singular wines won't stay unknown forever, and are made in tiny quantities. We strongly advise you to jump on this.