Schloss Lieser (Thomas Haag)
"Thomas Haag has done wonders since taking over this estate several years ago and this is now one of the most cherished producers to be found in the middle Mosel." -John Gilman
Thomas Haag, the winemaker at Schloss Lieser since 1992 and its owner since 1997, is also the brother of Oliver Haag and son of legendary Wilhelm Haag at the Fritz Haag estate, one of the most illustrious names in German winemaking. Thomas is now clearly operating at the height of his powers, winning near-universal acclaim for his idiosyncratic yet decisive Mosel wines. Cleaving to a natural approach in the vineyard and the winery, he insists on painstaking hand-harvests, spontaneous fermentations, and long, slow, reductive elevages. His newfound collector’s mania for acquiring parcels of the best sites of the region is transforming Schloss Lieser from a small “up-and-coming” property into one of the most formidable wine estates in Germany.
From the remarkable Lars Carlsberg website:
Schloss Lieser, a magnificent Neo-Renaissance château in Lieser (near Bernkastel-Kues), was built in the late 19th century. It is made of slate, as many of the buildings in the Mosel region, and was the home of the German industrialist and politician Eduard Puricelli. His daughter Maria married the Prussian official Clemens von Schorlemer in 1880, and in 1895, she inherited the property, which her husband later named "Schloss Lieser."
The winery at Schloss Lieser was built next to the château in 1904. The Schorlemers had their own wines produced here. It was eventually sold in the 1970s and went downhill from there. The commune of Lieser bought the property in 1981. It remained empty for over ten years and is at the moment being renovated into a four-star hotel by an investor.
Winemaker Thomas Haag joined Schloss Lieser in 1992. He's the eldest son of Wilhelm Haag of Fritz Haag in Brauneberg. Before coming to Schloss Lieser, he studied at Geisenheim, and had a stint at Bert Simon (today's Dr. Siemens), in Serrig. (Coincidentally, the Schorlemers once owned this Saar property in the beginning of the 20th century.) During his early tenure, Thomas acted as both the manager and cellarmaster. In 1997, he purchased the winery, where his family now lives. Thomas and his wife, Ute, started from scratch with zero clientele. A few years ago, they moved to a different part of the complex.
In 2004, Thomas split the holdings in Brauneberger Juffer and Juffer Sonnenuhr with his younger brother, Oliver, who took over at Fritz Haag after their father retired.
Today, Thomas continues to serve as the winemaker and owns a total of 13 hectares of Riesling planted. The oldest vines are 70 years old. He says that 8.5 ha are in his top VDP-classified sites (once designated as Erste Lage) of Lieser Niederberg Helden, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr and Juffer. All three are now called Grosse Lage, as per the new VDP protocol. (In old books and maps, Lieserer Niederberg Helden was often spelled Lieserer Niederberger or Lieser-Niederberger.) Schloss Lieser has expanded in recent years, with new additions in the following top sites: Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Bernkasteler Doctor, and Piesporter Goldtröpfchen.
The hillsides of Brauneberg and Niederberg are on the same bank of the Mosel and separated by Lieser and the Lieser Valley in between. The south-by-southwest-facing Lieser Niederberg Helden is a little away from the bank of the Mosel River and has a somewhat inward curve, like an amphitheater, rather than the wavy Brauneberg hillside, which is closer to the river. The western flank of Niederberg Helden is directly behind the village of Lieser.
The Kues Plateau lies above Niederberg Helden, which has good water reserves. The soil is a mix of blue slate and has a less stony soil than Juffer and Juffer Sonnenuhr, which are both south facing, as well, and have very good drainage. Juffer and Juffer Sonnenuhr, Thomas says, "make more delicate wines."
He has three more sites: Lieser Schlossberg, Bernkasteler Schlossberg, and Graacher Himmelreich (0.5 hectares). The grapes from these sites, including Himmelreich, go into his excellent entry-level Gutsriesling, for example. Lieser Schlossberg is next to Niederberg Helden and runs almost three kilometers up into the Lieser Valley. The exposition is mostly west.
During harvest at Schloss Lieser, workers put the picked grapes into stackable plastic red crates. At the winery, the grapes are lightly crushed before pressing. The rollers of the mill are set wide enough apart, to just lightly break the grape skins. "The stems are good for drainage," Thomas says. He does a gentle pneumatic (bladder) pressing, and fermentation takes place in all stainless-steel tanks. He specifically seeks a clear must after sedimentation and a cool spontaneous fermentation by wild yeasts. Most of the dry Rieslings, however, have cultured yeasts added to help get the wines under 10 grams of sugar per liter. Otherwise, he says, like many other top producers, "most wines wouldn't end up legally trocken [under 10 grams of residual sugar]."
For an excellent review of the estate, visit Schiller Wine.
Schloss Lieser Riesling Estate Feinherb 2016
Very clear in color. Approximately 23 grams of residual sugar and 8 grams of acidity makes the wine just barely sweet and fruity, showing pretty peach notes and a soft, round mid palate. This is an excellent summer wine and incredible value. A fantastic introduction to they crystalline nature of Mosel wines.
"Tangy apple and lime on the nose exhibit a juicy, subtly sweet palate presence and sustained finish lent invigoration by fruit seed piquancy and apple skin chewiness. (Haag refers to but doesn’t label this wine as feinherb.) 88 Points" - David Schildknecht, Vinous.com
Schloss Lieser Riesling Spatlese Lieser Niederberg Helden 2016
Kaleidiscopic aroma. Almost red fruited. The palate is stunning. Perfumed pomegranate.
"Mirabelle, pear and white peach on the nose translate into generous fresh fruit juiciness on a polished, silken palate. Honeydew melon adds a ripe and luscious dimension to the fruit as it heads into a sustained, buoyant, slate-lined finish that both soothes and stimulates. The high residual sugar here is entirely supportive and its sweetness unobtrusive. 92 Points." - David Schildknecht, Vinous.com
Schloss Lieser Riesling Estate Kabinett 2015
A perfect Kabinett. 48 to 50 g/l RS. Beautifully sweet and tasty. Transparent.
"This generic bottling sourced from several communes delivers tangy, faintly prickly fresh apple and pineapple nicely underscored by efficacious but not obvious sweetness. Firm in feel, it finishes with juicy refreshment and mouthwatering salinity. 89 Points." - David Schildknecht, Vinous.com