The Egon Müller-Scharzhof winery in the Mosel region has been a family business for four generations, though the vineyard has roots running back to Ancient Roman times. Their superior quality wines (Prädikatswein) are globally recognised as being amongst the finest in Mosel.
The Müller family acquired its historic vineyards, once the property of the Monastery of St. Martin in Trier, from the French Republic in 1797. Today the vineyards comprise 16 hectares, with about 7 hectares located in the Scharzhofberger area, one of the finest vine-growing locations in Germany. The vines grow on a slate soil, which, along with the local climate, creates an almost perfect terroir for the production of Riesling.
Egon Müller Wine ready to go
From the late 19th century, the Müller family has become the Egon Müller dynasty, with the same first name adopted by each generation. Egon Müller I won a Grand Prix award for his finest Auslese (late harvest selection) at the 1900 Paris World Fair. Wines have always been fermented in old, large wooden barrels, and still today, Egon Müller IV follows the same traditional procedure. Fermentation takes place spontaneously and ceases without any external intervention, in the cool temperatures of the Scharzhofkeller, long before all the sugar has been fermented. Wine production at the Scharzhof has always been kept as low as possible, with the high standards set by the late Egon Müller II scrupulously maintained to this day. “The quality of the wine depends 100% on what happens in the vineyard. You cannot achieve 101% in the cellar,” said Egon II, “the true skill is allowing the full potential to appear in the bottle."
Egon Müller Wine Making
Egon Müller IV continues this tradition. His Rieslings are hallmarked by a spicy and – especially with the wines selected from the Scharzhofberg – an almost salty minerality producing a balanced interplay between elegant acidity and aromatic sweetness, with both depth and length. Connoisseurs of sweet wines appreciate this quality and are willing to pay high prices to enjoy them. For this reason, the 2003 vintage of Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese (medium to full body dessert wine) reached the highest price ever achieved for a new wine at auction, with a closing price of €14,994 per bottle. Müller's fine wines are exported throughout the world. Wine lovers compete in order to buy a bottle of his Eiswein (ice wine), Beerenauslese (late harvest selection) or Trockenbeerenauslese, and perhaps storing them as an heirloom for future generations.
We spoke to Egon Müller IV about some aspects of his work.
LUXOS: What it is about your wines that make them such a coveted product?
Every wine that comes from a single vineyard can be special, because the grapes will absorb the flavour of that particular plot of land and reflect this in the wine. If you, as the winemaker, can create the conditions that best allow this and have been lucky with the weather, then a wine can emerge that will be spoken about for generations. Certain terroirs can enable this to happen more frequently than others, or produce wines with a distinctive character, and Scharzhofberg is definitely such a location.
Grapes for Wine Making
LUXOS: To what extent does the Egon Müller vineyard seek to combine traditional wine production with innovation?
Innovation is necessary, but one does not need to adopt the newest developments immediately, or be the first winemaker to introduce an innovation. Quality will always prevail.
LUXOS: Do you have any special memories or anecdotes regarding one of your wines?
Perhaps the 1959 vintage, that was prematurely written off by ‘experts’ because they believed that its low acidity would not enable it to age well. Today it outshines all other vintages from that period.
LUXOS: What would be your desert island wine?
The 1997 Scharzhofberger Kabinett (vintner’s reserve selection).