Weingut Clemens Busch is a Biodynamic estate in the picturesque town of Pünderich in what is officially the Mittel Mosel (see Mosel) region of Germany, however Clemens Busch describes it as the Terrassenmosel (‘Mosel Terrace’) because the estate vineyards occupy very steep terraces, mostly within the Marienburg vineyard.
Owner: Clemens and Rita Busch. Clemens is fifth generation winemaker here. His ancestors were all called Clemens but he and Rita broke the trend calling their son Florian instead. The first documented mention of Weingut Clemens Busch dates from 1802.
Biodynamic certification: 1984 First organic practices. | 1985 Applies for official organic status with Ecovin (De 039-Öko-Kontrollstelle). | 2005 Biodynamic practices are used for the first time. Joins respekt-BIODYN.
Biodynamics: Clemens began working on the family estate in 1974 when he was 17. His first vintage was 1975, a trouble-free season. He soon dispensed with herbicides, noting that in their absence the soils had higher levels of humus. This in turn obviated the need for conventional fertilizer. Clemens, with other local Mittel Mosel growers, started using plant-based sprays. He converted to organic farming in 1984 but the move to Biodynamics in 2006 was, in his words ‘the big step. Constant development and exchanges with colleagues are absolutely important and necessary for us. Through membership of respekt-BIODYN we make our stand clear, to meet even more stringent guidelines in addition to the requirements for organic viticulture and to let these be [independently] checked [certified] as well. Biodynamics opens new dimensions to working with nature.’
Estate vineyards: 16 hectares of vines in Pünderich, on terraced slopes across the river from the village itself, where the Middle Mosel and the Lower (northern) Mosel region meet. The terrain is a cliff face of volcanic origin formed hundreds of millions of years ago. The slate comes in three main colours–blue, red and grey. Clemens began with 2ha in the Marienburg spread across 16 micro-plots. Over time, and especially in the 1980s when German wine was in something of a funk and the prospect of working steep slopes growing hard to sell wines was a turn off (eg. to heirs bequeathed unwanted, hard to work vine real estate), Clemens managed to acquire premium parcels for affordable prices. He could create karger cores of vineyards, making the work more efficient. Those growers who sold their hard-to-work Marienburg vineyards could use the money to buy or plant far more productive sites on the much easier to work plains.
Pundericher Marienburg: The majority of the estate’s vines (16ha) occupy the Pündericher Marienburg vineyard. It lies on the opposite bank of the river from the village of Pünderich and has a south-southeast orientation. The site is very steep and comprises multiple terraces and micro-terroirs and soil matrices. Marienburg is divided into Fahrlay on blue slate, Falkenlay on deep weathered grey slate (directly below the Marienburg monastery is where gray slate dominates), and Rothenpfad on rare red shale. This site provides the grapes for the Großes Gewächs “Marienburg GG.” The term Marienburg was historically used for only a part of what is Marienburg today. In 1971 administrative rationalisation (Flurbereinigung) of Germany’s patchwork of individually saw individual named sites (macro-terroirs) lumped under a single name. The Marienburg was expanded from its original 25ha heart–all on hill sites– to a 90ha behemoth, with vines on both sides of the river, with those on the other (town) side of the vineyard on flat land. Clemens Busch has reversed this error by identifying the different terroirs within the original hillside, then putting their historical names–Fahrlay Falkenlay, Rothenpfad, Felsterrasse, and Raffes–back on his labels. He has 16 of the 25ha of Marienburg’s prime hill sites.
Pundericher Marienberg Fahrlay: Fahrlay is a south facing parcel in the Pündericher Marienburg vineyards. The name is made up of the words “Fahr” for ferry and “Lay” for slate. Blue slate is predominant here, a particularly hard stone that demands much of the vines and obliges them to make headway deep in the rock’s crevices in order to be supplied with sufficient water. The wines are particularly mineral-driven and almost salty. The slopes of Pündericher Marienburg face south, southwest, or southeast, so that optimal sunshine is guaranteed. The soil is composed largely of weathered gray slate.The vines date from around the 1950s and late 1990s.
Pundericher Marienberg Fahrlay Terrassen: 0.24-ha (this einzellage totals 1.6ha). This extremely stony and terraced south-facing slope near the ferry (hence the name) is comprised of very hard blue slate. Fahr comes from Fähre (the parcel is right next to the Pünderich ferry landing) and lay, a local name for slate. Planted in the late 1930s. Saline Riesling.
Pundericher Marienberg Falkenlay: As the German name suggests, hawks (“Falken”) nest even today in the gaps among the stones that surround this site. The parcel— always appraised by the old winemakers in the village as the best in Pünderich—is particularly well-protected from wind, lying between Fahrlay and Rothenpfad. Grey-coloured schist soils. Falkenlay wines often show creamy, fruity flavours. Noble rot is not infrequent here. Vines last replanted in the 1940s.
Pundericher Marienburg Felsterrasse: This parcel’s 5 terraces (2,000 square metres [of the Fahrlay–check]) nestle between the rocky outcrops to the side of Falkenlay. Planted early 1900s. Small, healthy grapes. Year after year elegant wines of great concentration (acidity, sugar, texture) are the result. This is the plot Clemens likes working in the most.
Pundericher Marienberg Raffes: This is the name given to Falkenlay on the official Land Register. Here the name is used to designate a small selection of ungrafted vines from a terrace on higher ground. They produce a wine of exceptional concentration and density.
Pundericher Marienberg Rothenpfad: On historic vineyard maps, this section of the vineyard above Pünderich’s viaduct and upstream from most of the owners’ grey and blue slate sites, was given the highest rating. Rieslings from here are spicy as the soil is dominated by a vein of red slate which reaches its end point here. Its geological vein starts in the Saar region and is also found elsewhere in the Mosel in the Würzgarten (Spice Garden) in Ürzig, the Prälat in Erden, and the Steffensberg in Enkirch.
Pündericher Nonnengarten: Faces south, southeast or southwest.
Winemaking: Gentle pressing, slow and long spontaneous fermentation (Clemens’ father worked this way too), ageing on fine lees in traditional 1,000-litre wooden Mosel old oak barrels–which aid spontaneous fermentation.
Wine style: ‘Intensely mineral and spicy Rieslings,’ (Stuart Pigott: 1995 p.48). ‘Unlike many organic winemakers on the Mosel there is no trace of dogma in Clemens. Wine quality is no less important to him than the production methods. He developed his own style of dry wine during the late 1980s: Rieslings with a firm backbone of acidity packed with fruit and flavour that the acidity is never dominant. Extremely fresh as young wines, intensely mineral. Wines from the Marienberg are some of the few truly outstanding dry Rieslings produced in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer,’ says Stuart Pigott (1995 p.52). Riesling said to show flinty herbaceous notes from spontaneous fermentation.
Wine labelling: The soil type each wine comes from is indicated by the colour of the bottle’s capsule: blue, grey or red (slate). This concept was suggested by a marketing friend of Clemens and was used from the 1986 vintage onwards.
Riesling Kabinett Trocken: 2007 12% alc. Balanced and clear at John and Pete’s with Andy and Silvana on Friday 17 Oct 2008 (Roussillon). Bottle bought the day before from Cosmos for €7.87.
Riesling vom grauen Schiefer: Village wine from parcels all planted on grey slate. 2011 Trocken.
Riesling vom roten Schiefer: Village wine from plots on red slate (eg. Rothenpfad). | 2009 Riesling Trocken. Nicely populist sweetness (Return to Terroir, 2011). | 2013 Halbtrocken. | 2014 Riesling vom roten Schiefer VDP Ortswein VDP Lot of texture, creamy honey, youthful, soft (Tenuta Manicor 24th June 2016).
Pundericher Marienberg, Fahrlay Grosses Gewachs VDP Grosse Lage: Riesling. 2009 Nice evolution. Ripe, honeyed, orange peel, no fat. Lovely creamy honey sweetness with marmelade orange spice. Very good (Seehof Keller 23 June 2016). | 2010 Riesling Auslese 7% alc. High incidence of noble rot. 12g/l acidity. | 2017 Riesling Trocken 100% Riesling from Fahrlay (see above). 12.5% alc. 6.6g/l residual sugar. A beautiful Riesling with pristine ripeness of flavour all the way through, with perfect balance, freshness, salinity and overall juiciness. Its richness of texture is in the background, allowing the Riesling’s fruit expression full range. It is such a hard style of wine to get right but is so easy to enjoy that you forget that making a wine so smooth, vibrant, balanced and clear is simple. Any aspiring student of Mosel Riesling should see this wine as a Lode Star, a template of flavour and analytical ripeness in total harmony.
Pundericher Marienberg Fahrlay Terrassen Grosses Gewachs: From ungrafted vines in the Marienburg. 2011 Some noble rot. | 2019 13% alc.7.4g/l residual.
Pundericher Marienburg, Falkenlay: 2011 Riesling Marienburg GG VDP Große Lage Falkenlay Hot year. Lots of extract in this, apricot notes (Tenuta Manicor 24th June 2016). | 2012 GG. 70-90 year old vines. Fermented in Mosel füder/holzfaß. 2012 was not easy. Picked from 22 Oct. 23rd was minus 6ºC. No leaves. Picked the rest. Like maceration on the vine. Worried. But worked out well. Quick ferment. Lovely mix of seductive fruit (honey, icing sugar) and very salty acidity. Lovely length too. Balanced sweetness. Honey/floral (Tenuta Manicor 24th June 2016).
Riesling Trocken Nonnengarten: 2015 Bottled.
Riesling (Alter)native: 2017 Bottled.
Riesling Trocken Rothenpfad Grosses Gewachs: 2008 Riesling. | 2009 1 Lage Riesling Grosses Gewächs Trocken 13.5% Bright sweetness, clear style (Return to Terroir, Melbourne 15th March 2011). | 2010 Riesling Grosses Gewächs. | 2014 Riesling Marienburg GG VDP Große Lage Rothenpfad Incredible acid and texture, ethereal, lots of depth, not much overt weight (Tenuta Manincor 24th June 2016).
Weissenberg: Riesling planted in the 1940s. Red slate. Spicey wines.
Weingut Clemens & Rita Busch
56862 Pünderich, Germany
Tel+49 06542.22180 | Website: www.clemens-busch.de
Stuart Pigott, The Wine Atlas of Germany and the Traveller’s Guide to the Vineyards (Mitchell Beazley, 1995).