Markus Molitor is a mixture of hard work, German pedantry, ambition and, above all, vision. Many honor the traditions of the region and work diligently to create wines, but it was the vision and dream of Marcus to return the Moselle Rieslings to their former glory that set his winery apart from hundreds of others in this picturesque region.

Now, after 30 years of hard work, Markus owns 15 vineyards scattered throughout the Moselle Valley, from Brauneberg to Traben-Trarbach, and in 2001, the Saarland was also added. Despite the relatively small distances between vineyards (sometimes we are talking only a few meters to the right or left), each of them differs in its microclimate and, most importantly, soil.

Take, for example, Brauneberger Klostergarten, in the small town of the same name – its soil is rich in fine granular slate mixed with a lot of stones, which gives the local grapes a lightness and pronounced minerality. The clones of Pinot Noir are mostly planted here – a decision taken by Marcus’s colleagues at one time as an eccentric experiment. Move a little north and get to the Ürziger Würzgarten site. Here we again encounter slate, but the place of stones is occupied by iron-rich mail, which is why the slope, when there is no foliage on it, stands out for its reddish color. The grapes from here are renowned for their vibrant character, full of spices, ripe fruits and fresh, balanced acidity, and are especially well suited to sweet Spätlese wines!

The Ürziger Würzgarten vineyard is famous for its reddish-red soil

To all appearances, Marcus is not going to stop. Last year it became known that he, together with the famous Moselle winemakers Van Volksen, bought about 14 hectares of old vineyards on the Geisberg slope. Marcus himself does not expand on this, but, according to information from the famous wine critic Jancis Robinson, copies of old documents that came into her possession indicate that white wines from this slope rich in blue shale were sold at auctions at a higher price even at the beginning of the twentieth century. than the famous Château Latour. The 1970s crisis caused by the high cost of slope work in the Moselle led to the complete demise of the winery that created Geisberg, and in more than 30 years the vineyards were overgrown with bushes and trees. Markus and Van Volksen decided to breathe new life into the winery and give wine lovers an opportunity to appreciate one of the legendary Rieslings of the past.

– In 1984, you bought the vineyards from your father and began to produce wine under your own name – to put it mildly, an unusual story. What was the main motivation for this decision? When did you first realize that you wanted to become a winemaker?

– As a 19-year-old boy, I stood at the foot of the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr vineyard and realized that it was this vineyard that was producing some of the best, if not the best wines in the world at the beginning of the 20th century, and some of the most expensive wines of that time were also produced from grapes harvested on the steep slopes of the Moselle valley. This thought deeply settled in my head, and I wondered: what happened? Why can’t we create the best and most expensive wines in the world again? The vines have not changed, the vineyards are also in place – you just had to start doing something.

– Did you get the idea to produce not just Riesling, but using traditional methods immediately or did it crystallize gradually, in the process of getting to know your vineyards, the art of winemaking and the peculiarities of the region?

“We have been practicing a very traditional approach to winemaking from the very beginning, back to the roots, as we call it. For example, for a more delicate pressing, we use a basket press, and we age the wine in large old wooden barrels. I have always wanted to produce the traditional Moselle Riesling, which for me personally means the highest quality wine (Prädikatsweine) from the vineyards on the north bank of the Moselle. Why from there? It’s simple – the wines from these terroirs fascinate with the interweaving of minerality, juiciness, acidity with light notes of residual sugar, and at the same time have a relatively low alcohol content. This combination makes Rieslings from our region unique and recognizable all over the world.

– Were there moments when you doubted your choice? What does wine-making mean to you?

– It seems to me that there is no other profession where so many seemingly incompatible things are intertwined. As a winemaker, you literally work with nature every day, then go to wine cellars or an office to meet clients and wine connoisseurs from all over the world – it’s incredibly interesting! In addition, nature is constantly changing and every year presents us with new surprises. This does not make our work easier, but it definitely adds an element of surprise and makes us constantly learn and learn something new. And last but not least – I was lucky to be born and work in one of the most picturesque wine regions in the world – how can you not love that? So I never doubted my choice.

– You mentioned certain terroirs, and I can’t help but remember Burgundy, where winemakers pay special attention to the peculiarities of the terroir. How important is unlocking the potential of this or that terroir to you and did you take inspiration from Burgundy?

– Each vineyard has its own inimitable character. The soil, its location in relation to the sun (facing south or not), the grape variety and of course the angle of the slope have a huge impact on how the wine turns out. Sometimes vineyards are located next to each other, but the slightest difference in one of the points mentioned above – and the character of the wine changes diametrically. This influence of the smallest details and peculiarities of the terroir on the winemaking process really makes the Moselle look like Burgundy, and sets a difficult goal for me – to reveal every detail and every note in the wines that we produce. Therefore, during the harvest, we manually pick the grapes and divide them into different quality categories: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, etc. Considering that we have about 15 vineyards in total and we carry out such a division in each of them, every year we get the opportunity make a lot of wines. On the one hand, all these wines are classic Moselle Rieslings, on the other hand, the unique character of each vineyard, the vintage, the quality of the grapes and the style of production make them unique.

Soil full of slate has a huge impact on Markus Molitor wines

This is a time consuming but interesting approach, and I am not going to change it. We return to the basics of Moselle winemaking and help our wines regain their former glory, showing wine connoisseurs from around the world the unique character of a true Riesling.

– Let’s talk about the Moselle. Every year your region becomes more and more popular, and for sure this has a certain impact on the region as a whole, and on winemakers. Is this a positive development for you or is it not?

– It’s just wonderful! Over the past 20 years, the Moselle wine region has experienced a kind of revolution – a new generation of winemakers who want to return the Moselle to a leading position among wine regions again focuses on tradition and using the strengths of the region and local grapes. This mood is transmitted to the old-timers. There is a feeling of general friendship, loyalty and a spirit of cooperation – we share our experience with each other and thus work towards a common goal: to popularize the Moselle and its wines. Such a leap in development would have been impossible in the absence of recognition – the international awards received by Moselle wines in recent years not only popularize our wines, but also motivate winemakers to do more, which cannot but rejoice.

– In 2014, three of your wines at once received 100 points from the Wine Advocate expert Stefan Reinhardt. Phenomenal result! But what did that mean to you personally as a winemaker and did it affect you?

“These awards are recognition of our hard daily work in vineyards and wineries. I am happy that by receiving these awards, I was able to draw the attention of the world wine community to the Moselle and the wonderful Rieslings that are produced here. If I manage to return this grape to the fame and glory that was at the beginning of the twentieth century, I can say that I have achieved one of my personal goals. Therefore, we can say that for me the Wine Advocate awards did not change anything, but only confirmed my confidence in the correctness of the chosen path.

– Among the wines that you prefer, are there wines from a completely different wine region or even a country? What is your favorite wine?

– I am absolutely captivated by the wines of Moselle, but if I need to choose something else, then most likely my choice will fall on the wines of Burgundy, for which I have a special passion. The wines from Pinot Noir are Rieslings from red wine: they have a filigree structure, rich in aroma and taste and, most importantly, very drinkable. Perhaps, I am captivated by the fact that, as in the Moselle, Burgundy winemakers practice a very individual approach to their work: not a single smallest detail remains unnoticed by them and is taken into account when creating wine. In addition, just like us, Burgundians pay great attention to the peculiarities of a particular terroir, which, of course, affects the quality of the wine.