As a special tribute to our recently retired German specialist Michael Schmidt, we are bending our wine of the week rules to allow him to point us in the direction of a wine that does not fulfil our usual criteria of being available retail in both the UK and US, but it certainly fuilfils the third criterion of being a massive bargain.
From €9.50 plus any delivery costs needed
I may have retired from JancisRobinson.com but one never retires from wine. One of my hobbies, to which I dedicate some of my new spare time, is looking for wines that cost less than €10 but, if tasted blind, I would have been prepared to go to more than €20 a bottle.
One recent weekend I managed to escape from my cat-sitting duties in Trier, where my son lives, to the remotest end of the tiny Mosel tributary the Ruwer for a quick tasting at Weingut Wolfgang Mertes in the hamlet of Waldrach. Wolfgang Mertes was the winemaker of the famous Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt estate for many years and is now doing the same job at the equally famous Saar estate von Hövel.
I found out only recently that he has a small estate himself and curiosity got the better of me. To put it in a nutshell, he is making my kind of wines at prices that I can afford. Authentic dry Riesling with acidity that grabs you by the sensory lapels is one attraction, but he was also the first to plant Spätburgunder in the Ruwer Valley, in 1987, which was at the time regarded as an act of sheer folly by his fellow Ruwerian growers. His Cuvée Lara Spätburgunder trocken is grown on the steep slopes of slate above the village shown above and would not look or taste out of place in a line-up of Spätburgunder Grosse Gewächse.
With almost zero residual sugar, it does not cater for the enthusiasts of cuddly and mellow red, but teaches you a sensory lesson of minerality with a delicate dash of fruits of the forest. The price at the winery, €9.50, is a bit of a joke, but he thinks his customers would not be laughing at anything in double figures.
The Ruwer is so small that it hasn't even got a tourism board, so let me do a little marketing here instead. If you go to visit Germany's oldest town Augusta Treverorum (Trier) to visit the famous Porta Nigra, it's only a 10-minute drive to the Ruwer. It's well known for the estates of Maximin Grünhaus and Karthäuserhof at the lower end of the valley (see some enthusiastic notes on their Spätburgunders here), and Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt at Morscheid. But if you go and see Wolfgang Mertes, he'll be pleased to see you and you will be pleased you went there.
Wine-Searcher list the wine, but no retail stockists. You could order it direct from the Weingut Wolfgang Mertes website (in German only). See his price list with its 25 different offerings, from a 2020 Spätburgunder feinherb rosé at €6 and a 2020 Riesling trocken at €6.50 to a 2002 Riesling Eiswein at €35 a bottle. The 2018 Cuvée Lara Spätburgunder trocken is all of €9.50.
UK-based readers make like to see Buying direct post Brexit for tips on how they might be able to buy from a German vintner without driving there. Our apologies to those who live really far from Germany to whom this week's choice may be theoretical only.
Image of Waldracher Meisenberg, where the main share of Cuvée Lara comes from, by kind permission of Vinaet.
See all 1,800 of our tasting notes on German Spätburgunders.