It seems as if there is a causal connection between the name and the location of the winery Fritz Haag. The connecting element is the so called “Juffer”. Juffer, meaning something like damsel in the Moselle-Franconian dialect, seems to fit like custom-made to the wines of the winery Fritz Haag. They are elegant, delicate and contain never ending strength and freshness. Oliver Haag keeps the locations Brauneberger Juffer and Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr at the top in today’s generation. He himself thinks puristically and you could call the wines “Moselle pure terroir”. The idea to accompany the wines gently and extremely precise as a flavourful reflection of the soil and the climate is a sufficient criteria for high quality. But the Moselle offers more. Extremes within its geological robe which offers unique conditions for the Riesling. Indeed perfect conditions to get an incomparable sweetness-sourness profile. Uncopyable. The interplay between the sweetness, the freshness, minerality and filigree together with ripeness and depth is only possible in this regio. The key for harmony is a moderation of the extreme. This is a necessary condition for extraordinary wines, a liaison amoureuse, between purism and the triad of fruit, sourness and sweetness. Oliver Haag succeeds to offer a whole repertoire of predicates from dry to sweet with an unique understanding of winemaking in his luggage. Although the most harmonic accord is still to be awaited for his top wines: The ripeness. Time becomes timeless – just like the never ageing “Juffer” in Brauneberg.
2016, Brauneberger Riesling, VDP.Ortswein
Of course, fruit on center stage. Citrus and peach aroma set the tone. Everything seems very clear and precise. Balance is very well integrated. Minerality and strong zest complement it at the background layer. This is a charming wine that is already really well elaborated.
2016, Brauneberger Riesling -J-, trocken, VDP.Ortswein
J? Let´s start our journey into the “J”uffer, which is where a lot of the grape material comes from. And this wine accelerates. Everything seems tighter, more present and stronger. Citrus and apple still remains in the foreground layer impression although it is being supported by a more complex corset of spiciness and minerality. The texture seems full-bodied and finesse and elegance swing by. The finish mirrors once again a more complex structure.
Pure Juffer perfomance.
2016, Brauneberger Riesling Kabinett, VDP.Ortswein
Kabinett par excellence! Sourness is dancing with sweetness, vibrating with ease together and around each other. On center stage the typical Fritz Haag minerality enriched by smoky and lemony notes. Zero Gravity. Well done.
2011, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese
Fritz Haag shows how to bring ease, potential and strength together in one wine. Ripeness forms the noble. Everything seems to be coherent. Fruit, sweetness, acidtiy and minerality building more complexity. The texture amazes with its tightness and nothing seems too loud. Very energetic. The long finish reflects the wine clearly. A very big wine!
If you would make music you would probably be a rock star. What makes the wines of Fritz Haag so good?
Pop star, I don’t know… I personally do not see myself as so popular. If you refer to wine I would see our vineyard rather in the jazz scene or in the section of the good old rock bands like CCR or Tom Petty. Classic, catchy and timeless.
What makes your wines the way they are?
Precisely I’d say that it is elegance, typicity, traditional handicraft and clarity. We want light wines, precise and full of minerality which the terroir of the Moselle enables us to elaborate.
The two locations Brauneberger Juffer and Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr are world-famous. What are the differences of the stylistics of the wines?
Both location are a quiet similar in their soil composition and exposition. Only the wines from those locations have this very own character.
The Riesling from the Juffer are young, fresh and charming. But still, they show a playful side with a feminine touch. You could say that they own this pure style and that the name really fits. Juffer means damsel in the Moselle-Franconian dialect.
The wines come from the most different section of the Brauneberg. Some are in cooler locations at the mountain edge and some are located in stony and steep parts within the heart of the Juffer.
My dad always says that the Juffer of Brauneberg is the only damsel that becomes better with growing age. (chuckles)
The Juffer Sonnenuhr is in comparison a slightly warmer location. It is situated in the best location of the stony heart of the Brauneberg and its wines reflect that very well. They are deep, strong and still light-footed. You can also recognize a tighter and edgier structure in combination with rich fruit and great spiciness.
Just to understand a Riesling by Fritz Haag a bit better: Which attributes are essential?
Mostly essential is that we are a family business with a long history of which we are very proud. All our vineyards are steep slope exposed with a very high amount of blue devon slate which holds a perfect grounding for our Riesling. This unique terroir gives our wines the elegant, precise and mineral structure and shows its origin.
We have a clear separation in our quality classification and especially within predicates. Clarity is also part of the character of our wine. We want the highest possible quality and purity of the fruit, which is only possible by selecting the grapes by hand during the harvest.
Another, and also most elemental attribute is the drinking and accessibility. Wine is supposed to be fun, shared and it should mostly be drunk. Our classification from the VDP is simple, internationally understandable and reflects the origin.
When looking at the grand crus (Große Gewächse), it is the complexity that fascinates. How do the wines develop over time and after how many years are they on their climax?
The great crus become more expressive, spicier and more complex with growing age, but without losing its freshness. The special thing is the complexity of those wines. The riper they become, the more the primary fruit steps back and changes into a great juicy and ripe fruit.
Recently, we opened a bottle of 2005 Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling GG at my dad’s 80th birthday. The wine was just incredible. Still remarkable fresh, delicate and with an incredible tension and infinite facets. That is a Großes Gewächs. Only the right amount of ripeness really shows which potential these wines are able to develop.
Generally spoken, a Großes Gewächs have an amazing drinking ripeness after approximately 5 to 10 years. The Juffer Sonnenuhr needs about 7 to 12 years. But these recommendations differ from vintage to vintage.
In the end, it is a question of personal taste when to open these wines. Some people like aged wines, other’s prefer the younger facets of the Riesling.
What are the most important priorities you set regarding the wines or the brand?
Personally it was important to pursue the 400 years history and the quality thoughts of my dad. The traditional style of the Moselle wines is something timeless and will always remain relevant. Especially the fruity-sweet wines made the Moselle so popular. And why would you want to change something about that?
The dry and fine stylistics have always been part of our winery. We were able to extend and improve this segment because of all the experiences that I was able to gather at many different companies.
I am convinced that we can grow unique Riesling in all flavours at the Moselle terroir, far away from the mainstream.
Further more we grew in the last few years. And that happened in a controlled and healthy way. There have been many opportunities to buy nice steep sloped land of the Juffer and Juffer Sonnenuhr and around the Brauneberg.
In the past years, the procedure of production has changed. By using modern techniques, we are trying to keep the traditional handicraft and to simplify. Like this, we are able to work even more gently, sustainable and selective.
What was the most peculiar story/comment at a wine tasting?
The most peculiar thing happened during an export journey to Taiwan. I have been on tour within the country with our importer and we had a wine dinner in the evening. The topic of the evening was meant to be: “Fruity-sweet Riesling in combination with hot and spicy food”. It all started very chilled and the food pairing was very well done. But at some point in the evening the chef was a bit to generous with the spice. I am personally not too fussy when it comes to hot food, but when even the locals are starting to sweat and their faces become red… The situation and reactions of the other guests around me will forever remain in my thoughts. A fiery evening!
Can you give us a tipp about what we can find in your wine cellar (besides your Riesling)?
You’d find a few nice wines from some colleagues.
My favorites are, besides Riesling, Burgundy wines. For example, I really like the Pinot Noirs by Domaine Dujac from Morey-Saint-Denis or the Chardonnay by Guy Roulot. The Burgundy is an incredibly exciting region and it has so much quality to offer. In Germany it is the Pinot Blanc by the winery Wöhrle from Lahr (Baden). Not only because Markus is a university friend of mine but because his wine is just how I like it the most: clear, playful, fruity, elegant and with a bit of smoothness. Simply balanced and juicy. Year after year with plenty of flow.
What else are enthusiastic about?
Family is in first place. On the weekends I always stand on the sidelines at the football matches of my son – that is a must!
And there’s also good food. It is simply a great experience when wine and food harmonize well. That is a science of its own that always fascinates me.
Just as an outlook: Where would you like to be a winemaker and why?
I am a “Moselaner”! You do not think about pitching a tent somewhere else. I would find it interesting to grow Pinot Noir in the Northern Burgundy or at the Loire. Pinot Noir is a grape variety that reflects the terroir where it’s grown on perfectly, just like Riesling. But the Moselle will always be my number one.