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19 March 2021

Egon Muller – Riesling Royalty

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Tagged: Wine Making Closer Look

 

Cult Wines recently highlighted how German fine wine is entering an exciting period, with Rieslings and Pinot Noirs representing a growing investment opportunity. Here, we highlight one of the producers in the report – Egon Muller.

Boasting some of the best terroir in the Mosel region alongside a prestigious heritage, Egon Muller wines are icons of the Riesling world. But this family estate is not running on reputation alone. It continues to create a magical range of Rieslings and is at the forefront of the growing excitement surrounding German fine wine.

Egon Muller is the only German name in the Primum Familiae Vini, an exclusive group of the world’s most renowned winemaking families. Their story began in 1797 when Jean-Jacques Koch acquired the world famous Scharzhof estate from revolutionary France, which had occupied parts of modern Germany and auctioned off vineyards held by monastic orders. It was one of Jean-Jacques’ daughters, Elisabeth, and her husband Felix Muller that then expanded the estate, passing it on to their son, the first in line of Egons who expanded production of world-class Rieslings. Their Scharzhofberger wines were winning prizes as far back as the Paris World’s Fair in 1900.

Today, winemaker and owner Egon Muller IV creates a range of styles from off-dry to the luxurious trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) that command high praise and prices.  The TBA ranks among the most expensive wines in the world with bottles averaging over $15,000, according to Wine Searcher.

The estate’s strength comes from its 8.3 hectares of the 28-hectare Scharzhofberger vineyard.  On the steep slopes of the River Saar, the vineyard’s weathered slate soil stores heat extremely well, while cool breezes off the river bring beneficial temperature fluctuations.  Egon Muller’s parcel can create exceptionally concentrated and long-lasting wines, benefitting from a portion of vines planted in the 19th century that still have ungrafted rootstocks. To get the best out of this terroir, Egon keeps yields low and chemical treatments to a minimum.

Egon also puts his Riesling expertise to work at the nearby winery Le Gallais, which his father acquired in the 1950s, and further afield in Slovakia (Chateau Bela) and Australia’s Adelaide Hills (Kanta). However, the iconic status and unique attributes of the Scharzhofberger vineyard make these wines exceptional, ensuring their position as a sound long-term investment. Although the entry prices may be high, the below chart shows different styles have delivered healthy gains in recent years.

 

Egon Muller Index

3-year price performance of 2013-2017 vintages*

 

Egon Muller Index

 

Recent vintages in the Mosel region appear to be getting better, partially due to a warming climate.  Although hot, dry summers can increase risk from sunburn or pests, it also means ripe grapes every year with concentrated flavours. “The last three years have all seen September harvests, which if I had told my father, he would have called me crazy,” said Egon about the recent vintages.

Critic scores suggest Egon got the harvest timing just right. Wine Advocate gave the 2019 Auslese 99 points, while the 2018 TBA received a perfect 100-point score (2019 not rated). This should only add to demand for wines that could become new benchmarks with decades of life ahead of them.

The below two charts shows this trend of higher scores for both the Spatlese and Auslese wines while also indicating relative value opportunities where average prices have not yet caught up to the high scores. We are finding similar patterns across all Egon Muller wines.

 

Price vs score comparison

Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spatlese

 

Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spatlese

 

Price vs score comparison

Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese

 

Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese

 

Although scores are not yet out for the 2020 vintage, indications are for a stunning set of wines after another warm, dry summer growing season. Despite October rain presenting some challenges for the creation of noble rot, a report from the winery expects the Scharzhofberger site to produce ‘excellent, mineral Kabinett and classically proportioned Spatlese wines.”