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Müller-Catoir? Let’s dance.

My name is Robert Walters, and I’m a Riesling lover. It’s been several hours since my last Riesling. If there was a self-help group for Riesling lovers, then I know that many of us would be members. Riesling Anonymous? At R.A. we would surely learn about the dangers of M.C. They would be right too - this storied Pfalz estate is now at the top of its game under winemaker Martin Franzen, producing many deliciously addictive beverages.

“For consumers who want Rieslings to dance across their palates, [Muller-Catoir] is certainly the best place in the Pfalz to shop, especially with the 2013 vintage.” Joel B. Payne,

The week we offer two such wines – the Estate’s entry level “M-C” and its top wine, the single vineyard monopole Breumel In Den Mauern. First up, the new, 2014 vintage of Muller-Catoir’s “M-C” dry Riesling is buzzing with juicy texture and fine grip. For an entry-level wine, it seriously over delivers. At the opposite end of the range, Franzen’s Breumel In Den Mauern – drawn from a small, walled clos within the Bürgergarten vineyard – has always been one of the greatest of the Pfalz’s Grosses Gewächs (great growths). Stuart Pigott once described a wine emanating from this vineyard as “…a wine of breathtaking brilliance”, Franzen’s 2013 reminds us why. It is more open, (and therefore more restaurant-friendly), seductive Riesling than a number of recent vintages. So if you’re prepared to take Herr Payne’s advice, let’s dance (link to our trade website).
It is over 10 years since Hans-Günther Schwarz, German wine’s cult hero par excellence, retired and handed over the winegrowing duties of this small, organic Pfalz estate to the young Martin Franzen. The succession sparked passionate debate among the German wine cognoscenti. Loyalists asked how the Estate could replace a living legend, a man synonymous with minimal intervention and the very concept of terroir in Germany, with an inexperienced graduate? It may have taken the best part of 10 years for that debate to die down (though it still seems to crop up ad nauseam in the dark recesses of internet message boards), but it looks like the talented Mosel-born winegrower has won over all but the most romantic supporters of the previous era.

Ten-plus years into his tenure, Franzen no longer works under the spectre of the Schwarz regime. While still very much his own man, the low-input blueprint drawn up by Schwarz has remained pretty much the same, as has the winemaking ethos of late harvesting, long, natural ferments and lees-contact.

Anyone tasting across the wines of both ‘eras’ is forced to wonder what all the hoopla was about. After all, we are talking about the same vineyards, the same cellar and the same family ownership. Of course, as with any great Estates, things evolve. There is no question that Franzen has brought more finesse and purity to the more lees driven character of the Schwarz-era wines without, we hasten to add, sacrificing texture nor intensity. While we are splitting hairs, we could also argue that the wines have become a tad more refined. Whatever. Any changes have been subtle. Under Franzen, just as they were under his predecessor, these are some of the most intense and pure-fruited Rieslings being made anywhere in the world today. They are amongst Germany’s finest just as Müller-Catoir is one of Germany’s greatest Estates.

Martin Franzen © James Broadway Photography

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