Maturity is the glory of years, they say, and it’s proven once again in this focused, dry Riesling of cool purpose and slate-driven momentum. Ancient Riesling vines ranging from 60 to 130 years evoke aromas of summer flowers, orange blossom, apricot and lime. This linear beauty walks a taut line of citrus and herbal spice with razor sharp acidity.
Electric, Featherlight Rieslings from the Saar Valley
Weingut Zilliken is one of the leading wine estates of the Saar region in Germany. Renowned for the steely precision of their Rieslings grown in the very cool climate and slate soils of the area, the Zilliken estate built its reputation with intense, yet delicate and nearly weightless Rieslings that “float like a butterfly.”
The estate is currently managed by Dorothee Zilliken, who has been working with her father, Hans-Joachim “Hanno” Zilliken, since 2007. She took on full responsibility in 2016, with the ongoing guidance of Hanno, and the indispensable help of her mother, Ruth, and husband, Philipp.
The Saar River Valley
The Saar is a small wine region along a tributary river that joins the Mosel at Trier, on Germany’s western border with France. Of the Mosel region’s 8,800 hectares of vineyard, the Saar region accounts for only 735 hectares (1,837 acres). The narrow river has a minimal mitigating influence on the regional climate. That, combined with the higher elevations here, creates very cool conditions that produce wines of lighter weight and brighter acidity than the Mosel. The soil is primarily gray Devonian slate, which lends a pronounced raciness and delicacy to the wines.
The Zilliken estate owns 11 hectares (27.5 acres) in the town of Saarburg, exclusively in the top-class Grosse Lage Rausch vineyard. In addition, they own one hectare (2.5 acres) in the Bockstein vineyard in the neighboring village of Ockfen.
The Zilliken Approach to Winemaking
The Zilliken family seeks to carefully preserve the potential that the wine carries within itself. For them, wine is created on the vine; you cannot add anything in the cellar. So their greatest effort is in the vineyards, where meticulous attention to detail leads to healthy fruit and optimal ripeness for each style of wine. Their approach in the cellar is traditional and simple, with fermentation, clarification, and maturation all happening naturally in old Fuder casks.
“Our goal is to produce Rieslings with the highest level of finesse and lightness,” says Dorothee. The result of the family’s dedication is graceful wines of crystalline purity that express the rocky soils and cool climate with concentration, intensity, and length.
With a climate that yields restrained ripeness and striking acidity, the style here favors wines with balancing sweetness. About one-quarter of their production is dry, with another 25 percent in the off-dry style, and the rest in the range of sweeter styles.
Accolades for Zilliken
Germany’s Winemaker of the Year 2017 — Gault Millau Wine Guide
Estate Sales Tools
The estate’s top dry wine from the best parcel of the Rausch vineyard. Delicate aromas of ripe melon, lemon curd and meadow flowers and a cool herbal austerity open a nose of breathtaking beauty and elegance. Deep, refined orange, passion fruit and candied lemon dance across the nearly vertical palate, while the grippy texture is redeemed by a pliable, persistent acidity.
This medium-dry wine captures the ethereal “floats like a butterfly” character of Zilliken Rieslings at an entry-level price. Bright and juicy, with moderate alcohol, this butterfly soars high on citrus and floral wings. Playful, tangy flavors of lime and granny smith apple are heightened with refreshing accents of lemon balm, with a zesty, zippy finish.
Like the song says: summertime and the Riesling is easy. This is the fruity (“lieblich”) counterpart to the Butterfly Riesling. Pretty flavors of citrus and orchard fruits drift like a lazy raft on a summer lake while the crisp acidity balances the fruitiness and keeps the wine nearly weightless as it floats across the palate. Long, meandering finish of lemon zest and apple tart.
Produced with early harvested fruit from estate vines in the town of Saarburg, this village-level Riesling Kabinett exhibits the ethereal delicacy that is a hallmark of the Zilliken estate.
The sleek, modern lines of elegantly balanced fruits skate seamlessly from vineyard peach to pineapple to melon and back, accented with a delicate spice and grassy herbality. But it’s the lithe minerality and almost velvety texture that truly steal the show. A vibrating acidity binds the individual pieces together into a beautiful cohesive whole and linger into a long, grapefruit finish.
Grown in the steep, slate slopes of the historic Rausch vineyard, this Kabinett entices with a stunning blend of filigreed mystery and finesse. Delicate aromas dance from ripe apple and grapefruit to lemon verbena and wild mint on the smoky slate foundation for which the Rausch is known. The sprightly character continues on the palate, playing peek-a boo from beneath gauzy layers of fruit, herbal elegance and spice. Balanced juiciness with great grip, crisp acidity and a long, lingering lemon finish. Still quite young but the future ahead is bright and beautiful.
Fruit driven finesse is marked with a delicate florality in this late-picked Riesling. Notes of vineyard peach, grapefruit, juicy lemon and ripe passion fruit come together on a creamy, concentrated palate rich with melon and candied lemon peel. Stunning exchange of racy acidity and layered sweetness together form a perfectly poised whole. The long, juicy finish and fantastic vintage hint at a beautiful future yet to come.
The stunning, unmistakable complexity of exotic fruit aromas and smoky minerality enhanced with fragrant lily and rose accents could only ever be from the steep slate slopes of the Rausch. Clarion flavors so exceptionally pure that each one seems to fall from the wine like a ripe piece of fruit into a waiting hand. A focused acidity cuts through the richness like a fog light on a stormy Atlantic night. It will reward a considerable cellaring.