Hauth-Kerpen • Wehlen • Mosel

We visited Martin Kerpen on our first day in the Mosel in 2007. He had had a splendid vintage. Terry Theise awarded him Winery of the Vintage in his portfolio, and it was well deserved. But while we were talking, I happened to mention that I was now importing wines myself, and had picked up four German estates. Martin, who is around Six Foot Eight, or Nine, stood up suddenly, inquired a little more, muttered something, and then went running out the room. I looked at Dennis and Vicky; we all shrugged, having no idea what this was all about, and waited for him to return. When he did, it was with bottles in hand, bottles from another winery. These are my cousin’s wines, he said. If you like them, perhaps you’d consider importing them. I think I was too surprised to say anything more than ok, sure, why not?

Of course they were lovely wines, from Wehlen mostly, and had been made by a much older man, his cousin, Edward Hauth-Kerpen, who lived about three doors down the street, right on the Uferalle, rather closer to the famous Wehlen bridge. His cousin was retiring, Martin explained, and, though a good vintner, had never been much of a marketer (and oh, did I sympathize with the man then; how well I know that particular problem. And can I interest you in my new book of poetry???? ) and thus, had never sold his wines beyond a small circle of private clients. Well, this was interesting, indeed. We tasted several wines right there, and then walked down the street, knocked on his door, and tried more of them in his cousin’s modest home, in the kitchen, if I remember correctly. Herr Hauth-Kerpen is shy, a man of few words, who seemed astonished that his giant cousin could barge in with three Americans who suddenly wanted to import his wines. But it’s true. I did. And do. They are sensational. Martin is taking over the estate now, and, with the 2006 vintage, or is it 2005? I can’t remember, he became the cellar master/winemaker. But his cousin has no reason to fear comparison. However lousy at selling his wines he may have been, the wines themselves are terrific. What’s more, he has reasonable stocks of older wines available, all at attractive prices. Believe me, I will take full advantage of that. For now, though, we have several recent wines and two older. By the way, the label is delightfully old fashioned, and I will lobby to keep it that way. (Further note: I’m afraid I’ve lost this particular battle; Martin wants to modernize.)

The wines of Wehlen are always, it seems, the lightest and most evanescent on the river, if not in all Germany. They are light, but they have a tremendous burst of flavor. For me, they are the absolute quintessence of German wines. And the excellent estates, from Joh. Jos. Prüm, and the various other Prüms, not to mention Selbach, Schaefer, Kerpen himself, Meulenhof, and others I am surely forgetting, make beautiful examples of Wehlen’s personality. You will love Hauth-Kerpen if you love classic Mosel. They are dangerous wines, easy to drain in minutes, easy to open up another bottle and drain it. Is this a complaint? Hardly.

You should also know that Martin is making a wine, sometimes a liter, sometimes not,  for us  (see mad scientist above) according to my specifications (beginning with the 2007 vintage) which, given the wretched dollar, should comfort us on those gloomy evenings when we think the world of wine is getting just too expensive.

20070125Germany and Austria 2007