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Anne Krebiehl meets German winemaker Ernst Loosen

Published:  28 August, 2012

Ernst Loosen is a German winemaker and owner of the wine producer Weingut Dr. Loosen, located just outside Bernkastel in the Mosel wine region. Anne Krebiehl sat down for a chat.


What do you think of Riesling here in the UK?

I have a long experience of selling Riesling in this country; I started in 1983. If you look back to those days, the market was a disaster for Riesling and German wines, it was full of Liebfraumilch and Blue Nun. This is what ruined the reputation of these wines [Riesling]. Fine German wines used to be very important in the UK, nowadays that's dead. I have been working this market because I love England; I like the humour, the people, the lifestyle. I love this market and I thought there must be a way to get Riesling back and it was a very, very hard for the first 15 years to stick up for Riesling in the UK.


What was the turning point?

Possibly the end of the 1990s, when we started really to become successful. I came over here not because I sold a lot; I came because I loved it so much. It was a long, hard way. But you see, I think this is the difference with the people in England, they may take a long time to come back to something, but then they are very loyal, that is the difference to America, where you can have success because of scores, but they forget you just as fast. In England you have to have the patience to build the market continuously, even if you do not have an immediate success.


So much has happened in Germany itself - what about the younger generation of winemakers?
The young generation are almost all going dry, I am still a traditionalist, it's not that we don't do dry wines, in our estate in the Pfalz we only produce dry wines, but in the Mosel we are still huge fans of doing our traditional Kabinetts and Sptlese and botrytised wines. When it comes to dry wines I would say the major market for these wines is still Germany. It will take some time for the export markets to learn about these dry wines so this is still a mission. You have the bone-dry style, the light-fruity style up to noble style Riesling - there is much more to explain, it's much more difficult than having a Pinot Grigio or a Chardonnay - Riesling is more confusing.


From that point of view I would say we are still more successful in the export markets with the traditional fruity-style wines while in Germany we are very successful with the dry wines. I do not see a contradiction or conflict in that. The young guys often see a conflict, they want to promote their new-style dry wines but I think Germany has the tradition of both, why should I not continue this tradition?


What does the future hold for Riesling?
I think Riesling will have a great future in the UK, people will rediscover it - the wrong wines that did not have a drop of Riesling in them damaged the image of Riesling, that's the crazy thing. It's very difficult to fight against tradition and if Germany stands for anything, then we stand for Riesling in this country. When it comes to Riesling, then Germany is the benchmark. We should use that. We should stick to what we are known for and what we can do best.


What has the success of the Dr. L brand taught you?
I started a brand which is based on Riesling - Dr L and Riesling belongs together. It was the first time that we built a brand that said 100% Riesling, 100% traditionally produced, no Sssreserve, from traditional slate soils on traditional slopes; wine that is an ambassador for our region which shows typicity: it has this mineral crispness and acidity from slate soil, a lightness of 8.5% alcohol, and a level of residual sweetness. It is unique and it will always be from the Mosel. I have had requests to put other things in there, to produce more quantity but this would have been the start of the death of the brand. You lose identity and for me this is the most dangerous thing, you'd make more money but you'd ruin the brand, therefore Dr L will always be 100% Riesling, from 100% slate soil from the traditional slopes of the Mosel.


The 1996 vintage was the first we introduced. People adore having a simple concept, not having to bother with all these difficult names and to have a profile, I think this is the reason that it's still growing - and not at a cheap price, it sells at the £6.99 and £7.49 price point and it seems to work. People are willing to pay if it's a reliable product.

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