We’ve never done a piece that might be classified as an obituary. But I’d like to note the passing of a great man, a significant influence on Blair as well as myself, and hopefully introduce a few people to his family estate. 

In days gone by, when planes were things you just jumped on, Blair and I would occasionally set out on a couple of weeks of tasting wineries we particularly admire. Obviously Burgundy would be high on the agenda. But there was always just one pinnacle slot: Weingut Fritz Haag in Brauneberg. Willhelm Haag would greet us with his famously fierce handshake and we would settle in a for two hours or more of a journey through his most recent vintage, followed by a bit of time travel to older ones. 

The conversation was always animated but light hearted. Willhelm showed no hint of his status at the pinnacle of German wine production and administration (David Schildnecht has a comprehensive tribute at The World of Fine Wine, which details his formidable achievements). The wines danced, as they always did. Light, faintly effervescent, perfumed, the absolute epitome of delicacy and grace, a vintage would gradually unfold in fifteen or so wines, most of them from the same vineyard: his beloved Brauneberg. On one occasion, on reaching the Spatlese from Brauneberg Juffer Sonnenhur (2005, I think was the vintage) Blair blurted out: “I think I might cry. This is the most perfect flight of wines I have ever tasted.” We looked around and there, in the window of his room, a wild deer was peering in, observing us with curiosity. It seemed we had transcended to a unique place and time for the morning. 

Not only did he almost single-handedly raise the Mosel’s reputation back to international prominence in the 70’s and 80’s (we should always also acknowledge the role of Ernie Loosen in this regard), but he saw both his sons make their mark. Thomas, the elder son, moved down the road to Schloss Liesser, initially making the wines, then managed to buy it a few years later. Today it has a reputation to rival Haag, though the wines are quite different is style. Willhelm handed the reins of the estate to his younger son Oliver in 2005 but was never too far out of sight. Oliver has shown that he has the same mastery of Haag’s distinct style in the years since.

He was always gracious and complementary of our own wines and visited our winery on one occasion. 

When you taste our Rieslings, you taste something of Willhelm. When a winemaker has a profound influence upon another, as was undoubtedly the case here, the word hommage comes to mind. Our wines aren’t a copy of his, that would just be too crass, but there is an unmistakeable stylistic confluence. Ultimately, his achievement was not just to his winery, or his region, but to the national success of German Riesling. Nobody seeing this energetic elderly man, striding through the streets of Brauneberg, would guess he was a titan of his craft. But he was no less than that. We salute you, Willhelm.

Nigel and the team at Felton Road