Winemaker Talks: Rita Busch
Clemens Bush wines are amongst the finest of Mosel and their winery was on top of my list during my trip. Clemens was not around but I was lucky to meet Rita Busch for the first time to speak about their grape growing and winemaking philosophy.
Farming in Mosel
“We have been farming organically for more than 30 years and started with biodynamic in 2006,” says Rita. “We are not perfect, but we continue to learn” she adds, with her humble smile.
Clemens Busch winery owns 17 hectares in Pünderich. Like many other producers, their vineyards are distributed around the village. The small size of these plots makes it difficult for many producers in the region to be organic. “It is impossible to use machine and it is a lot of hand work on the slopes,” says Rita. There are only three organic producers in their village including them, and only two in the neighbor village.
In Mosel, one immediately notices the helicopters flying around and spraying the vineyards. I ask Rita how they protect their vineyards from these helicopters. “When the pilot does a good job, there is less influence. But it is not only the helicopters. When neighbor grape growers spray by themselves, this also has an effect on us. However, there is still a significant difference between our vineyards and theirs. For example, if our neighbor uses chemical preparations for botrytis, their grapes are greener in the end and ours are more yellow and riper. It is easy to distinguish our borders.” She also adds that avoiding organic farming just because the neighbors don’t practice is just an excuse people use.
Rita also explains that they use herbal mixtures, teas and chamomile in the vineyards to enrich the soil and create nutrient sources. Sulfur and copper are also added to fight fungal diseases.
Mosel is famous with its slate soil. Clemens Busch has vineyards around the village with diverse soil type. Rothenpfad for instance is dominated by red slate which results in spicy, herbaceous wines. Their famous vineyard Fahrlay on the other hand is comprised of blue slate and Rieslings from this site show a salty character with finesse.
In the winery, they mostly use traditional Fuder. (1000 L) These old barrels are around 60-80 years old. “We are not interested in the wooden taste” says Rita. When there is not enough space in the barrels, they use stainless steel.
The yeast often stops fermenting naturally and their wines are mostly dry. (Around 4 -6 g/l residual sugar). With some Reserve wines, they leave the wine up to two years on full lees. “With long lees contact, the wine loses its primary fruit flavors but the intensity and the structure of the wine gets better.” she tells.
Bottle ageing is also crucial for high quality Riesling. Rita says that sometimes their partners in wine shops/restaurants do not represent the wines at the right time. “The ageing time is often 5 to 8 years for our wines. Some vintages need more than a decade. If there is more sugar left, it can stay longer. With certain vintages, we are only satisfied after twenty years” she adds.
Their Riesling from Marienburg Fahrlay Terassen and Falkenlay are among my favorites. They also produce an orange wine with low sulfur level, for orange wine fans. If you are a Riesling lover and still never tried Clemens Busch wines, well, it’s time!