Clemens is my kind of guy - self-effacing, whip-smart and wholly dedicated to his craft. Seriously, he was the fifth generation of the winery to be named Clemens, and he broke the chain, naming his son Florian. Not self-serious, either. This estate that has been in the family for generations, Clemens began early in the 1970s and pondered it differently: could we be doing this better? What are all of these chemicals doing to our land?
It wasn't enough that the vines tunneled through slate, but with Clemens and wife Rita's help by way of wholly organic (and later biodynamic) viticulture starting in the 80s, all of a sudden the vines churned out even greater fruit, with the stunning concentration needed to create tremendous dry wines. Let me just say this: to grow vines here requires nothing short of madness - the good kind. Vines churning through layers of volcanic slate, three colors in fact, which Clemens undertook as a lifelong mission to redefine as three separate parcels as they were historically known before German wine laws lumped them together. He also shows off the slate colors with the capsule colors - red, blue, gray.
Dry wines are the name of the game here, as alluded to. The GG wines in particular are to be paid attention to, as "GG" alludes to "Grosses Gewächs," or "Great Growths," which is essentially the German Grand Cru. In terms of winemaking, well, let's say that this wine is truly made in the vineyard (did you see the picture of the rocks?). Clemens adds nothing until bottling, when only a touch of sulfur is added. Wines are allowed to begin naturally fermenting in 1000L foudres, and allowed to finish in their own time.
There are the 'regional' wines, which in this case are 'slate' wines: Vom Grauen Schiefer, Blauen Schiefer and Roten Schiefer all are named after the kind of slates (Grau = gray, Blau = blue, Rot = Red), and are a declassified or young-vine blend of the sites consisting of those slate types; a terrific entry to the range.
Fahrlay showcases the most structure, perhaps - it's terrifically showcasing the steely mineral tone of the blue slate while still providing ample white floral tones and great texture. The Fahrlay Terrassen comes from the terraces of the same vineyard, where only a cluster or two from each vine remain, resulting in phenomenal concentration and riper flavors. Falkenlay is perhaps the most protected from the whipping winds, historically many producers' favorite site in Pundericher for its concentration of candied fruits, the gray slate providing a beautifully refreshing mineral strike.
Felsterrasse, trust me, you don't even want to see these terraces or your nose will bleed. Similarly to the Fahrlay Terrassen, there are very few surviving clusters, so you can expect concentrated, ripe citrus and orchard fruits, with crystalline minerality. Raffes may be the unknown gem, though, as Clemens selects a tiny parcel from the Falkenlay's best terrace where the concentration and power are the greatest.
All told, we can't phrase exactly just how phenomenal these wines are - different from Keller or Prüm, as the humble man behind these wines lets his vineyards show their own personality, and acts merely as the conductor to this complex symphony of vineyard land.