In 1992 when Thomas Haag, brother of Oliver at Fritz Haag, started as operations manager at the Mosel estate of Schloss Lieser it is fair to say that its reputation was not what it had once been. In existence since 1904, the estate was somewhat neglected by the early 1990s and Thomas immediately set about improving matters until, in 1997, he and his wife Ute purchased the estate and with the free hand afforded by ownership they have been able to put it firmly back on the map. Many now consider it one of the top ten estates in Germany.
They own 9 hectares or so of vines, in parcels at a number of superb sites, including Graacher Himmelreich, Lieser Schlossberg, Niederberg Helden and Juffer Sonnenuhr in Brauneberg. Thomas has introduced wire training for some vines, which is unusual in the Mosel but which he believes not only allows them to be worked more easily but also helps him to keep yields low. At harvest time he makes several runs through the vineyards to ensure that each bunch, and even part bunches, are picked when they are at optimal ripeness.
After the crush the grapes spend some time on the skins to extract flavour and aromatics and then dry wines are inoculated with cultured yeasts while sweeter wines are allowed to ferment spontaneously and slowly using the native yeasts present. Fermentation is always in stainless steel because Thomas is convinced that it helps to retain acidity, particularly in the sweet wines.
Since Thomas took over there has been a slow shift towards the production of drier wines to reflect the nature of the market in Germany and 35% or so are now made dry. Whatever the sweetness levels of the wines, they all reflect the wonderful tension between fruit and acidity that creates intensity without sacrificing grace and they show beautifully after a year or more in bottle.