We don’t get much rest… After a delicious dinner in our wine hotel and a quiet night, we are expected the next day at 10 am in Saarburg, at Weingut Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken .

Riesling wie Schmetterlinge… Riesling like butterflies. With this cathword, taken from Stuart Pigott, Wgt. characterizes Zilliken itself… The well-known British wine writer and riesling fanatic Pigott continues: “… Despite their splendor, so light that they float..”

The Zilliken family is for over 250 years active in viticulture in the Saar valley. The status and reputation of the domain are mainly the work of the Prussian district forester (Forstmeister) Geltz Ferdinand (1851-1925). As a tribute to his work the house still bears its name. Despite the Second World War, in which the estate, the buildings and the cellar were destroyed and the vineyards severely damaged, the family endured and the company continued to exist. It is since Hans- Joachim Zilliken and his wife Ruth took over the company, that winery Zilliken could move up to the top.
In 1972, Hans-Joachim (called Hanno) finishes his studies at Geisenheim, in 1976 he takes over the responsibility for the cellar from his father, and in 1981 he takes over the business. In 2007 their daughter Dorothee comes along in the winery, after she has completed her studies in Geisenheim. She is the eleventh generation of winemakers in the family…

Wgt. Zilliken grows exclusively Riesling. Besides a small plot of 1 ha on the Ockfener Bockberg, all grapes come from the Saarburger Rausch. This vineyard, classified as Grosse Lage by the VDP, measures 26 hectares, is south to southwest facing and is situated just north of the city Saarburg. The slope is 60 %. 10 ha of Saarburger Rausch belongs to Zilliken.
The composition of the soil is unique here: fine weathered gray Devonian slate with a significant proportion of Diabas, a green-colored volcanic rock.


Slate ( back) and Diabas ( front) – Photo © Vrienden van de Riesling

According to Hanno and daughter Dorothee the presence of Diabas is important for the wines of Zilliken. “The Diabas lends the Rausch wines a particular elegance, finesse, precision, and marked acidity“, says Dorothee .

Winemaking is done in the traditional way here. All the wines are aged in old wooden barrels, which are stored in the deepest underground cellars of the region. Because of the proximity of a subterranean well, the humidity here is always 100%, whereas the temperature is constant at 10 ° C. According to Stephan Reinhardt the atmosphere in the cellar contributes to the style of wines at Zilliken. “There is something special in the wines, something ethereal, a cool flavour of a dark and humid forest. It was only when Hanno took me three storeys below ground to his cellar, that I recognized the volatile flavours at once.”
Of course the meticulous way of winemaking is also responsible for the unique style of wines. Fermentation is always spontaneous; wines are fermented in old oak barrels in which the wine are also elevated until time of bottling.


The damp cellars at Zilliken – photo © Vrienden van de Riesling

Some entries in the press:
Gault Millau: 4 grapes, in the 2013 edition the Saarburger Rausch Kabinett 2011 was rewarded as best Kabinett from Germany, and the Saarburger Rausch -1- Auslese as best Auslese from Germany. They did this over in 2014…
This year also, the Saarburger Rausch Spätlese “06 04” 2003 was proclaimed best noble sweet wine of Germany.
The 2011 Saarburg Rausch Riesling Grosses Gewächs was elected in the Feinschmecker Riesling Cup 2012 in Munich into the TOP 15 of dry Rieslings.
The Eichelmann guide allots Wgt. Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken year after year with honorable mentions.

We arrive promptly at 10 am at the new tasting rooms, built atop the ancient cellar. The acquaintance with Hanno Zilliken is warm and friendly. He will entertain us for more than three hours with his wines and stories …

Read also:
Wine trip to the Saar valley – part 1
Wine trip to the Saar valley – part 2
Wine trip to the Saar valley – part 3
Wine trip to the Saar valley – part 4
Wine trip to the Saar valley – part 5
Wine trip to the Saar valley – part 6
Wine trip to the Saar valley – part 7