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Hans Selbach: obituary

German winegrowers are mourning the death of Hans Selbach, who was long a quietly influential producer in the Middle Mosel.

Selbach, 76, died of cancer on 4 February. His forebears had cultivated Mosel Riesling since 1661.

In 1961, Selbach entered the family’s négociant firm, J&H Selbach Weinkelleri, which was incorporated in 1920, and remained an owner until his death. Today, J&H produces 1.5m bottles a year.

In 1964, Selbach took two hectares and established Weingut Selbach-Oster in Zeltingen, owning it until 1993, when he turned it over to Johannes, his son.

Johannes, currently the J&H managing director, describes his father as ‘an old-style wine merchant who knew everyone and could get the best barrels, which others couldn’t get.’

At Selbach-Oster, Hans played a significant role in matters ranging from viticulture through winery economics until his death. ‘I consulted with him every day,’ Johannes said. ‘He was an indispensable well of information and experience.’

Although ill in January, Hans collaborated with Johannes to produce the 2004 vintage report, published on 25 January. It said: ‘Finally a vintage again that sings, “I’m a classic,” it brought ‘everything from very good QbA up to beerenauslese.’

Hans, grower and winemaker, spent long days in his vineyards. The 16-hectare, 11,000-case Selbach-Oster estate owns choice parcels, some with ancient ungrafted vines, in the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Graacher Domprobst.

Selbach-Oster wines, typically balanced and true to their terroirs, are sold in the United Kingdom, in Europe and across America.

For years, the close-knit Selbach family, with Hans a luminous presence, played host to legions of wine critics and others who passed through the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region.

Hans Selbach is survived by his wife, Sigrid; sons, Johannes, Peter, Jochen and Uli; three daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York

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