JJ Prüm: Magic from the Mosel (2001-2011 vertical)
Can I make a suggestion to any of you in the London vicinity? Keep next May free. The whole of May, just in case there is another JJ Prüm tasting event at the West London Wine School, as there has been for the past 2 years. It is becoming the most anticipated tasting event in my wine calendar and without doubt offers the best value for money with eight top quality wines to taste at £45 a pop (link to last year’s event).
JJ Prüm you see is a flag-bearer for all that is good about German Riesling. From an estate of only 22 hectares where only Riesling is grown, the estate has been at the top of it’s game since the Weingut’s inception in 1911. Where other German estates have moved to making dryer styles of wine to suit international tastes, JJ Prüm have stuck to making “fruity” wines, they have stuck to the model that has been in place since Johann Josef’s son Sebastian started making wines in 1920.
When Sebastian passed away in 1969, his son Dr Manfred Prüm took over the estate and since 2003 his daughter Dr Katharina Prüm has been overseeing this wonderful operation. The 22ha are split across the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Bernkasteler Lay, Bernkasteler Badstube and Zeltinger Sonnenuhr vineyards; the most famous of these sites are Wehlener Sonnenuhr (vineyard of the sundials) and Graacher Himmelreich (vineyard of the kingdom of heaven), which are planted with ungrafted Riesling vines and produce some of the most complex and enjoyable wines available on the market today. Yields are highly (self) restricted and harvesting is late with an average production between 10,000 and 13,000 cases of wine; but no matter what the quantity, you can rely on the quality.
The original programme was for 8 wines but as one of the bottles suffered from cork-taint, Jimmy opened up an extra bottle from Graacher Himmelreich which just added to the evening’s enjoyment, which you can always rely on at a West London Wine School tasting event:
JJ Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett Riesling 2011 (£20 Hedonism)
Delicious aromas of red apple, peach and citrus with a touch of minerality and the merest hint of petrol; very pretty and very enticing. The fruit on the palate is really crunchy with apple, pineapple chunks and piercing lime acidity. This is beautifully balanced by the delicately rich texture and off-dry finish. This is a real favourite of mine that never lets you down; great balance and bursting with ripe and expressive fruit. I’m not sure there is a better white wine on the market for £20. 93 points
JJ Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese Riesling 2008 (£26 Fine & Rare)
Hugely concentrated lime aromas – smells like a pre-dessert sorbet – and some tropical fruits just starting to show themselves in the background. On the palate the texture is clean and glacial with bags of juicy peach and just a hint of mango and pineapple. The acidity is wonderful, leaving you with such a clean sorbet-like finish. So clean, so juicy, so fruity… almost reminds me of a grown-up lemonade Sparkle ice-lolly… dangerously drinkable. 94 points
JJ Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling 2007 (£30 Fine & Rare)
Bursting with the smell of sweet apples, all backed with a pure minerality like wet slate and a spicy, smoky note. The attack is so concentrated – like 20 freshly presses apples in a single glass; the palate is rich and the layers of muted but elegant tropical fruit just creep up on you. This Auslese is luxurious and long, as ever the balance is pitch perfect, it’s quite grown up, it’s quite wonderful. 94 points
JJ Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Auslese Riesling 2005 (£32 Fine & Rare)
What a vibrant and complex nose; apple, peach, nectarine and passion fruit, with hints of sweet honey and a fresh slate note to boot… so sexy! The fruit on the palate is sweet, vibrant and ever so sexy (sorry, but it is!) – it’s like an entire fruitbowl has been squeezed into the glass. Elegant and glacial with perfectly pitched acidity that is so bright it dazzles; I love this wine. 95 points
JJ Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling 2005 (£52 Fine & Rare)
Much more mineral on the nose than the Graacher and the fruit is muted, still classy and very apply; this is a nose that speaks of the vineyard. Rich and sweet on the palate but again, muted compared to the Graacher from the same vintage. The apple and subtle tropical fruit, especially mango, is very clean and very graceful and the acidity is very lively and keeps coming, giving the wine an amazing length. This wine has a long life ahead of it – if you’ve got a few bottles from this fabulous vintage, don’t be in any rush to pop those corks. 94+ points
JJ Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling 2003 (£42 Fine & Rare)
Very earthy and mineral compared to what has gone before; there is some peach and apple fruit but it is very tough getting much out of the glass – it’s very closed right now. Like the nose, the palate is very calm with nothing jumping onto the tongue; the fruit is there but it’s fast asleep right now and I’m not convinced it has the elegance or grace of 2005, 2007, or 2008. This is still a very well made wine but it just gets lost in this high-end company. 90 points
JJ Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling 2001 (£70 Cadman Fine Wine)
Enchanting mix of fruit and earth on the nose with apples, tropical fruit, a wisp of smoke, something spicy and very enticing and the clean and mineral aromas of old slate; this is also the first time I’ve got the notes of marmalade-like botrytis. The juicy fruit sits right at the centre of the tongue; peach and nectarine with a wave of super-ripe mango. The acidity is like the Death Star’s laser beam it’s so bright and it cuts right through the sweetness, giving it such a balanced finish. The texture is rich without being cloying, the fruit is juicy and many, the balance and elegance is sheer class… where’s the chequebook? 96 points
JJ Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Goldkapsel Riesling 2009 (£57 The Wine Society)
Goldkapsel usually refer to small amounts of wine the winemaker deems to be of an even higher quality and is usually made in very small quantities; this was my first experience and I certainly hope it won’t be the last! Ripe peach and mango fills the nostrils, before the apples and limes takeover and then that musky-sweetness of botrytis, all intermingled with wonderful wet slate. On the palate it’s concentrated like a marmalade or peach conserve, but not cloying in any way. The richness is super-charged; it’s like everything has been turned up to eleven! This really is a super charged Wehlener Sonnenuhr and I’m sure it will outlast my days… but do you know what, If I had a case I’d open another couple of bottles this year… just in case! 97+ points
As I wrote earlier, one of the bottles for the tasting was’t right (lucjkliy it was one of the 2003’s!) so Jimmy opened a bottle Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese 2009. At the beginning of the evening we had been discussing how young JJ Prüm wines can have a big whiff of sulfer when they are first opened; this has nothing to do with the amount of sulphur as JJ Prüm use a lot less than most in the Mosel, but a character from the natural yeasts in the vineyard. The sulphur note blows away after about 15 minutes so be sure to open those young bottles half an hour before your guests arrive!
JJ Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese Riesling 2009 (£25 Fine & Rare)
The nose starts out all mineral and earth but then it blows away and the bright and cheery sweet fruit I expect from Graacher come to the fore; zippy citrus, nectarine and pineapple… Yum. The palate is young and a little closed but there is plenty of bright tropical fruit and zingy acidity to keep the interest. It needs a few more years to reach it’s peak, but I’m not sure it will be as high as some of the wonderful nectar we’ve consumed this evening. 92+ points
I hadn’t been feeling particularly well all week leading up to this tasting but the thought of the best kind of medicine from the Mosel kept me going and do you know what? It certainly put a big smile on my face and made me feel 100% better… hopefully I’ll see a few of you in May 2015?