Wednesday, 21 May 2014

J. J. Prüm vertical tasting 2011 - 2001




A few months a fellow blogger that I know (thanks Ant!) tipped me off about a tasting that West London Wine School were undertaking. He knew that I was a big fan of German wines and the tasting that he brought to my attention was a tasting of one of the most famous producers (J. J. Prüm) from one of the most famous German wine areas (the Mosel). As soon as I saw the list of wines that we were going to taste I booked a ticket immediately. There was no way that I was going to miss this.

The session was led by the charismatic and charming Jimmy and there were about 25 of us in the room. Jimmy noted that there was a time when a tasting of German wines would have been quite sparsely attended, but this no longer applies; indeed, there were double the number of attendees at the Prüm tasting then there were at his last Bordeaux white wine tasting. The image of German wine, it seems, has finally recovered from the damage done in its nadir of the 70s and 80s.

Jimmy gave us a lot of very interesting, useful and, often, first-hand information about the Mosel and the Prüm Weingut - both of which he has visited. In recent times as German wine producers have set about righting the wrongs of the 70s and 80s there has been a move away from producing off-dry and sweet wines towards the drier end of the spectrum; the modern wine palate evidently craves dry white wines. 

The Prüm family, however, have stuck to their guns and even their Kabinett (traditionally the driest wine) is off-dry. Their focus is on producing wines at the sweeter end of the scale; Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, etc., for more information on this (I know it can be confusing), check out Wikipedia on German wine classification). 

According to Jimmy, when Wine Searcher listed their top 50 most expensive wines ever, three of these came from Prüm - more than any other producer. These wines can have an extraordinarily long life, it is possible to drink them when they are young, but most connoisseurs will tell you that you need to wait at least twenty years to allow these wines to really express themselves! In fact, some Prüms from the 19th century are, apparently, still drinking rather well!

During the tasting we made our way through nine different Prüm wines. Before I go through them individually I would like to make the following general points:
  • As these wines all tend to be on the sweeter end of the spectrum, they tend to be relatively low alcohol (I think they were all less than 10%). This makes them excellent pudding wines or for an aperitif.
  • The real hallmark here was how, even as the wines got sweeter, the balance of the wines was preserved through the drive of the acidity in them. They really did avoid the trap that some sweeter wines get into when they can become cloying or even unctuous. These were light, charming and refreshing.
 
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett Riesling, 2011 (£20 from Hedonism wines): Pale looking, it has a mixture of green (apple) and stone (peach) fruit. Certainly exhibited aspects of minerality. On tasting it was rounded and soft from the sweetness, but the acidity gave it a fruity kick. Lovely fresh finish. 7.5/10 - easy drinking and pleasant, also very good value for the price.

Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese Riesling, 2009: We had it when it was just opened and it exuded a characteristically Prüm "burnt match" aroma. Slightly held back on the nose, with some floral notes coming through as well as the fruit. 7.0/10 - pleasant, but not a show-stopper.

Wehlener Sonnenhur Spätlese Riesling, 2008 (£26 from Fine and Rare Wines): Complex and aromatic on the nose; not as much fruit present. Mineralic elements still present, with a marmalade style flavour and a balanced finish. 8.0/10 - slightly more complex.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling, 2007 (£30 from Fine and Rare Wines): A touch more golden then the previous wines. Completely different nose, twinge of sulphur with a touch of spice - intriguing. Juicy and fruity to taste, with more tropical (mangoes) and honey notes coming through. The acidity was less pronounced here, but still in good balance. 8.5/10 - definitely more developed than the 2008.

Graacher Himmelreich Auslese Riesling, 2005 (£32 from Fine and Rare Wines): This was heady, fruity, aromatic and complex. There was a whole spectrum of fruit present here, all the way from green fruit to tropical. On tasting it was elegant and poised with the sweeter fruits coming through, I got nectarine and mango. 9/0/10 - wow, just wow! This is considered one of the great recent Riesling vintages and this wine was just delicious. Whilst certainly not cheap, I would say that this is priced very reasonably for what is an exceptional wine.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling, 2005 (£52 from Fine and Rare Wines): This wine was markedly different from the last, despite being the same vintage. It had a noticeable sulphur note and was much more reserved on the nose. On the palate it was a little more full-bodied than the GH and a touch sweeter. 8.5/10 - we felt that this was a wine that wasn't quite expressing singing yet, it is going to take more time to come through than the GH.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling, 2003 (£42 from Fine and Rare Wines): From an extremely hot vintage, this was more musty and mineral on the nose, with a lot less sweetness coming through. 7.5/10 - I felt that this was a pleasant wine, but not nearly as remarkable as some of the others.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling, 2001 (£70 from Cadman Fine Wines): This was rich and yellow to look at, with slight bubbles present. Had a distinctive petroleum smell, which was followed by a bucket-load of fruit; a very complex bouquet. On tasting it had slightly more power than previous wines. There was a hint of marmalade on it, but with a swoosh of acidity which gave it great balance and a lovely clean finish. 9.0/10 - elegant and classy, this was voted the class's favourite wine (although it wasn't mine)

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Goldkapsel Riesling, 2009 (£57 from The Wine Society): This had more colour in it than other similarly aged wines. On the nose it was heady and intriguing, with tropical fruit notes; but on tasting it came alive! I wrote down on my notes that this was a sexy wine - supercharged Riesling! The Prüm Goldkapsel brand is produced from their highest quality grapes, hence the mark-up on price. 9.5/10 - this was clearly infanticide, whilst it was fantastic now it is only going to get better; if I had the means I would have no hesitation in buying a case of these and trying to forget about them for the next twenty years...

There you have it - what a tasting! The great thing about this for me was that I really felt I got to know the wines from this estate and appreciate how they develop over the years. I should also note that there were some exceptionally tasty and well thought out nibbles provided, which were very welcome. Thanks to Jimmy and the team for putting on such an excellent tasting - you can find a list of upcoming tastings at West London Wine School here.

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