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Joh Jos Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling Goldkapsel 2017

Riesling from Mosel, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany


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Check out all of the wines by Joh Jos Prüm

Why is this Wine so Yummy?

This week the importer of JJ Prüm held their annual Prüm brekky. What a way to start the day! Devouring 13 wines from Kabinett to Goldksapsel and …..

For the 1st time 3 Long Gold Auction Wines!

Today we offer Prüm’s 2017’s. A year where Wehlener Kabinett is insane. From Spätlese up Graacher Himmelreich and of course Wehlener Sonnenuhr shone, and the Zeltingers showed just how much life and personality the have.

The piece de resistance 2 stunning Wehlener Long Gold Caps from 1999 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Lange Goldkapsel (rated 98 points in 2018) and Wehlener Sonnenuhr Beerenauslese Lange Goldkapsel (rated 100 points in 2018)!

1999 is a year considered to be close to the level of the legendary 1929.

The Spätlese are looking mighty fine!

If you listen carefully to the glass you’ll hear the good ones whispering ‘DRINK ME! DRINK ME!’

“Few estates in the world can claim to have maintained the highest quality standards uninterrupted for half a century and more.  Joh Jos Prüm, the most famous of the many Mosel wine estates bearing the Prüm name, is one estate that can.  Since the early 1920’s its wines have been among Germany’s best, Rieslings with the Mosel’s vivacious aroma and racy elegance in its highest form.” Stuart Pigott, The Wine Atlas of Germany

5 Part 2017 Vintage, Vineyard & Wine Review with Katarin Prüm & Mihalo Martinovic

Paul’s Summary

The Graacher’s and Wehlener’s proved their class at all levels. The wines have less of the Prüm stink than in the past! Something that always dissappears with a little bottle age.

The Auslese Goldkapsels were delicious across the board. Only at the Goldkapsel level did the Bernkastler rise to the standard of the others.

Overall the year is a classic one.

The 2016’s were less differentiated. With the 2017 the vineyards show themselves much more. There is a distinct sense of vinosity with the wines. The Kabinett’s are up at 9% alcohol.

Texturally the wines are stunning. The acid is so fine with great line and length. The increase in phenolics & botrytis through the range adds even more divine supple layer.

Across the board, there’s more energy and perfume in the wines.

To describe the vineyards across the range:

Bernkasteler producers the most approachable and immediately generous wine.

Graacher shows delicacy, sophistication, is very elegant.

Zeltinger is edgy with intrigue scent of jasmine flowers and more phenolics. Although not as refined as Wehlener it is playful and full of personality

Wehlener has such incredible power yet remains sophisticated. The impressive acid from the site enhancing the mouthfeel.

My picks, best at each level first:

Kabinett – Wehlener then Graacher. Drink the Graacher first and hold the Wehlener for a little longer. Kabinetts are just such fun drinking! These will need more time than the 2016’s.

Spätlese – Wehlener, Graacher, then Zeltinger. Lovely textural element in the Graacher and edgy personality of the Zeltinger. The Wehlener is tightly coiled and getting ready to explode!

Auslese – Wehlener then Graacher. More typical alcohols at 7.0- 7.5%. The balance in these is superb the nose on the Wehlener is explosive, again the palate waiting to explode.

Auslese Goldkapsel – Wehlener, Zeltinger + Graacher line ball, then, Berkastler good, not at the level of the others. These special selections took everything to a new level, poise, sophistication, complexity, harmony, such delicious wines. The Bernkastler the most apparently rich and luscious at the moment, it will be surpassed by the Graacher, Zeltinger and Wehlener as they age. The Goldkaps see a selection with greater botrytis than the standard Auslese and in years such as 2017 with such high-quality botrytis it makes a massive difference layer in additional complexity a texture.

Long Goldkapsel – Released publically for the very first time, these typically only go to the famous auctions. To have 3 of them direct from the Pruüm cellars, 2 with 20years of age on them is a real treat! The 2017 Bernkasteler Lay was delicious. Not up to the price for me. The real insanity came with the 1999 Wehlener Auslese & Beerenauslese. Just a few drops on your tongue and the flavours will linger for 10 minutes! To have access to perfectly mature wines direct from the cellar at this level of deliciousness is something special indeed.

About Prüms Goldkapsel wines

Think of them as limited edition, rather small production lots of the best Auslese of a vintage. They are made from stronger selected grapes containing higher concentrated juice, usually affected by a certain amount of botrytis / noble rot, capable of aging even remarkably longer than “basic” Auslesen, lasting for many decades. In the course of time, they lose some of their sweetness, gain more and more elegance and harmony and the complex profile and depth come to the forefront. The labels are exactly the same, just the capsule and of course the price are different!

The German System

Wow, even the most dedicated wine geek often has trouble getting their head around the German naming systems, something they’ve been working on simplifying!

When it comes to wines containing some level of grape sugar, the Germans have a classification that dictates ranges of sugar levels grapes for a specific wine must be picked at, in essence establishing a framework for the ripeness, amount of Bortytis and shrivel / raisoning the fruit should have when picked. The amount of grape sugar left in the wine after it has fermented, is up to the maker.

All of this super detailed information is interesting to know.

At the end of the day the most important thing is whether the wine meets those standard criteria for good wine. During Riesling Down Under it was great to hear winemakers from around the world, all saying they don’t care much for the numbers, they picked their fruit on flavour and made their wines to achieve balance and harmony.

The following is courtesy of Dr Loosen, who sums up German Riesling styles with sweetness beautifully

The Versatility of Riesling

Riesling is one of the few grapes that is capable of producing a complete spectrum of wine styles, from bone dry to lusciously sweet. The key to maintaining top quality throughout this broad range lies in a rigorous selection process. As the harvest progresses, we make daily decisions about each vineyard parcel based on the maturity of the fruit and the prevailing weather conditions. Healthy grapes are painstakingly separated from botrytis-affected fruit, and the various selections are vinified separately.

Classic Wines with Sweetness

Our traditional wines, with residual sweetness, are selected from the harvest according to their ripeness and flavour development. The finest lots from our classified vineyards are bottled with their corresponding single-vineyard name and ripeness (Prädikat) level. For the non-botrytis wines, there are two Prädikat levels, Kabinett and Spätlese.

Beyond the lightly sweet Kabinett and Spätlese bottlings, made without botrytis, there are three Prädikat levels of botrytis-selection wines that get progressively sweeter: Auslese, Beerenauslese [berry selection] and Trockenbeerenauslese [dried berry selection]. In addition, when vintage conditions allow it, we produce Eiswein from grapes that have frozen on the vine.

The picture from Dr Loosen above is a great illustration of the different conditions of grapes at harvest and the styles they are destined to make. You can see the level of Botrytis and shrivel / raisining increasing as we move through the styles from Kabinett to Trockenbeerenauslese. The Botrytis or Noble Rot, imparts wonderful flavours and textures to the wine, and is to be revered like the blue moulds of Rocquefort and the washed rind cheeses of Munster in Alsace, appropriately both cheeses marry beautifully with a glass of Riesling.

Note how the buckets are colour coded according to the end destination of the fruit and how little of the Trockenbeerenauslese is produced. The skill of pickers and willingness to pass through the vineyard several times to ensure all grapes are picked at the optimal time is the key to success.

The freshest style is Kabinett and as you move up the scale you’ll see additional complexity added by botrytis and other winemaking influences in addition to greater levels of sweetness. Each style whether Kabinett or Eiswein being perfect for consumption on different occasions with different foods. The Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and, Eiswein being exceptional dessert wines. Kabinett and Spätlese being suited to table wine consumption. The standard line for the German’s being that where the English offer tea to guests in the afternoon the German’s offer Kabinett or Spätlese wines, more akin to a table wine. That said I devoured a Wagner-Stemple Kabinett, with pasta and cheese on a 38°C day in Melbourne, perfection! Auslese sitting on either side depending on the style the estate makes.

This intense sorting process is beautifully articulated by Ernie Loosen from 2min 25sec in the vineyard below.

Prüm is an estate that prides itself in making beautifully balanced wines, no matter what the sugar level, that age incredibly well.

In 1993 I was hoovering bottles of Prüm, Spatlese and Auslese from 1983. All were still fresh and vibrant, yet, they had settled beautifully, showing great poise. These wines are from climates that often deliver bracing natural acidity. For the wine techies, pH is ofter 2.9-3.0, lower than, but, not far off Champagne, and, loads higher than Coke at a pH of 2.4. Again all the detail is irrelevant, the balance, poise and harmony in the glass being what really matters.

If you have any doubt about just how good these wines are, read this extract, from the article ’10 Things every wine lover should know about JJ Prüm’ by Stuart Piggot.

Take a look at Wine-Searcher’s summary of the world’s 50 most expensive wines, and you’ll find that none has as many white wines listed as Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm. This estate, located in the village of Wehlen in Germany’s Mosel wine region, is also known to wine lovers around the world as “J.J. Prüm”, or simply “J.J.”

Its Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) takes sixth place in the most-expensive list, with an average price of $5647. At #32 is the estate’s Riesling Beerenauslese (BA), and the Riesling Eiswein is at #43. All of these wines are from the famous Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard site.

Recent auction results at Zachy’s give an idea of J.J. Prüm’s desirability. In September, 12 bottles of 1983 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese “Gold Cap” sold for $2450, and at the La Paulée auction in March two lots of 3 bottles of 1959 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling TBA each went for $15,925.

What makes this achievement all the more remarkable is the fact that as a category, sweet whites still struggle to gain the popular recognition which experts accord them, and all the “J.J.” wines stand out for their finesse and delicacy rather than their power.

“The wines, whether a modest Kabinett or an opulent Beerenauslese, are the epitome of filigree elegance: light in body but intense in flavour, exquisitely balanced and precisely tuned, and capable of the most extra-ordinary longevity.  With the rise of so many excellent winemakers in the region, one might have supposed that J.J. Prüm, with its profound conservatism, might have been overtaken and left behind. Not a bit of it. The Estate remains where it has been for decades: at the summit.”  Stephen Brook, The Wines of Germany, Mitchell Beazley

The Prüm Estate

The film below explores aspects of Prüm with the 2013 Vintage as context. Although not the year we are offering there are some worthwhile insights shared.

The Mosel River Valley is probably the most famous and arguably the most admired wine region in Germany. In its wider sense, it includes the adjacent Saar and Rüwer (hence Mosel-Saar-Rüwer), both tributaries of the Mosel River, however, it is the middle Mosel (mittelmosel), in particular between and including the towns of Bernkastel-Kues and Erden that the most brilliant wines tend to be produced. Bernkastel, Grach, Wehlen, and Zeltingen are some of the most famous wine towns here. All of the vineyards of J.J. Prüm are located within this prestigious strip. The Prüm family history in the Mosel dates back as early as 1156! However, Johann Josef Prüm (1873 – 1944), founded the J.J. Prüm estate in 1911. Dr Manfred Prüm has led the estate since 1969. Now his daughter Katharina is taking over the mantle. The 13.5 hectare estate includes some 70% of ungrafted vines (because the phylloxera louse cannot survive in these slate soils.)

So what is the secret is to the quality of the J.J. Prüm wines? How is it that they differ so much in style and quality from the wines of most other Mosel producers? The answer, as always, lies mostly in the vineyards, backed up by winemaking of the highest order. Great sites, old vines, the lowest yields, very late harvesting and selection of only the best berries. In the winery, the winemaking is as natural as possible with as little intervention as possible. The wines typically need several years to start showing their best and can live and develop for decades. Generally speaking, the later the harvest, the longer the wine can live, so Spatlese is more age-worthy than Kabinett, Auslese more so than Spatlese, and so on.

All of the vineyards of J.J. Prüm are renowned yet it is the great Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard that is the most famous. This site lies opposite the village of Wehlen on a very steep, south-west facing slope between the Graach and Zeltingen vineyards. Stuart Pigott notes; “For wine lovers around the world, the Wehlener Sonnenuhr name is synonymous with great Riesling. In top vintages, the site yields the richest, silkiest, most seductive wines on the Mosel. The fame of these Rieslings is inextricably linked with that of the Joh Jos Prüm estate.” Having said this, Prüm also produces outstanding wine from benchmark sites in Graach (Graacher Himmelreich), Zeltingen (Zeltinger Sonnenuhr) and Bernkastel (Bernkasteler Badstube) and it is very difficult to pick these wines apart in blind tastings – they are all exceptional. Yet they all subtly express the unique personality of the vineyard in a given year.

The Vineyards in the Mosel Valley

Although the J.J. Prum vineyards all border each other along the same riverbank and share roughly the same soils (Devonian slate),  each site has subtle, yet important differences that result in quite distinctive styles of wine. We explore these in more detail in the wine reviews below. The vineyards we are looking at in this offer are those of Wehlener Sonnenuhr – The Sundial of Wehlen, Graacher Himmelreich – The Kingdom of Heaven, and, Bernkasteler Badstube.

You can see just how incredibly steep the vineyards of the Mosel can be and how dominant the slate rock is, often driving the root systems meters into the hillside.

The best vineyards of Germany’s Mosel Valley are incredibly steep, south-facing slopes with mineral-rich slate soil and a favourable position near the river. Excellent drainage and the heat-retaining quality of the rocky slate soil also help to produce fully ripe, concentrated wines. The combination of these elements results in racy, mineral-inflected Rieslings that are fruity, crisp and very refreshing to drink.

Map by Fernando Beteta, MS @fernandobeteta on Twitter

Bernkasteler Badstube is the last of the vineyard sites that can appear on a J.J. Prum label. This vineyard borders those of the Graacher Himmelreich on the latter’s southern edge. The Bernkasteler Badstube slopes are on a marginally shallower gradient, with deeper soils than the Graacher and Wehlener, while the western orientation allows the vines longer exposure to the afternoon sun. The Badstube typically produces a wonderfully floral, delicate and mineral wine. Overall, the wines are usually slightly more delicate in structure and weight when compared with the wines of Graacher or Wehlener but they are wonderfully racy and fine examples of the middle Mosel.

Graacher Himmelreich directly borders the southern edge of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard. The wines from this site often often challenge those from its more famous neighbor, especially in hot, dry years. Graacher wines  attract with their racy acidity, a pronounced minerality (that reminds of crushed rock) and slightly different fruit aromas and flavours (more in the citrus spectrum). Often, the wines become accessible slightly earlier than the Wehlener Sonnenuhr and are deliciously mouth-watering when young. Looking at the vineyard conditions, the hill faces slightly more westwards than the  Wehlener Sonnenuhr , i.e. it has a more south-west exposure, it is a little less steep and has deeper soils which act as excellent water reservoirs.

The Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard has become intrinsically attached to the name of Joh. Jos. Prüm. The Estate owns five hectares of this majestic site. It offers perfect growing conditions for the Riesling grape with its deep, weather-beaten grey slate soil, good water support, extreme steepness of up to 70 % gradient, and its optimal south-south-west exposure. As for the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Wehlener Sonnenuhr is named after the sundial erected in the vineyard in 1842 by Jodocus Prüm, an ancestor of J.J. Prüm, to give the workers a better time orientation. The wines of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr generally possess excellent structure, show beautiful, ripe aromas and flavours (typically stone fruits, like peach, nectarine, apricot), a fine minerality and great depth and length. Especially after having been aged for some years, the harmony, finesse and expression of these wines is unique. Riesling guru Stuart Pigott has written; “Joh Jos Prüm’s Sonnenuhrs are classic examples of the way in which the best Mosel wine’s natural sweetness magnifies, rather than obscures, their character. These are a perfect marriage of Riesling’s peach-like, floral and mineral aspects. White wine cannot be fresher, more vivid and delightful.”

JJ Prüm’s 2017 Vintage Report

Quality-wise, 2017 vintages made us happy – quantitiywise, we were less satisfied. The Prädikate harvested reached from Kabinett to TBA level, with a focus on Spätlesen and Auslesen. There was a good amount of botrytis developed, which we carefully selected for the higher Prädikate. Rather high acidity levels, only slowly decreasing during the harvest period, came along with the concentration of the grape juice, promising very vibrant wines. Katarina Prüm.

Read the full report here.

Preparing a Prüm Wine to Drink

Prüm’s winemaking often results in a burnt match aroma in young wines and wines just opened. As the wines age the character tends to dissipate. If you’re drinking a young Prüm it’s worth making sure you have time to allow it to breath in glass or to decant on opening if necessary. The 2016’s have less of this character than previous vintagious.

After Prüm with a few years on it? Check out all of our Prüm wines!

92 Points

This 2017er Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese GK starts off with a whiff of volatile acidity, which peps up the rather rich and ripe scents of apricot, mango, honey, smoke, ginger cake and spices. The wine is superbly playful on the palate but still on the sweet side in the finish. A good acidic structure runs through the finish and gives it grip and crispness. 2027-2047

Jean Fisch and David Rayer - Mosel Fine Wines

95 Points

Initial whiffs are quite earthy but time and aeration brings out gorgeous lemon and white-blossom aromas here. The palate is deeply penetrating with layers of sweet white grapefruit, mango and pineapple accented by racy strikes of acidity and steel. A light footed but luscious wine, this is delicious now but will improve through 2035, and hold further. *Editors' Choice* (AI) (3/2019)

Wine Enthusiast

96 Points

Lush but not thick, dense and complex yet supple and light, this auslese shows concentrated creamed honey, citrus and sweet mint notes, all seamlessly flowing across the palate. A terrific sweet Riesling. Best from 2024 through 2047. *Collectibles* (AZ) (1/2019)

Wine Spectator

Where in the world does the magic happen?

Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm, Uferallee, Bernkastel-Kues, Germany