2016 Joh. Jos. Prüm Frühstück

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Restaurant: Lucy Liu, Melbourne

Joh. Jos. Prüm really needs little in the way of introduction… and anyone even vaguely acquainted with me will know just how much I adore the wines produced by this estate. Amongst the producers that adhere to the ‘classically fruity’ Mosel style, these are just about the most brilliant. They are always pure and filigreed, even aristocratic in style with low alcohols and incredible depth of flavour. The Kabinette here are afforded utmost care and attention and are built to age almost as well as any Spätlesen or Auslesen.

Dr. Katharina Prüm is the current custodian of this estate. She is a very earnest, intelligent and kind woman… when I visited in 2016 I was very deeply moved by her generosity and hospitality. The first vintage she completed with her father, Manfred, was the very challenging 2003; those wines are very graceful indeed.

I consider myself fortunate because my visit to the Mosel in 2016 coincided with some of the first days of sunshine and dry weather that the region had seen in over a month. In spite of considerable disease pressure, this vintage turned out to be something of a triumph. The finest wines of 2016 are supremely elegant; acidities are higher than in 2015 and alcohol levels are lower. 2016 was a minimal Botrytis vintage, though Prüm’s Auslesen are not a style defined by ‘Edelfäule’… this is more or less found in the breathtaking Goldkapsel wines and the higher predicates.

The key sites here are the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Bernkasteler Badstube (which is actually a grosslage and not an einzellage). The former two are without a doubt the most famous with the Sonnenuhr producing the more succulent and fruit focused wines and the Himmelreich tending towards a racier and smokier style. Both the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Bernkastler Badstube yield brilliant wines; the Johannisbrünnchen site within the Badstube has, for instance, produced some brilliant eiswein in vintages like 2004 and 2015.

Prüm is amongst a handful of estates that releases cellar aged wines and we are fortunate in Australia to have access. This means that the brilliant wines of older vintages can be found on wine lists here. If you happen to stumble upon any 2004 Auslesen I strongly urge you to drink some. Furthermore, if you can purchase more than a single bottle then patience will be very generously rewarded. Some museum release wine was shown at this event.

Though other estates have offered beautiful 2016 wines to the Australian market, this is the first we have seen from Prüm… their wines are typically released late.

Please excuse the irregularity of my notes. I often struggle with note taking… but I’d like to share my impressions if I may. You can really take these with a pinch of salt (it’s for my own recollection more than anything else)… on the whole the Kabinette offer some immediate drinking pleasure and are more accessible than in 2015; they will of course still cellar comfortably. Many tasters were most taken with the Spätlesen. The Auslesen were mostly quite restrained at the moment. Overall quality of the 2016 vintage meets high expectations.

2016 Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett
Very charming and floral. Still open and drinking well.

2016 Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett
Racy as always, slightly saline.

2016 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett
Beautiful quality of fruit, supremely elegant. Plus length.

2016 Bernkasteler Badstube Spätlese
Good tension and very pure fruit. A delightful wine.

2016 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese
No note. Sorry. I enjoyed it, no doubt.

2016 Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese
Very tense, smoky, racy and with a firm finish. Really very good.

2016 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese
Slight sponti nose. A very succulent, charming wine with a long life ahead. Brilliant.

2016 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese
Very nice, elegant, light but not dilute, good tension.

2016 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese
Saline, nice concentration of fruit and great balance. Very long.

2016 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese
Silky, succulent, layered… ‘gilded!’ A very fine Sonnenuhr Auslese, very elegant and long.

2009 Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese
This is emerging from it’s closed down phase nicely. I had looked at a few unforgiving bottles in the past but this is showing more fruit now and that classically Himmelreich smokey note.

2012 Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese
Very much closed down but an excellent wine that needs a little more patience.

2012 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese
Silken fruit, slightly honeyed tone, good extract and structure. More showy than the Himmelreich Spätlese at the this stage but still needs time.

2003 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese
I remember being taken aback by the elegance of Prüm’s 2003 wines. I also tasted this in 2016 and I’m happy to again see it showing beautifully. Paraffin scented nose, smoky black tea I often find in Himmelreich even when young. This is again deserving of more time but you can comfortably approach it now.

2016 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese Goldkapsel
Very tense, brilliant acidity but aromatically subdued. Definitely closing down already. Allow for a long and peaceful hibernation.

2016 Bernkasteler Lay Auslese Goldkapsel
Sweet fruited, wonderful vibrancy and nice structure too. I noted that this was a favourite among tasters. A lovely wine and nice to see a Lay Goldkapsel bottling!

2016 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Goldkapsel
Many layers of flavour and texture here. Sort of chewy extract, savoury complexity and long… so long! A truly brilliant wine that I would love for my own (very small) collection.

2004 Bernkasteler Johannisbrünchen Eiswein
Not my first time with this wine but I was overjoyed to be tasting it again. 2004 is a favourite vintage anyway but this in particular sits at the very pinnacle of what can be achieved with the Riesling variety. A very evocative nose, incredible depth of character and such tranquility and grace not to mention length.

If anyone is interested, this is the menu we enjoyed across the five brackets at Lucy Liu. I’m rather a fan of this restaurant.

Betel leaf with tuna tartare, chive and soy.
Barramundi and scampi wonton with green onion and brown vinegar dressing.
Soft shell crab Jianbing spicy hoisin.
Crispy pork bun with spicy kimchi and Kewpie mayo.
Free range drunken chicken breast, shoa xing wine, spring onion and ginger dressing.

My beloved Koehler-Ruprecht

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It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this… but I’ve recently been enjoying the 2016 Kallstadter Kabinett trocken at my local wine bar and it’s reminded me of  why Koehler-Ruprecht is one of my very favourite wine estates.

Stuart Pigott and Hugh Johnson’s ‘Wine Atlas of Germany’ (1995) boldly states that “Nobody in Germany makes better dry Rieslings than Bernd Philippi.” Obviously you are free to make your own mind up on this matter and since that book was published many estates in Germany have evolved considerably and now produce dry Riesling wines of exceptional quality even if they historically produced sweet wines.

The estate is based in Kallstadt, just north of Bad Dürkheim, and is the most important landholder in the Saumagen site. They also produce single site Riesling from the nearby Steinacker; these are also of very high quality. Annaberg and Kreidkeller are the two other sites. Koehler-Ruprecht also cultivates Spätburgunder as well as other white varieties seen on both sides of the Rhein and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon is also grown.

Saumagen is German for stomach, I haven’t yet visited but a topographical map indicates that the site is indeed (at least vaguely) shaped like a pig’s stomach. Saumagen is also a famous dish from the Pfalz; a sow’s stomach stuffed with meat, potatoes and vegetables.

The elevation of the Saumagen site means that the harvest occurs a little later than in other nearby vineyards and is conducted in a series of passes sorting grapes for the various predicates. These are destined to be bottled as Prädikatsweine and therefore chaptalisation is not practiced at Koehler-Ruprecht. 

These are not wines concocted for simple drinking pleasure… I find them very deeply moving. If you concede to the indulgent and thoroughly individual style of these wines you will be generously rewarded. They pair a shapely succulence with finesse, structure and fine acidity. They boast many layers of flavour within their rich textures and maintain remarkable balance.

[edit] An email from Koehler-Ruprecht forwarded to me by a friend in the UK had this to say:

Before bottling, the wines need to taste the expected way:
Kabinett: lightest by taste of the three
Spätlese: most elegant of the three
Auslese: the most complex of the three
Something with an R on it has the plus taste of the Spätlese or Auslese

I thought this summed it all up fairly well, so I opted not to paraphrase.

Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts after up to a full day on skins before the wines are aged in a variety of casks (Halbstück, Stück and Doppelstück) for nearly a year. Most of the Riesling wines are fermented dry, but some residually sweet styles are produced and are delicious. The Auslese trocken ‘R’ is released after six years of age. These are the wines for which this estate is famous. They are paradoxically powerful and yet fine and are capable of ageing very gracefully. ‘RR’ is something of a rarity.

In 2009 Koehler-Ruprecht was purchased by American investors however Philippi was retained as CEO and also winemaker until the young and very capable Dominik Sona took the helm. Philippi divides his time between Koehler-Ruprecht and his endeavours in Portugal (started with Werner Näkel and the late Bernhard Breuer) and other estates around the world (South Africa, China etc).

From Koehler-Ruprecht, the Kallstadter Saumagen Kabinett trocken is a consistently beautiful wine. It’s also very affordable. Though the village level Kallstadter Kabinett trocken alone is a bargain, the single vineyard wine possesses an added layer of intrigue. It’s almost multi-coloured in aroma, bright, floral and very fresh.

The Auslese trocken ‘R’ is a real thing of beauty. The 2008 was deeply coloured, rich and high in dry extract. It’s a beautiful wine. The 2009 Auslese trocken ‘R’ by comparison shows more finesse, there’s a little more tension about it but it’s no less layered and flavoursome. Incredible length.

Koehler-Ruprecht has become one of my very favourite producers of Riesling in Germany. At Riesling Downunder 2018, after a long day pouring wines (and still recovering from the previous nights Riesling Riot and late night bottle of Schoelhammer) the glass I chose to relax with was from a bottle of the 2009 Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Auslese trocken ‘R’.

Only the Rieslings are available in Australia at present, but of some the estate’s Spätburgunder is already on its way over. I’d like to quickly note that I have deliberately not elaborated on the fact that Koehler-Ruprecht left the VDP in 2014; I think the decision shows integrity, but I try not to dwell on it too much. 

Koehler-Ruprecht is imported into Australia by Cellarhand.

Official Site: www.koehler-ruprecht.com

New Arrivals

Heart & Soil had some new arrivals on show at Arlechin this week. I was quite surprised to see Keller sporting a new label (about which I haven’t made my mind up) but on the whole it seems that the 2017 vintage promises some real treasures despite having been a very difficult season.

Here were the Germans on show…

2017 Keller Grüner Silvaner Trocken (Rheinhessen)
I like this wine… it’s consistently delicious. Very fragrant and shows real clarity. I wish there were more German Silvaner available on the market here.

2017 Keller Riesling Trocken (neuer Etikett) (Rheinhessen)
A very fine Keller trocken, succulent, floral, aromatically intense and focused. Great poise and length. Punches well above its weight. The product of a very troubled vintage and a good one at that. Best yet… so they say.

2016 Joh. Bapt. Schäfer Riesling Trocken (Nahe)
An elegant and playful trocken wine… very light and fresh. An absolute bargain.

2015 Joh. Bapt. Schäfer Riesling Norheimer Pittermänchen Grosses Gewächs (Nahe)
Characterful and charming, a very supple, sweet scented GG. It’s dry, obviously, but the fruit really sings. Very persistent and artfully balanced. Delicious!

2016 Wagner Stempel Porphyr (Rheinhessen)
Very well made. Ferrous and earthy, but not rustic… in fact, very polished and dignified… pure and bright… very drinkable indeed.

2016 Wagner Stempel Riesling Kabinett (Rheinhessen)
Only slightly too sweet for my palate but a well made wine. Definitely at the riper end of the spectrum.

2016 Von Hövel Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett (Saar/Mosel)
A beautiful and tranquil wine, the acidity is high and the wine has a briskness and levity about it that can’t be replicated in other regions. It drinks well at this stage but deserves serious patience. I’m so glad that the wines of Von Hövel have made it to Australia.

2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabi, Loosen

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Every now and then you stumble across a real gem in a wine shop… or something you might not have expected to see. I’m in Brisbane visiting family and friends at the moment and much Riesling has been drunk… but this is one of the highlights.

The product of very early flowering and then a very late harvest resulting in uniformly advanced physiological ripeness but a fine acid line. I’ve found Auslesen from 2007 still demanding patience, but this Kabinett (that rather feels like an Auslese; lush, creamy and honeyed) is lovely. 7.5% alcohol.

My Dad picked this up. Thanks Dad!

A cure for the cold, and the blues.

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It’s not actually winter yet and I’ve already come down with a cold! I decided to follow advice relayed by way of anecdote from Lars Carlberg (who else?)… Eberhard von Kunow (of Von Hövel), apparently would drink a bottle of Saar Riesling anytime he felt a cold coming on…

And so the prescribed medicine this Easter weekend was a bottle of Florian Lauer’s (Weingut Peter Lauer) 2015 Unterstenberg… from a parcel at the foot of the Ayler Kupp.

I won’t wax lyrical about this bottle. I haven’t the energy, mirth or critical faculties available to me at this moment in time. Needless to say, even if it didn’t cure my cold… it certainly made me feel a little bit better!

Frohe Ostern!

Loimer and Alois Lageder

I haven’t been very prolific of late and I can’t say I’ve been particularly busy doing other things… but never mind, I did attend a tasting last week…

Stefanie Lobner, visiting from Loimer in the Kamptal and Urs Vetter, from Alois Lageder in Alto Adige, presented a masterclass together, hosted by importer Red + White, in the Hellenic Museum’s beautiful Henderson Room.

The wines, tasted across six brackets, were as diverse as they were compelling, all from single sites and all grown biodynamically. Even if you maintain a heathy skepticism when it comes to biodynamics you must at least concede to the fact that wines grown with such care are quite often appreciably finer than those grown conventionally. As Lobner explained, perhaps more eloquently, the natural inhibition of yield from vines grown biodynamically has an immediate impact on quality. Furthermore, it’s a healthy practice whichever way you look at it.

Both Lobner and Vetter were incredibly knowledgeable and engaging speakers. The wines are all brilliantly crafted, complex and drink with remarkable finesse.

Fred Loimer began working biodynamically in 2006 and is a founding member of respekt-BIODYN. The 2016 Grüner Veltliner wines from the Loiserberg and Spiegel sites were followed by Rieslings from Seeberg and Steinmassl. All were fine and complex wines with moderate alcohol levels. The 2016 Steinmassl Riesling was my pick of the bunch; succulent golden-toned fruit is balanced by a fine line of acidity, it’s seamless, a sublime wine.

I’ve something of a fetish for Gewürztraminer when it’s made well and the 2015 Alois Lageder Am Sand was jut that: dry, of course, with great varietal character and remarkable elegance. The 2016 Forra Manzoni Bianco, too, was brilliant. Manzoni Bianco is a Riesling and Pinot Blanc crossing created and most widely cultivated in the Veneto. It’s a particularly aromatic grape, textural, but dry extract imparts definition.

Both producers offered outstanding Pinot Noir. Loimer’s hailed from the Anning site of Gumpoldskirchen in the Thermenregion. Lageder’s from the Krafuss site west of Bolzano. Both wines had an attractive sweet tone to the fruit and a refreshing quality. Loimer’s perhaps offered a little more density… whichever you prefer is up to you.

Finally, we tasted Lageder’s 2015 Cornus Lagrein Riserva. Not a variety you see on shelves in Australia very often. There’s an almost red-lolly like character to this wine and a bit of the old farm animal. It’s bright and juicy and yet almost paradoxically firm and savoury. Is it for everyone? No… but I liked it a lot.

Riesling Downunder 2018 (in brief)

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Riesling Downunder 2018 has been and gone! I found plenty of inspiration over the three days that the symposium raged here in Melbourne, but here is a brief rundown…

Sunday’s Riesling Riot, held in the Regent Theatre’s Plaza Ballroom, was open to both consumers and trade and was well attended. The atmosphere was convivial and, thankfully, free of snobbery.

My feeling was that the Pfalz represented its self particularly well, notwithstanding the likes of Robert Weil from the Rheingau and Dönnhoff from the Nahe. VDP president Steffen Christmann presented his own brilliant wines while Reichsrat von Buhl and Ökonomierat Rebholz offered Rieslings of the highest possible quality. Tom Benns from Bürklin-Wolf came with no current release wines but this proved to be a blessing in disguise; both the 2011 Gerümpel P.C. and 2014 Gaisböhl G.C. were stunning.

Marc André Hugel kindly presented both the 2007 and 2008 vintages of the outstanding Schoelhammer Riesling this year. Schoelhammer is a small 0.63 ha parcel within the Schoenenbourg Grand Cru; the wines show incredible complexity and finesse, they are released late and in very small quantities. I first tasted Schoelhammer in 2016 when I finally made the pilgrimage to one of my favourite estates. Also not to be missed from Hugel are the Grossi Laüe* wines. It was great to have Marc André as a visitor to Melbourne once again!

Of course, I am always partial to the wines of the Mosel and whilst Ernst Loosen drew a relentless crowd throughout the day the wines of Heymann-Löwenstein and Ansgar Clüsserath seemed to make a profound impression on punters… naturally.

The very eloquent Mike Bennie presided over two days of masterclasses held at the Arts Centre Melbourne with very special guests. Producers in attendance, together with a contingent of formidable Australians, included the likes of Theresa Breuer, Philipp Wittmann, Cornelius Dönnhoff, Hansjörg Rebholz, Johannes Hasselbach and Vincent Bründlmayer amongst others. Estates such Robert Weil, Heymann-Löwenstein and Egon Müller were very well represented.

With an element of friendly competition and a rotating panel of learned speakers, conversation over the two days ranged from the influence of terroir and winemaking technique to the relevance and future of Riesling in the market. As expected there was a strong bias towards dry Riesling and there was not one dry wine of the 2016 vintage shown that was not exceptional.

From the Mosel, Kathrin Starker of Heymann-Löwenstein spoke with great insight and deftly answered questions from the audience and Veronika Lintner, who represented Egon Müller, was one of the very few to speak so eloquently of residually sweet Mosel wines, dismissing the notion that terroir is most clearly expressed in dry wines. The 2016 Scharzhofberger Spätlese, just quietly, was a special wine indeed.

Given the exceptionally high quality shown across the whole event it’s very hard pick just three standouts… as well as the aforementioned Schoelhammer, these were the wines that stood out for me:

2016 Dönnhoff (Niederhäusen) Hermannshöle GG, Nahe – This wine stole my heart with its  almost Saar-like coolness and tranquility. Aristocratic, crystalline, pure and seemingly infinite.

2009 Koehler-Ruprecht Riesling Kallstadter Saumagen Auslese trocken ‘R’, Pfalz – It’s no secret that I love the wines of Koehler-Ruprecht dearly. The Auslese trocken ‘R’ is a mature release and always a hedonistic wine.

2015 Ökonomierat Rebholz (Birkweiler) Kastanienbusch GG, Pfalz – Lauded by everyone present and for good reason. Ripe and succulent with a firm mineral frame; a masterful balance of fruit and acidity.

*Grossi Laüe is ‘Grand Cru’ in the Alsace dialect.

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