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. 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.

Kabin class.

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Mosel Kabinett, whether fermented dry or left with residual sugar, counts lightness (low alcohol) and elegance amongst its most redeeming qualities. The capacity they have to age is remarkable and they show great versatility with food.

The term Kabinett (formerly Cabinet) has a long and complicated history which I won’t go into in great detail here. It first appeared on labels in the Rheingau with Schloss Vollrads claiming to have used the designation for a reserve wine as early as 1716.

In 1971 the term became embedded into German wine law as part of the Prädikat system (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat – or QmP – until 2007… now Prädikatswein) and sits at the bottom end of the scale with Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein following in ascending order. Prädikatsweine are graded according to must weight (ripeness) and are unchaptalised.

These days, owing to global warming, growers most often achieve must weights well above the 73 degrees Oechsle (just under 10 Baumé) required for Kabinett in the Mosel. In fact, because there is no legal maximum limit of ripeness for Prädikatsweine, many Kabinett wines are Spätlesen (even Auslesen in some cases) that have been ‘declassified’ purely for commercial reasons. One could easily view this as a slight abuse of an otherwise useful (if far from perfect) system, but many quality growers pick based on flavour and not simply numbers alone. Most ironically, winemakers now selectively harvest for Kabinett in an age where Spätlese and Auslese are becoming commonplace.

Up to and including Auslese, Prädikatsweine can be made anywhere between dry and sweet and so understanding a winemakers’ style and philosophy is as, if not more, important than deciphering words on a label.

Joh. Jos. Prüm and Dr. Loosen are two producers of high quality and age-worthy Kabinett that are very well represented in the international market. Ernst Loosen himself is one of the more outspoken advocates of the style. Both estates produce exceptional examples from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr… Prüm’s wines demand far greater patience, however.

 

Hofgut Falkenstein

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Living in Melbourne, I’ve seldom had the opportunity to drink the wines of Hofgut Falkenstein. Based in a side-valley in the north of the Saar called the Konzer Tälchen, father and son Erich and Johannes Weber produce a range of light and mostly dry Riesling wines bottled not simply by vineyard, but by cask. They farm about 8 hectares of old vines, a portion of which are ungrafted, and adhere to a strict low-yield policy. In the cellar fermentations occur with ambient yeasts in 1000 litre Mosel Fuder.

Despite specialising in dry wines the Webers still label with a Prädikat (Kabinett trocken, for example) and chaptalisation is out of the question, not merely because it’s not allowed for Prädikatsweine but on principle; the practice is redundant for wines of this style in any case. As a rule, a Kabinett trocken will be lighter than a Spätlese trocken.

The Saar is a special place, there’s no doubt about it. There is a feeling of tranquility about the region that makes the Middle Mosel feel almost metropolitan by comparison. Temperatures in the Saar are on average lower than in the Middle Mosel and the rainfall is higher, as a result the wines here are far racier; must weights are lower and levels of acidity are more pronounced. To some palates the Saar offers the purest and most profound expression of Riesling on the planet.

I drank the following two wines recently and stashed another away for lunch on Christmas Day…

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
Stunning clarity, pure, tense, tropical accented fruit… incredible detail and length. There is a breathtaking lightness, a coolness, about this Auslese and it only tastes at sweet as some Spätlesen, I am mighty impressed.

2016 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese Trocken
The Ober Schäfershaus is a 0.2 ha parcel within the Krettnacher Altenberg that was recently purchased by the Webers. Amongst slate and quartz, you find the basaltic diabas, also found in the Saarburger Rausch. This, more than the Auslese, illustrates what the Webers do best. Flinty and faintly smoky, a whiff of iodine even. Very tense, very elegant. It does benefit from a little air.

The Webers also farm plots in the Niedermenninger Herrenberg, Niedermenninger Sonnenberg and Falkensteiner Hofberg. The wines of Hofgut Falkenstein are imported into Australia by Andrew Guard.

What I’ve been drinking…

Dear reader,

I thought I’d jump right in because I don’t really know what to say about myself. My drink choices should speak for me… here is what I’ve been enjoying recently…

2009 Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken Saarburger Rausch ‘Diabas’. The name Diabas refers to a green-tinged basaltic stone of volcanic origin that is found in the Saarburger Rausch alongside the classic Devonian slate. This is the top feinherb of the Zilliken estate, very much at the ‘ripe peach’ end of the flavour spectrum; it’s a textbook example of how Saar Rieslings can be fully ripe and remain feather-light. This was my first experience with this wine and it has left quite an impression on me; this is my kind of Riesling and it reminds me of why I enjoy the wines of Peter Lauer so much.

2009 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, this is decidedly juicy and (like a 2007 Auslese we enjoyed recently – as dessert) still shows a lot of what Katharina Prüm likes to call “baby fat”. It’s a brilliant Sonnenuhr Spätlese. The 2009 Graacher Himmelreich is currently in a much less forgiving phase.

Both of these wines are very adolescent and are yet to emerge completely from their ‘closed-down’ phase; at least they have the benefit of a little natural sweetness. I have some more bottles of the Diabas Riesling and plan on waiting some time before opening another.

On a recent visit home, I pitched a couple of beautiful dry wines against each other for my father; a 2015 Clemens Busch Marienburg Falkenlay GG and a 2016 François Cotat Les Monts Damnés Sancerre. The Falkenlay is a truly outstanding example of the 2015 vintage, it is full of extract, ripe succulent fruit and mouthwatering acidity; it promises to mature into a very seductive dry wine. The Monts Damnés is drinking beautifully as a young wine but patience will be rewarded…

There, you know where my loyalties lie now.

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