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Joh Jos Prüm 2019 Vintage

The vintage of the century

We highly recommend all the 2019 vintage wines. Ian & Ches Cook.

To sum up the prospects of the 2019 [German] vintage in a nutshell, it could become the vintage of the century. No, honestly! 
Michael Schmidt,

The 2019 vintage is the best vintage I have ever tasted for German riesling in my four-decade career. The first German vintage I tasted as young wines was 1983 and I can’t remember a vintage like that – until now. Stuart Pigott,

.. I have rarely tasted better Kabinett wines here than the 2019s. Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate.

Bibendum on why J.J. Prüm wines so consistently great

  • Great sites! The four vineyards below have 2,000 years of history and are some of the most revered of the middle Mosel (the Graacher Himmelreich and the Wehlener Sonnenuhr in particular, are legendary).
  • Old, ungrafted vines. 90% of the Estate’s vines are ungrafted with an average age exceeding 60 years. There are a number of key parcels between aged between 70 and 100 years-plus. This has all kinds of implications for yield and quality. 
  • Precise picking dates. Every parcel is picked only when perfectly ripe (subject to Pradikat) and often with multiple passes.
  • Natural yeast, unhurried fermentation and patient aging on lees—the wines are never rushed and are only bottled when ready. This extra time on natural lees means the wines absorb everything the lees have to give (this sometimes means some gentle reduction and wines that need some time to unwind).
  • The Prüms are a family of perfectionists. They are interested only in producing greatness and honouring the remarkable vineyards and ancient vines that they are blessed to farm.

The Wines:

All the wines are superb and, while we might have personal favourites, each wine offers vibrant, crystalline fruit, punchy acidity and clearly expresses its vineyard’s personality. As always, there is an increase in power from Bernkasteler to Graacher to Wehlener. Overall, the wines taste remarkably dry. Although they will mostly be drunk young, they will be much better after five to 10 years, and 20 years will not weary them. 2019 is a serious aging vintage.

The 2019 Kabinetts can effortlessly stand up to a broad range of flavours: sashimi, lighter Asian dishes and even steak or tuna tartare, for example. But basically, any seafood or white meat.

2019 Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett
2019 Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett
2019 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett

As always there is considerably more depth of fruit here than in the Kabinett-level wines, though not necessarily more overt sweetness. Instead, it is a question of more flesh, more power, and therefore wines that can stand up to richer food. Here again, we have excellent transparency and expression of place, alongside more savoury depth. The wines have the same residual as a classic vintage, so what really stands out here is the superb depth, balance and complexity on offer. These are terrific now, but they will live on, gaining depth and complexity for decades. 

2019 Bernkasteler Badstube Spätlese
2019 Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese
2019 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese
2019 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese

Again, the step up here is one of power rather than merely sweetness. Riper and more intense is a more accurate way of describing what’s going on here. In fact, the 2019s—thanks to the vibrant acidity—taste incredibly dry. The style remains pure and ultra-fine and, while the Spätlese wines revel in juicy intensity, this bracket offers more power as well as heightened mineral length. Note that this year the Auslese from Bernkastel is drawn from the Lay vineyard—a special, historic parcel within the Badstube.

With such finesse, delicacy and digestibility, these wines are really too fine for sweet desserts (although they can work with very delicate, fruit-based dishes that are not overly sweet). Honestly, they belong with savoury food, and are far better matched to dishes such as pork, game birds, savoury tarts, roast chicken, ceviche, all kinds of sausage and venison. They are brilliant with almost all Japanese and Chinese dishes, and they are terrific with a wide range of cheeses.

2019 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese

Katharina Prüm explains the Goldkapsel wines in this way: “Think of them as limited edition, 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, capable of aging even remarkably longer than ‘basic’ Auslesen, lasting for many decades. Over time, they lose some of their sweetness, gain more and more elegance and harmony, and the complex profile and depth come to the forefront.” 

We have only the two most famous Prüm vineyards for Goldkapsel this year. A rainy session in early October was followed by a warm southerly wind that led to excellent botrytis quality. The wines are stunningly pure and intense examples of this genre. The botrytis is in fact very subtle and the wines are supremely pure in fruit. These extraordinary botrytis-affected wines live and evolve for aeons. 

The Goldkapsel wines can work with desserts (ideally fruit-based dishes or crème caramel, nothing too sweet), however, they are again better paired—especially with age—with robust, savoury food and hard cheeses. You can throw anything at them, even spicy dishes, red meat and the same flavours mentioned in the Auslese bracket above. These wines are far more versatile than most dry whites and certainly more so than all red wine styles.

2019 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese Goldkapsel
2019 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Goldkapsel

The Vineyards:

Bernkasteler Badstube
The vineyards of Bernkasteler Badstube border those of the Graacher Himmelreich and here the slopes are on a marginally shallower gradient, with deeper soils than either Graacher or Wehlener. The south-western orientation allows the vines a longer exposure to the afternoon sun. The Badstube typically produces wonderfully floral, delicate and mineral wines. Overall, the wines are usually slightly more delicate in taste than their siblings from the Graacher Himmelreich and Wehlener Sonnenuhr, but just as delicious.

Graacher Himmelreich
Sitting between Bernkasteler Badstube and Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich is rightly considered as one of the two great vineyards of this historic estate (alongside Wehlener Sonnenuhr). The wines here are typically more floral, racy and mineral than those of Wehlener Sonnenuhr, at least when young. Often, the wines become accessible slightly earlier than the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, especially in dry years. Looking at the vineyard conditions, the hill faces slightly more westwards (i.e. south-west exposed) and possesses deeper soils than the Wehlener Sonnenuhr. The gradient varies from 45-65% and the soils—if you can call them soils—are made up of pure, weathered slate.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr
The Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard has become intrinsically attached to the name of Joh. Jos. Prüm. The Estate owns seven hectares of this majestic site—largely planted to ungrafted wines. Here the thin, rocky Devonian slate (in some areas of the vineyard the plants grow out of pure rock) fashion some of the Mosel’s greatest wines. 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.” Wehlener Sonnenuhr has the highest pure stone content of all the Prüm vineyards, and along with the neighbouring Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, is the steepest of Prüm’s vineyards—a dizzying 65-70% gradient.

Zeltinger Sonnenuhr
The Zeltinger Sonnenuhr vineyard borders the northern boundary of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr. It is a warm, dry site and has a large percentage of ungrafted vines. Prüm’s parcel comes from a patch of Alte Reben vines (60-70 years old) around the sundial. The vines here are said to be the hardest working in the Prüm vineyards, due to fact that there is so little top soil and the vines’ roots plough straight into the bedrock. This makes the wines from Zeltinger some of the most dense and structured in the Prüm range.