The Australian importer of Joh. Jos. Prum once described wine as “bottled energy”, reminding me of Kenneth Clark’s description of a William Blake engraving, Glad Day. He writes “nothing could be more paradoxical than that he should have found in this attempt to circumscribe man by reason, by the geometry that he detested, a symbol of liberated energy”. Joh. Jos Prum isn’t so much bottled energy, rather, it is celebration of tradition. For in this release, we realise the power of history, statute, pride and the assuredness of centuries of culture. These wines are very much indeed, liberated energy.
For those of you who would like a detailed vintage report, I refer you to Mosel Fine Wines. Katharina Prum stole my heart when asked to comment on Stuart Piggot’s quote “the 2019 vintage is the best vintage I have ever tasted for German Riesling in my four-decade career” and Michael Schmidt’s “the 2019 vintage in a nutshell, it could become the vintage of the century”. She said “we don’t like to talk superlatives. Our goal is never to find a definition of greatness, but rather to capture it. Capturing the vintage, whilst always staying true to the Prum style”.
The Prum style is established, and they rigorously adhere to the traditions of their estate and the Mosel more generally. When asked if they were to produce a dry wine, Katharina, without any further explanation answered “no”. It would be hard not to succumb to the fashion of the times and produce a dry wine, particularly with the label GG. They are, after all, members of the VDP, and one can only imagine the commercial success of such a venture.
However, the genius of German wine law is evidenced by how seriously the estate works to ensure that the Pradikat levels are maintained, and the same scrupulousness used at all levels. The winemaking is unchanged, but an evolution in viticulture is taking place due to the warmer, earlier vintages. This is not only about improvement, but for the estate to continue to produce wines that would not have looked out of place a century or more ago.
And what of the Prum Style? Firstly, if you wish to understand the differences of the Pradikat system (as in Kabinett, Spatlese and so on), this is the best place to start. Many estates struggle to capture the delicate, shimmering intensity of Kabinett, or the more rounded sensuality of a Spatlese. The lines for many are becoming blurred, but not at Joh. Jos. Prum. Delicate is often used to describe Prum, but we won’t here. Delicacy implies a fragility and timidness that simply do not give these wines justice.
Rather, they are texturally silken, uniquely so, with a fine bead of acidity, cutting the curve, providing shape and structure. Balanced, with all the elements threaded, not loosely, nor too tight. There is nothing to overwhelm, rather caress. Filigreed, intense, effortless presence and undeniable power. Complex and detailed, without ever succumbing to the vogue of excessive concentration.
Reflections on the 2019 release
Grandiose statements about any vintage are always regrettable. Pleasure is to be found in any vintage, certainly with a great producer such as Prum. This is certainly a special release and below is a summary of notes made during the tasting. And remember, this is about Joh. Jos. Prum, and not the Mosel, or Germany.
- Succulent, juicy fruit with excellent concentration. A focused core.
- Ripe acids, from the initial attack, until close.
- Dustings of earth, mushroom, floral notes (lavender, white flowers and geraniums) and spices (anise, sage, fennel, Thai basil).
- Reductive elements. Historically, youthful Prum was often dominated by a smokey reductive element. There are reductive notes with many of the 2019’s, but not overbearing.
- Texture of silk/pure water leading to apple skin.
- A very structured vintage, with the balance to ensure long ageing.
- Clearly defined Pradikats.
- Defined vineyard differences.
- Weightless power. The wines have enormous presence, flavour intensity and strong personalities, without tipping into over concentration.
- Wehlener Sonnenuhr was an absolute standout. It’s greatness and potential for long ageing is very obvious in 2019.
- Filigreed. Layers of flavour, texture and detail. Every sip revealed nuance.
- Joyous drinking. Check out William Blake’s engraving titled Glad Day.
The 2019 Prum wines tasted
Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2019 – A touch of musk. White flowers, sage, smoke, white peach, grapefruit, cherry and blood plum. Luscious, ripe and intense. Open, alive. Velvet mouthfeel. Some notes of apricot, yellow peach, sunflowers, fennel and lime. Terrifci drinking now, but with obvious potential.
Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2019 – Deeper than the Badstube. Honey and lime, with more apparent red fruits, blackcurrant, yellow peach and autumnal notes. Fuller, deeper and rounder palate. A step up in intensity too with zesty citrus, apricot and mustard seed. Classic Graacher. Tense and structured with some apple skin texture. Will age for many years and will no doubt be a favourite amongst Australian drinkers.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2019 – More closed initially, but coaxed to reveal notes of smoke, mushroom compost, lavender, honeycomb, citrus and white chocolate. Broader palate, soft and silken in texture, with a very deep core. Filigreed, with grapefruit, peach and fennel/Thai basil. Incredible Kabinett and the best Wehlener I can remember tasting.
Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Spatlese 2019 – Earthy, mushroom compost, smoke, honey, cherry, grapefruit, lime, raspberry, red apple, mustard seed and violets. Joyous and open, a real feature of Badstube. Beautiful flavours with grapefruit, plum, cherry and kiwi. Terrific complexity, fine, fine texture with a lovely acid cut. Gorgeous.
Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese 2019 – Smoky. Lavender, lime, lemon zest and white flowers. More concentrated, with riper yellow fruits, chalky texture and palate intensity. More structured than the Badstube and mineral too. Great persistence.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2019 – Extremely complex. Smoke, lavender, white flowers, plum, redcurrant, cranberry, cherry, fennel, yellow peach and blackcurrant. Luscious and concentrated, silk and tense. Filigreed, with yellow fruits, citrus and red fruit compote. Remarkable wine. Decades ahead of it. Glad day.