This evening I opened a bottle of Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 2009 (7.5% ABV) recently purchased from Howard Ripley, a specialist importer of truly great wines from the homes of some of my favourite wines: Germany and Burgundy. As you’d expect from one of the world’s greatest Riesling producers, this was a hugely enjoyable and particularly well-crafted bottle of wine.
Now I can’t lay claim to having much more than a basic knowledge of the vineyards of the middle Mosel, but I have begun to build up an idea of those whose wines I prefer. For me, the structure and austerity bequeathed to Riesling by blue-grey slate just trumps the riper, tropical fruit characteristics offered by Riesling grown on red slate. Arguably the finest blue slate vineyard of the middle Mosel is Sonnenuhr (“Sundial”), across the river from the town of Wehlen.
Named for its eponymous sundial, this feature also boasts of the vineyard’s southwest exposure, ideally located to best retain the warmth of both direct and reflected sunlight. This precipitous and rocky vineyard sits on pure blue Devonian slate, outcrops of which poke out between the vines, and the almost total lack of topsoil forces the vines to sink their roots between the broken and weathered shards of slate down into crevices in the bedrock. People can argue all day as to whether or not minerals are picked up by the roots of a vine and imparted into the finished wine, but the crystalline minerality of Wehlener Sonnenuhr’s wines cannot be disputed.
Its 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” (Stephen Brooks, The Wines Of Germany). The wines that Manfred and Katharina Prüm coax from Wehlener Sonnenuhr are probably the best illustrations of Stephen Brooks’ poetic prose.
Their ’09 Auslese was a very pale greenish gold colour, with tiny beads of CO2 which caught the light. Its delicate yet firm nose of lime and slate, plus aromas of green apple and honey, intertwined with the subtle whiff of kerosene so typical of a developing Riesling.
The palate had an initial green apple tartness, highlighted by a prickle of CO2, which promptly opened to display a rich, sweet kaleidoscope of flavours. Greener in character – apple, lime and chamomile – than the yellow/orange tropical fruit and spice of wines from neighbouring vineyards, its blossom and honey ripeness was tempered by mouth watering, quince-like acidity. Perfectly complementing the sweetness, a saline minerality to the finish dried and refreshed the mouth in readiness for the next sip.
A beautiful wine, with an ethereal lightness that belied its sugar level, this was a delicious treat today but will continue to develop for many years to come.