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Joh Jos Prum

Bottled Energy: Benchmark Riesling from the most Iconic Producer of the Mosel Valley

Wine is a kind of bottled energy and there is no producer that packs more voltage into their bottles than Joh. Jos. Prüm. The Prüm family history in the Mosel dates back as early as 1156, though it was Johann Josef Prüm (1873 - 1944) who founded the estate in 1911. Under Johann Josef’s son, Sebastian, by the mid-1930s the distinctive style of the Prüm wines had been forged. From 1969, the imitable Dr Manfred Prüm would take the reputation Joh. Jos. Prüm to even greater heights, and today the estate is run by Manfred’s daughter Katharina Prüm who watches over 13.5 precious hectares of vines perched on the vertiginous slate-rich slopes of the Middle Mosel. 

In The Wines of Germany, Stephen Brook writes “With the rise of so many excellent winemakers in the [Mosel], one might have supposed that Joh. Jos. Prüm, with its profound conservatism, might have been overtaken and left behind. Not a bit of it. The Estate remains where it has been for decades: at the summit.” So, what is the secret is to the quality of the J.J. Prüm wines? How is it that they differ so much in style and quality from the wines of most other Mosel producers? The answer, as always, lies mostly in the majesty of the vineyards (backed up by meticulous winemaking): great sites, old vines, the lowest yields, very late harvesting and selection of only the best berries. 

“To drink a Riesling from Joh Jos Prüm is to enjoy a springtime of heart and mind. These delicately floral wines from the top sites of Wehlen and Graach have a unique combination of lightness, finesse, elegance, and energy.” Stephan Reinhardt

Importantly, 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 and more. This has all kinds of implications for yield and quality. Then, the picking dates are exceptionally precise, every parcel is picked only when perfectly ripe (subject to Pradikat) and often with multiple passes.

In the winery the winemaking is as natural as possible with as little intervention as possible: natural yeast, unrushed 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). Finally, the Prüm family is a family of perfectionists. They are only interested in producing greatness and honouring the remarkable vineyards and ancient vines that they are blessed to farm.

All four of Prum’s key vineyards share the same soils—grey and blue Devonian slate—and south-to-south westerly aspects. They all sit alongside each other, on the one continuous slope, between Bernkastel and Zeltingen in the middle Mosel. Bernkasteler Badstube, then Graacher Himmelreich, then Wehlener Sonnenuhr, then Zeltinger Sonnenuhr. That’s the order of the vineyards travelling north up the river from Bernkastel (or northwest to be precise). These vineyards have been in continuous production for some 2000 years! The major differences between the sites have to do with the variation in the aspect (from south to southwest), the steepness and the depth of the soil. It sounds so subtle and yet the wines that result are all so wonderfully distinctive. 

All the vineyards of J.J. Prüm are renowned, yet it is the majestic Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard that is the most famous. This revered site lies opposite the village of Wehlen and the Estate owns seven hectares—largely planted to ungrafted wines—which has very thin topsoil over Devonian slate (in some areas of the vineyard the plants grow out of pure rock). Wehlener Sonnenuhr has the highest pure stone content of all the Prüm vineyards, and along with neighbouring Zeltinger, is the steepest of Prüm’s vineyards—a dizzying 65-70% gradient in places. Stuart Pigott puts it well when he notes that, “In top vintages the Wehlener Sonnenuhr yields the richest, silkiest, most seductive wines on the Mosel. The fame of these Rieslings is inextricably linked with that of the Joh Jos Prüm estate.” 

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“No matter what kind of mood you are in, the world always seems a better place with a glass of Prüm in hand; these are gracious, charming, wines that go straight for the heart leaving you only with the desire to finish the bottle quickly, resolving to finish a second bottle more slowly and reflectively.” Stephan Reinhardt

“[Prüm’s] inimitable, reductive style, which is often difficult to understand in its youth, and was once confusing even for his colleagues, has become the benchmark for the spätlese and auslese styles that are the hallmarks of the middle stretches of the Mosel.” Joel B. Payne, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar

Country

Germany

Primary Region

Mosel

People

Winemaker: Dr Katharina Prüm

Availability

National

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