S.A. Prüm Mosel (Germany) Riesling Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese 2007 (Palm Bay International, $31):
I find German Rieslings to be utterly compelling, fascinating, sometimes mind-bending in their improbable combination of sweetness and acidity, weight and delicacy. Every time I taste them I realize that I should drink them more often.
The complexity of Germany’s array of vineyards revealed itself on a small scale when I tasted side-by-side two Mosel Rieslings from the excellent 2007 vintage and the same producer, S.A. Prüm: one wine a kabinett from the Wehlener Sonneuhr site and the other a spatlese from the Graacher Himmelreich site. The two wines have so much in common and yet are different spirits. The Wehlener Sonnenuhr is smooth and caressing, with a finish that coaxes character from the wine that’s hidden by pure deliciousness on the palate. The Graacher Himmelreich is lively and racy with concentrated fruit character at its core, and a bit weightier.
Both wines were made by Raimund Prüm, the congenial third-generation owner of the S.A. Prüm wine estate. His family has owned vineyards along the Mosel River since 1156, and produced wine commercially for 200-plus years, although S.A. Prum itself dates back a mere 99 years. More than one-third of the winery’s 40 acres lie within the famed Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard.
Raimund Prüm made four 2007s from Wehlener Sonnenuhr — kabinett, auslese, BA and TBA — and two from the Graacher Himmelreich vineyard — this Spatlese, and a stunning eiswein. (His estate also includes land in Urziger Wurzgarten and Graacher Dompropst.) In describing the five-mile long mountain face on which both vineyards are situated, along with numerous other famous vineyards, he remarked, “the character of the wines changes every 50 meters.” Wehlener Sonnenuhr has grey slate soils with a high tin content that lends minerality to the wines, while Graacher Himmelreich has grey and blue slate soils and natural mineral springs beneath. The presence of underground water, as well as the grey and blue slate, contributes to a racy character in the Graacher Himmelreich, he believes, while the absence of underground water promotes the smoothness of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr.
The Wehlener Sonnenuhr kabinett 2007 ($25) is absolutely worth trying. It’s a quietly rich wine in the fruity (as opposed to the dry) style of Riesling, with delicious flavors that suggest peach, apple and even pineapple, as well as broad minerality. It has a particularly impressive finish.
Stylistically, however, I prefer the Graacher Himmelreich spatlese. It’s also in the fruity style (I peg it as medium dry) but it is livelier, more flavorful, and in a way more delicate. High acidity combined with a slightly prickly sensation of carbon dioxide causes the wine to seem a bit dryer than the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, and the wine’s distinct minerality contributes to this effect. The aromas and flavors are focused and precise; they suggest orange, apple, peach and spiciness, as well as a slightly nutty note that Prüm attributes to the ambient yeast fermentation. I particularly like the wine’s nervosity.
German wines like this are as provocative as they are delicious. They offer food for thought if you pause and study them, and enormous pleasure drinking pleasure in any case.