J J Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2020 Mosel

German Riesling label collage

Precocious purity in a young German Riesling.

From 329 Swedish kronor, €32, £28, 32.40 Swiss francs, 359.90 Norwegian kroner, 5,140 Japanese yen, $42, HK$350, 309.95 Danish kroner, SG$83, AU$92.69

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Among labels that are prone to gratuitous illegibility, J J Prüm's Mosel Rieslings stand out like a beacon of purity, much like the Party Cannon logo on the Deathfest 2 playbill. Yet for many years, the wine behind these lucid labels had a reputation for perverse inaccessibility on first release.

These days, however, the 2020 vintage of J J Prüm's Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett reveals thrilling drinkability at an early age, capturing the magic of the variety.

I remember encountering the 2007 vintage of this exact wine in my 2011 MW exam, and describing unpleasantly acerbic levels of sulphur. This was a handy shortcut for identifying Mosel Riesling, which routinely employs, or at least when residual sugar levels were relatively high employed, high doses of sulphites to prevent re-fermentation, but it did not endear me to the quality of the wine. Despite my condemnations, I passed.

Except that sulphur is apparently not the culprit for this invidious sensation. As Jancis had written the year before, winemaker Katharina Prüm identifies the characteristic as 'not sulphur but a compound that is associated with spontaneous fermentation'. What is most important, however, is that it no longer seems to be present at all – and the wine is much better for its absence.

Bottle of JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett 2020

In fact, there is fruit of exceptional purity, providing so many apples and pears that you could climb to the top of Big Ben. The sweetness is well concealed by vivid acid, with the supreme balance that is so typical of top Riesling Kabinett, while white flowers and honey linger on the finish. The ageability of these wines is well documented, but I found the thirst-quenching, spring-fresh zeal of this 2020 vintage so compelling that I recommend it for drinking immediately. I scored it 16.5 with a 10-year drinking window from now.

When Jancis tasted it two months ago, she awarded it an enthusiastic 17+ out of 20, although she did also note a certain reticence perhaps related to (imperceptible) SO2 usage. 

Map showing Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard

The Sonnenuhr (sundial) vineyard enjoys a prime position opposite the village of Wehlen, right in the heart of the Mosel wine region, as shown above. It is one of those typically steep, single-staked vineyards with famous blue slate soils and a perfect south-west aspect. For such A-grade terroir in such expert hands, the price of this bottle represents good value – especially because German Prädikat Riesling really is a style that hasn't been recreated anywhere else in the world, and the Mosel is the most distinctive region of them all.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard
J J Prüm's Wehlener Sonnenuhr vines (image from their Instagram feed)

J J Prüm is a well-known and well-distributed name – partly thanks to those nice clear labels? – and their 2020 releases can be easily found around the world.

I am indebted to Gregg Smith, whose Vines and wines site has many beautiful German Riesling labels, some of which I used in the collage above.

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