Many people think of Germany as cold and austere... and then there's the wine regions! (Nyuk, nyuk.) The most northerly wine-growing area in the world, Germany does indeed have a cold climate, but the moderating influence of the Rhein and Mosel rivers combined with the heat retention ability of the 400 million year old blue slate on which the vines grow make a happy recipe for a luscious grape, Riesling.
Savvy Wineaux have long championed Riesling, though it seems a constant battle to convince other people it's not always a flabby, sicky-sweet Blue Nun experience.
A recent tasting at PJ Wines (in "Upstate Manhattan") was a showcase of one legendary producer of the Mosel, J.J. Prüm, two vintages, two vineyard sites, and three ripeness levels. Such a telescopic tasting of these wines was a rare and lovely experience!
It was surprisingly easy to identify the wines from the different vineyards. Wines from Wehlener Sonnenuhr showed more peachy fruit, while those from Graacher Himmelreich exhibited a great deal of minerality. The levels of grape ripeness (Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese) did show a slight increase of sweetness at Auslese as expected, but the sweetness was always balanced by the minerality and Riesling's robust acidity.
All of the following wines will age beautifully for ten or twenty years or more, and are perfect throughout the meal; as an aperitif, paired with salad, fish, or even with cheese after dinner. All are available at PJ's - www.pjwine.com. Try some now and get on the Riesling bandwagon before it's too late and the rest of us drink it all! Which is impossible, but I'd try if you dared me.
2007 J.J. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese
Very, very pale greenish yellow. Stony nose of peach, touch of honey and ginger, sweet lime. Fresh fruit, clean and bright, peach syrup, not overly acidic finish. $44.49 WM:86
2007 J.J. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese
Very pale yellow. Peach and orange blossom on the nose. Petrol, peach, hint of botrytis character, little shpritz of CO2, honey, caramel as it warms. Lovely balance, long finish. $51.99 WM:89
2007 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese
Very, very pale green yellow. Nose of wet rock, nice fruits, very spicy with lychee. Peach and pear with a long, balanced finish. Elegant. Shortbread cookies show up as well. $41.97 WM:90
2007 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
Very, very pale yellow-green. Salinity on the nose, with florals, fruits, minerals, melon, and candied orange peel. Concentrated and balanced but not huge length. $57.99 WM: 90
2009 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
Incredibly pale green-yellow, almost clear. Huge blast of stone on the nose, petrol, minerality - super steely. Grass, pear, apricot, bright with a nice finish and bit o'shpritz. $35.99 WM:91
2009 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
Very pale yellow-green. Nose of tropical fruit and melon, with pineapple, sweet herbs and tangerine on the palate. Good minerality and balance. $52.99 WM:90
2009 J.J. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese
Very, very pale green/yellow. Some SO2 on nose, notes of grass and petrol. Crisp and clean notes of lime and pear. Pleasant. $40.99 WM:87
2009 J.J. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese
Very pale yellow-green. Interesting grassy nose, with steel and sweet florals. Great roundness of fruit, delicate balance. Medium length. $47.99 WM:90
On the PJ Wine website, you will also find information about their upcoming Saturday tastings. These are fairly formal events conducted in an intimate setting led by extremely knowledgeable people. When you make a reservation over the phone, they charge $20 to hold your place, which is returned to you in the form of a PJ Wine gift card. What did I buy with my gift card? Why, a bottle of Prüm Riesling, of course!