Germany’s top producers are members of the Verdand Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP), an association of 200 quality-oriented vintners. We recently had the opportunity to taste the Riesling wines from three VDP members, all with steeply sloped (up to 60°) vineyards overlooking the Mosel with slate soils eroded by the Mosel over the millenia. The wines come from several vintages, including the frost and rain damaged 2017, which resulted in low yields but good quality for those who did thorough sorting, the outstanding 2015, the wet and difficult 2014, the normal 2012, and the challenging 2010.
The Prüm winery is located in the village of Wehlen, located just 4 km north of Bernkastel-Kues on the Mosel. The village is located on the left side of the Mosel, but its famed, steeply sloped vineyards lie across the river facing south-southwest. Some of the Grosses Gewächs vineyards are 130 years old on ungrafted woodstock planted in fractured slate soils (see photo) that allow roots to penetrate 50+ feet deep. The Prüm family has been growing grapes and making wine at their estate in the village of Wehlen since the year 1156. Jodocus Prüm installed a sundial in the Wehlener Sonnenhur vineyard in 1842; it is now the logo on the SA Prüm bottle. Most of the wines reviewed here are from grapes grown in the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard, which was recently designated an Erste Lage by the VDP. The vines are 80-120 years old on their original rootstocks. The importer is Esprit du Vin/Palm Bay.
S.A. Prüm 2015 Riesling Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese VDP Gross Lage Mosel ($35) 90 Light gold. Spicy and lightly sweet, this spätlese offers ripe peach and apricot fruit aromas and flavors on a juicy, tightly woven palate. Easy drinking style, but there’s good grip on the finish. S.A. Prüm 2011 Riesling Graacher Dompropst Grosses Gewächs Mosel ($60) 92 The Grand Cru Graacher Dompropst reveals wet slate and marmalade scents. On the palate, it’s lively and full with good intensity and depth of flavor with firm acidity married to ripe stone fruit. From 80 year old, ungrafted vines grown in the Dompropst single vineyard Grand Cru, the steepest in the village of Graach. Fermented in stainless steel for 4 months sur lie with an additional 10 months in tank or neutral oak before bottling. TA 5.1 g/L RS 9 g/L S.A. Prüm 2010 Riesling Wehlener Sonnenuhr Grosses Gewächs Mosel ($60) 93 Effusively aromatic with floral notes of honeysuckle and honey comb. Juicy, expansive palate with lovely concentrated stone fruit flavors and racy acidity. Superb length. From 80-120 year old original rootstocks, fermented in stainless steel for 2 months followed by 1 year in 50+ year old casks. Alc 11.5% RS 9 g/L
Located in Brauneberg on the Mosel, this winery is today managed by Willi’s grandson Marcus who earned his degree in enology from Geisenheim. The estate has 6.5 hectares of slate soil vineyards that have been in the family for 500 years. The steeply sloped Erste Lage Brauneberger Juffer and Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhrare vineyards sit across the Mosel from the city. Like Prüm, Haag has vineyards surrounding a sundial. Considering the unique terroir of Willi Haag’s vineyards and the quality of the wines, the prices are ridiculously low. The importer is Artisans & Vines.
Willi Haag 2017 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett ($20) 89+ Lovely spicy, white pepper and minerals nose with stone fruit and a hint of bay leaf. It’s precise on the palate with flavors that mimic the bouquet, finishing on a chalky note with excellent extract. Beautifully balanced with just 8.5% alc. Willi Haag 2017 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spätlese ($22) 90 Light yellow. Showing a seductive, floral bouquet, this wine offers tropical fruits on an open, harmonious palate. Anchored by a steely backbone, there’s excellent energy and depth to this wine. Willi Haag 2017 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Spätlese ($25) 91 h Medium yellow. Wow! What a wine. An alluring combination of intensity and juicy tropical fruit. There are touches of pineapple, mango, and ripe nectarine, complemented by an attractive mineral quality. Perfectly balanced. The fruit for this wine comes from the best part of the vineyard, in the middle around the sundial.
H. Thanisch—Erben Thanisch
Located in Bernkastel-Kues an der Mosel between Prüm’s vineyards in Wehlen and Haag’s vineyards in Brauneberg, this 375 year old wine estate was a founding member of the VDP. In 1988 the estate was split between two heirs, so there are now two H. Thanisch wineries with very similar names—H. Thanisch Erben Thanisch and H. Thanisch Erben Mueller-Burggraef. Sofia Thanisch, the 11th generation of the family, now manages the Erben Thanisch winery with vineyards in Bernkastel, Kuse, Lieser and Brauneberg. Among their vineyards is the steep, southwest facing Grand Cru Bernkasteler Doctor, one of the most famous in Germany, which the Thanisch family acquired in the late 18th century. The H. Thanisch wines tasted here are all very young; they need a couple of years in bottle to reveal their full potential. The importer is Artisans & Vines.
H. Thanisch Erben Thanisch 2017 Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Kabinett ($45) 92 Flinty, herbal and a bit reductive, the 2017 Kabinett has outstanding potential. Salty minerality and high toned fruit aromas give way to an intense and juicy palate. A very young but harmonious and refined wine. 8% alc. H. Thanisch Erben Thanisch 2017 Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Spätlese ($55) 94 Offering a seductive, cool and flinty bouquet, the Spätlese is high toned and elegant. It’s rich and round with good volume, offering juicy tropical fruit and a persistent and stimulating finish.