Zen Wine: 1971 J.J. Prüm And The Greatest Of Wine’s Gifts Outside The Glass

Vinted on March 22, 2011 binned in german wine, wine review, zen wine

Doug Cook, founder of the amazing wine search engine AbleGrape, is smart guy. A really smart guy; as in, instantly-doubles-the-IQ-of-the-room-when-he-walks-in-no-matter-how-many-people-are-there smart.  His intelligence level is matched only by his largesse, especially when it comes to sharing wines from his extensive and impressive cellar.

That generosity was on full display at the recent Pro Wine Writers Symposium in Napa, when Doug busted-out some vinous gems at one of the post-post-prandial (PPP?), informal gatherings (a.k.a., after-after-parties), the most brilliant and multi-faceted of which was a wine whose existence on Earth slightly predates my own, a 1971 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese from the Mosel.

The wine was, in a word, amazing: honey, flowers, orange rind, nuts, beeswax (yes, I actually know what that smells / tastes like, not because I’m a beekeeper – though I think beekeepers totally rock – but because I play didgeridoo, which uses beeswax as a mouthpiece); basically, a delicate and pure example of everything that Mosel Riesling stands for and to which the best examples should aspire. Alder Yarrow, who was with me at the PPP, summed up the sensory experience of that wine recently on Vinogrpahy.com so I won’t repeat it here.  By the way, it was fun to watch a normally poised Alder about lose his sh*t over some of those wines.

Anyway, what I do want to talk about here is why the wine was so glorious – and what was in the bottle is only partly responsible for that…

When it comes to PPP wine imbibing, just as it should when good company is gathered over good wine, most of the thinking about day jobs and even of the world of wine should go right out the proverbial fenestra.  Geeks will be geeks, and I’m no exception, especially so when it comes to wine.  In those moments, it’s wine that matters, but also the enjoyment of it that matters, and the sharing of ideas that matters, too.  And if I had to chose between the wine and the sharing, personally I’d put the emphasis on the latter.

I was fortunate enough to hang out with a convivial and varied cast of wine characters the night I tasted that 1971 J.J. Prüm, and their shared reactions, wit, commentary and sharp insights made that wine taste better than it ever possibly could have on its own.  Not that I’d refuse another opportunity to taste it even if I was by myself, mind you… in fact I’ve had no fewer than three dreams about that wine since that party… but you get the idea.

Doug, Alder, Jim Gordon, Jon Bonne, Claudia Perry, Ben Weinberg, Dave White, Blake Gray… there were others there… the point is that it doesn’t take a large stretch of the imagination to picture the camaraderie that develops when you’re geeking it out with the geekiest of wine geeks over especially tasty, geeky wines that get geeks geeky all over. And I loved it.  I loved the geeking out  more than I loved the wines, I think.

Because wine, as they say, is the ultimate social beverage, and nothing makes a great wine (or even a not-so-great wine) greater like great company.

The moral of the story?  Stop and smell the petrol once in a while, people, and make sure you do it with friends.






  • Aaron

    Thanks Joe. I'm reminded of something Niel Rosenthal said about wine over at BrooklynGuy's wine blog (www.brooklynguyloveswine.blogspot.com). I couldn't find the original post, but it was something like:

    "What's most important about wine is not how it tasted but what it made you feel, why you drank it, what you talked about while drinking it, and with whom. Wine is a social event, not fodder for criticism."

    I may be butchering the quote but that was at least the gist, and I think it really articulates experiences like the one you described. You cannot separate wine from the social context in which it was drunk, nor should you try.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Aaron – I agree, we shouldn't try to separate it, that's where the fun is! Cheers!

  • Willybuoy

    Great post, demonstrating the classic paradox: sharing ones 'wealth', whether it be possessions, wine, money, success or knowledge, makes one richer. Twelve years ago the wife and I were having dinner at an expensive restaurant in redwood country. For the first time, we chose to rely on the waiter's suggestion of a wine to pair with our meal, rather than our tried and true selections. The wine was the best we had ever tasted and made the meal a most memorable one. In addtion, the waiter had obviously avoided pushing a much more expensive wine when he easily could have. We were so excited and thankful that we asked him if would share the last glass with us, and, as it was a slow evening, he was happy to, resulting in a wonderful conversation with a local resident who gave us a much fuller understanding of the beauty of the area.

    Before receiving…There must be giving.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Willybuoy – I know a lot of Somms who would get a warm & fuzzy from that tale!

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