Exploring S.A. Prüm Rieslings

Source: Palm Bay Imports.

His hand felt like an oven mitt—filled with stone. “My god,” I thought as I removed my paw, “those are hands that have worked the vines.” Which is true.

Raimund Prüm is a mountain of a man, and he and his family having been making wine for a very long time. Some of the vines are 130 years old. The Prüms have vineyards on the slopes above the Mosel River, whose various formations of slate have enviable effects on the grapes. Raimund —with help from his wife Pirjo— oversaw the operation from 1971 until recently, when he put his daughter Saskia in charge.

I’ve enjoyed my share of riesling over the years—Dr. Konstantin Frank’s are a favorite— but it never has been my favorite wine. I tend to drink white wine in warm weather, and too many of the rieslings I have tried are sweet. Maybe it is my thick northerner blood, but sweet drinks just do not appeal to me when the Mercury is up.

And it was a balmy May day when Raimund was here in Washington, DC. The thought might have entered my mind: “Will he squash me like a grape if I show little enthusiasm for his wines?” But it did not have the chance, because before I even met the man his lovely wife saw to it that I got a glass of S.A. Prüm Kabinett 2009, which was surprisingly un-sweet and wafted a honeysuckle aroma. It was, to my surprise, refreshing.

Over lunch, I tasted at least seven different S.A. Prüm rieslings and was really impressed. Not only were they all very good, each riesling was different. The Wehlener 2010 was acidic and nosed of pineapple; the Wehlener Sonnenuhr 2014 was almost a dessert wine and oozed fruit aromas; and Spatlese 2003 unleashed a bouquet of tropical scents. Some wines were dry, some were a little sweet, and one was full-on sweet (but not cloying). It was impressive to experience so many different flavor profiles coaxed from the same grape.

Both the Prüms emphasized that riesling should be treated as a year ‘round drink, with different versions being better in different seasons. As for the old saw about red wine going with meat—humbug. They pair wild boar with riesling.

When I departed the tasting, I thanked Raimund for the eye-opening experience. He expressed his gratitude and invited me to come stay in the guest house at the vineyard. He said it had a fine bed, so that I could rest after we tasted wine early in the day. “You can rest so that you will be ready for the second tasting we will have.” Pirjo surprised me with a farewell hug and told me she would have two chilled bottles waiting for me in the guest house.

Time to book my flight. Tell my wife and the kids I’ll be a week or two late for dinner.

Kevin R. Kosar is the vice president of policy at the R Street Institute and the author of Whiskey: A Global History and Moonshine: A Global History. He is the editor and founder of AlcoholReviews.com. This column also was published by the American Spectator.

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Pennsylvania might improve its dreadful drinks laws—a little

Source: Cartoon ©2012 Signe Wilkinson/Philadelphia Daily News. 

If Rep. Jesse Topper has his way, Pennsylvania’s legislature will roll back its infamous stealth tax on drinks. Topper, a Republican representing the south-central Bedford, Franklin, and Mercer counties, has introduced H.R. 2263, which would repeal the “flexible pricing” authority given to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in 2016.

Why is this good news? Well, the cheerfully named provision had the dreadful effect of enabling the state liquor officials to raise prices as they saw fit. The PLCB has a monopoly on the sale of spirits and a near monopoly on wine sales, so it can set prices without fear of price competition. And with the state legislature demanding the PCLB give it big chunks of revenue each year to fund government employees’ pensions and the like, the problem is obvious: flexible pricing is a stealth tax. Bureaucrats raise revenues for general government spending by elevating mark-ups paid by drinks consumers, sans legislative enactment. It is literally taxation without representation.

As my colleague Jarrett Dieterle has observed, “Retail liquor markups in control states usually are set as a percentage of the wholesale price of the liquor in question.” Topper’s bill proposes returning to Pennsylvania’s old fixed pricing scheme, which fixed the “mark-up” of a bottle of hooch or plonk at 31 percent. (To be clear, Keystone State consumers do not pay a price that is merely the wholesale price plus a 31 percent mark-up. Oh, no. They pay a price that also includes a 24 percent tax and a more than $1 a bottle fee. And some counties levy additional taxes.)

The old mark-up system, certainly, is not ideal—but it is less bad. Re-enstating it means politicians will find it a little harder to hide the true cost of government by keeping taxes artificially low and covering the difference by sticking drinks consumers with the bill.

And who knows, if the legislature can find the sense and courage to enact Topper’s bill maybe it one day also will have the gumption to abolish other bad drinks policies, like the law that forbids anyone from buying more than four bottles of wine at one retail shop per visit. And the rules that limit the sale of spirits to dreary government-run shops. And the regulations that force consumers to make consumers go to distributors instead of groceries for many beer purchases. And…

Kevin R. Kosar is the vice president of policy at the R Street Institute and the author of Whiskey: A Global History and Moonshine: A Global History. He is the editor and founder of AlcoholReviews.com and a contributor to The American Spectator’s Great American Saloon Series.

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