Breathtaking slopes and narrow stone terraces, crowded with vines: meandering through the valley, the Moselle is not only a dreamlike panoramic landscape – it also produces fine wines. The river makes for a mild climate, which is why white grapes such as the noble Riesling thrive on its banks.
The Moselle winegrowing region
The Moselle is rightly considered Germany'smost internationally important winegrowing region. Nowhere else do steep slopes guarantee top quality and shape viticulture as much as on the Moselle. The Romans were among the first to take advantage of this geographical feature: the local winegrowers are not afraid of planting vines even on 65% gradients. They boldly cope with the arduous work on these slopes, some of them extremely steep, where any attempt at mechanization is doomed to failure. But the impassable terrain is also Moselle viticulture's trump card. On the slopes of the Moselle, Saar and Ruwer river valleys, the predominantly white grapes ripen under conditions that are virtually ideal. The soil quality is excellent, and the slope allows maximum sunlight.
The leading grape variety is Riesling, which has the best ripening conditions in the world on the banks of the Moselle. Dry, medium dry or sweet: viticulture on the Moselle produces the finest Rieslings in the world. But the other white wines are also highly regarded. Typical characteristics are their fruity character and low alcohol content. The wines' slight mineral undertone is due to the special terroir. Full-bodied red wines are also produced in small quantities on the Moselle, and they are impressive in every respect.
History of viticulture on the Moselle
Viticulture has been practised on the Moselle for 2,000 years. In what was termed the Gallic War, Caesar's legionaries conquered the valleys of the Moselle and founded the city of Trier – then called Augusta Treverorum – which established itself over the years as an imperial residence. Although the Celts before them drank wine, it was the Romans who introduced viticulture. The expansion of the Roman settlements increased demand for alcoholic stimulants, and the river valleys were soon planted with vines. Even today, remains of ancient wine presses bear witness to the beginnings of grape cultivation.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the monasteries continued to grow grapes on the Moselle. Their extensive estates enabled them to expand the cultivation area. Names like Jesuitenwingert and Benediktinerberg on bottle labels are reminders of the Moselle wines' ecclesiastical past. Cistercian monks from Burgundy brought their expertise to the Moselle in the High Middle Ages. The French Revolution brought this heyday of wine cultivation to an abrupt end. As secularization progressed, the monasteries lost their estates. The policies of the Kingdom of Prussia made life difficult for winegrowers in the years that followed. It was not until the end of the 19th century that winegrowing on the Moselle flourished again, thanks to state support – achieving global fame for the first time. But the two world wars put an end to this renewed heyday. Although production recovered after the Second World War, quantity took precedence over quality for several years. Only the rediscovery of the steep slopes and restricted yields led to a true renaissance of Moselle wine.
The geography of the Moselle – the ideal winegrowing region
The river landscape is characteristic of the Moselle region and its winegrowing. The Moselle and its tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer, meander through the hilly landscape, forming valleys bordered by steep slopes. The Moselle winegrowing region extends over 200 kilometres and covers around 9,000 hectares. The region can be divided into six areas and numerous collective and individual vineyard sites.
The core area is the Middle Moselle, where the river winds through narrow valleys. This is where the most important sites are located, home to the fine Rieslings of the Trittenheimer Apotheke and the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen. The Lower Moselle has the steepest riverbank slopes, steeper than those of the Upper Moselle. While slate soils predominate elsewhere, the soils in this area are rich in shell limestone, Keuper and marl. With their often high rock content, the slate soils are largely responsible for the mineral nuances of Moselle wines.
The smallest area is the Moseltor near Perl. It is quite steep in the Ruwer Valley, where Riesling thrives on Devonian slate and where the vines are most densely planted. The terroir of the Saar region is characterized by slate, clay-rich soil and an elevated position. These environmental conditions affect the ripening process of the wines, which are therefore quite acidic.
Climatic conditions in the Moselle winegrowing region
The steep riverbank slopes create a special microclimate that has an extremely favourable effect on the vines' vegetation cycle. The steep slopes have the optimal angle of inclination: each vine receives a maximum amount of sunlight so that it can retain its fruit until it is fully ripe, which is an important factor for the development of fruity, aromatic wines. The many expanses of water ensure mild temperatures. In addition, slate soils store heat – so that the air temperature only declines moderately even when cold weather fronts move in.
Top wines from the Moselle
Wines from the Moselle
Terroir-accentuated wines with a mineral note, fruity taste and low alcohol content: these are the hallmarks of products from the Moselle. Viticulture in this region offers something for every taste and every budget, ranging from basic table wines to high-quality wines that fetch substantial prices at auction. The list of rare wines is topped by Moselle Riesling, still a real treat for the palate even after decades because of its terrific storage potential. But affordable quality wines clearly predominate. From dry wines to noble sweet varieties, wines from the Moselle cover the entire spectrum of tastes. This also includes traditional specialities such as the aromatically sweet Spätlese, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese. The sparkling wine segment is also impressive: Riesling and Elbling grapes are pressed to make Sekt and crémant.
Grape varieties of the Moselle region
With a share of 60%, the Riesling grape dominates Moselle viticulture. And no wonder: the terroir is nigh-on perfect for this noble grape. Riesling from the Moselle is characterized by great finesse and mineral nuances. In second place comes Müller-Thurgau, which is also fruity and dry. A rare delicacy of Moselle viticulture is the Elbling wine. Full-bodied Pinot blanc and Pinot gris complete the range of whites.
Equally rich are the wines made from red grapes, with which four per cent of the Moselle winegrowing region is planted. Dornfelder and Pinot noir are particularly worthy of mention.
Vineyard area and production volume
The total vineyard area in the Moselle region is 9,000 hectares, producing approximately 790,000 hectolitres a year.
Discover top wines from Germany's oldest and most renowned winegrowing region. Moselle wines are available in the Mondovino online shop and in Coop sales outlets.