The Mosel region of Germany, once called Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, is a shining example of how soil variations come into play to lend distinction to varietals which help to create exemplary wines of pure elegance. Absolutely charming and magical, the wines from this region are blessed with unique environmental conditions, rich soils from along the river banks, and the internationally-acclaimed grape known as Riesling.
This region is found in western Germany, running along the Mosel River (hence the name) as it enters Germany, just along the borders of both France and Luxembourg. It continues onward to where the river joins up with the Rhein, which is how the Saar and Ruwer tributaries were combined. In 2007, the region underwent a name change to simply be called Mosel, perhaps because saying it as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer was a mouthful best left behind in favor of tasting more wine.
Why the Mosel Region is Unique
There are many things that make the Mosel region unlike any other. While the vineyards here do share a most resplendent view like other vineyards in the world, it comes down to the geological conformation and the soil. The steep conditions that slope down to the rivers are incredibly difficult to cultivate on, and even more difficult to harvest.
With this soil inclination, the sun’s rays also have a challenge when reaching the vines. The cold climate is rather uninviting, yet despite these obstacles, the vineyards of the Mosel region manage to make their vines thrive. By planting them on the slopes that face toward the south, they have found the best practice of making the varietals shine.
The environmental and climatic conditions of the Mosel certainly don’t make it easy to produce perfectly ripe grapes with that highly-acidic quality winemakers desire. However the secret to the success here is in choice of using Riesling along with the soil itself. This grape is stunning for achieving elegance in flavor even without becoming fully ripened. Meanwhile, the soil is another marvel. Here, it is rich with slate, plus it’s highly porous, capable of absorbing heat from the limited sunshine while also reflecting it.
With slate in the soil, it lends a delightful mineral taste. But to the winemakers, rain poses another hindrance. The deep slopes combined with rainfall cause the slate to slip to the foot of the slopes. Cleverly, they’ve found the solution in gathering the slate rocks from the bottom and bringing them back up to the vineyards. The absolute labor of love that goes into cultivating the vineyards in the Mosel region is truly spectacular.
Changes of the Saar
While the entire Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region does go by the unified moniker of Mosel, it’s helpful to understand the changes of the Saar portion of the region to become more familiar with the wines produced here. If the Mosel portion itself is a difficult place to create a thriving vineyard with some of Germany’s most classic wines, then the Saar is even more dramatic.
The Saar area sometimes has a difficult time to produce grapes of the perfect level of ripeness. In fact, they usually only get that right level of ripeness maybe three or four years out of 10. With those less-favorable years in there, the sugar in the grapes is low but the acidity is high. This makes them a prime grape for sparkling Sekt wines.
Ah, but when those grapes achieve the desired level of ripeness in those prime years, the result is nothing short of spectacular! When the sun is generous, the wines here become beyond superb. Eiswein (which literally means “ice wine”) from the Saar outshines the others in the entire Mosel. Mainly with Riesling and the intense slate composure of the soil, the wines turned out here tempt the palate with a touch of a honey and crisp mineral flavor with a fresh and fruity aroma that brings cheer to any moment.
Changes of the Ruwer
The smallest of them, the Ruwer region, also has the same challenges to contend with as the Saar. The low quantity of sunshine makes it impossible for grape ripeness to occur every year. Again, these acidic grapes meet their end produced as Sekt, but when they are perfectly ripe, they are divine. On the positive side, because of the high acidity, those white wines can stand to age in a bottle for a great number of years. Dry yes, but certainly worthy of your time.
Finishing Notes on the Mosel Region
For the entire region, you’ll notice the bottles that come from the slate-infused soils of the Mosel tend to be tall, thin, and green. Perhaps as your seeking out a new wine to enjoy with friends for dinner, you’ll be drawn to them. Not all of them are dry, as noted, for the Eiswein is quite sweet.
While the main grape cultivated here is Germany’s most prized varietal, the Riesling, the Mosel also makes use of Müller Thurgau, though that is often used in producing cheaper wines. Elbling is often used for Sekt, which is also of lesser value. The Mosel vineyards additionally grow white-berried varieties of Auxerrois, Kerner, Ortega, Bacchus, and Optima, though the Riesling is still most preferred.
Suggestions of Mosel Wine Types
Reading about wine only serves to make one thirsty. In that regard, if you’re interested in learning more about the Mosel region, we suggest tasting the wines from there. You may find something new to love, particularly if you’ve only stuck to buying bottles of Riesling before.
If you haven’t yet dabbled in German wines, here are a few suggestions to look for in addition to Sekt and Eiswein in the sugar spectrum regardless of grape:
– Kabinett: These wines are light, have very little alcohol, and are dry.
– Spätlese: Made with late harvested grapes, these wines are much more intense. You’ll find them dry as well as demi-sec. They’re very acidic.
– Auslese: These wines are made from extremely ripe grapes that have been hand-selected from the vineyards. They are made from the best years of when the climate was favorable.
– Trockenbeerenauslese: These wines are the most expensive as well as richest and sweetest of Germany’s wines. They are absolute perfection!