Mosel – the most famous of Germany's 13 official wine regions – is also the third largest in terms of production. It follows the path of the Mosel river from its confluence with the Rhine river near Koblenz, upstream and south-west to Germany's border with Luxembourg and France. This region also includes the Saar and Ruwer tributaries, and was formerly known as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer until August 2007, when the name was officially shortened to Mosel.
The Romans planted the first vineyards along the Mosel river and the city of Trier around the second century. Today, this region is known for its steep slopes overlooking the rivers, on which the vineyards are planted. Indeed, the steepest vineyard site in the world is located in the town of Bremm, with an incline of 65 degrees.
The Mosel has a very cool, northern continental climate, and such slopes are very effective in optimizing the vines’ exposure to sun, facilitating the ripening of the grapes. The best sites also take advantage of the solar radiation reflecting off the rivers’ surface and onto the vines, and the dark slate soil’s ability to absorb heat during the day and radiate it back to the vines at night. In summer the weather is warm, but certainly not hot, with an average July temperature of around 65F (18C).
One disadvantage of such steep vineyard sites is that they are inaccessible to machinery, meaning as much as seven times the amount of manual labor is required to tend them, compared to level vineyards. In winter, rain washes slate from high on the hillsides down to the rivers, and vineyard workers must gather it and carry it back up to the vineyards, where its heat-retaining properties are required. Occupational safety is a major issue on the very steep sites, and fatalities among vineyard workers have been known.
The Mosel region is most famous for its Riesling wines, but Muller-Thurgau is also widely planted. The best Mosel wines are some of the finest white wines in the world. Light and low in alcohol, they can be intensely fragrant with beguiling floral and mineral notes, and a wonderful balance of sweetness and acidity.