Moselle is an appellation covering white, red and rosé wines from an area in the administrative department of Moselle in north-eastern France. The vineyard zone covers land on both sides of the Mosel River (known locally as the Moselle), before it flows north to form the heart of Germany's famed Mosel wine region. Moselle wines are most often light, aromatic whites with crisp acidity, made predominantly from the Auxerrois Blanc and Muller-Thurgau grape varieties.
The Moselle AOC zone extends along the banks of the river in western Moselle, covering 18 communes in that department plus one in the neighboring department of Meurthe-et-Moselle. Most vineyards lie on south-facing hillsides to make the most of sunlight exposure, an important consideration at the area's relatively high latitude of 49°N. In fact, aside from a few vineyards in the very north of Champagne, Moselle boasts France's northernmost AOC-defined area.
Historically, Moselle (and indeed much of the Lorraine region) was an important area of wine production in northern France. Before the introduction of appellation laws, vineyards near Metz were planted to Pinot Noir, which was used in the production of Champagne, or – while Lorraine was under German rule following the Franco-Prussian War – Sekt.
The land under vine in Moselle decreased following the crisis involving phylloxera, which reached the area in the early 20th Century. This was followed by a period of increasing industrialization and then World War I, which had a major impact on all forms of agriculture in north-eastern France. By the 1980s, viticulture in Moselle was almost non-existent, although a recent decline in the steel industry has seen an increase of plantings, which in 2010 amounted to around 170 acres (70ha).
Moselle has a continental climate and is well suited to cool-climate grape varieties, although rainfall is lower and sunlight hours slightly higher than is expected at such a northerly location. While Auxerrois Blanc, Muller-Thurgau and Pinot Gris are the principal varieties set out in the appellation law, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Blanc are permitted in the white wines in limited amounts. The reds must be made entirely of Pinot Noir, but Moselle rosés may have a proportion of Gamay.
The soils in the region are composed mainly of limestone, with some areas of marl. These coarsely textured soils, when combined with the slope of the vineyard itself, offer good natural drainage and help to keep the water intake of the vines at an optimum level, limiting vigor and ensuring energy is instead directed toward grape production. The slope of the vineyard also ensures that cold air cannot pool above the vines, helping to stave off the risk of frost during the growing season.
Along with the French Moselle wines and the famous Rieslings produced in the German region of Mosel, a small amount of Mosel wine is also produced in Luxembourg, the south-eastern border of which is formed by the Mosel River.