Mosel Wine Region | The World’s Best Riesling

Harry Lambourne
26th February 2024

The Mosel wine region is the most prestigious of Germany’s 13 wine regions. Above all else, this strikingly steep landscape which is bisected by the winding Mosel River is known for world-class Riesling.

However, there is more to it than this one Noble grape. We will look into the natural factors behind this wine region and how they allow for this and other grapes to thrive. We will then introduce you to the styles of Riesling which can be found in the Mosel wine region.

The Mosel wine region is responsible for some of the world’s best wine, so it is well worth spending some time to get well acquainted with this wonderful place.

The Mosel Wine Region

Steep Vineyards in Mosel
Steep Vineyards in the Mosel Wine Region

The languorously lolling Mosel River occupies the focus of the vineyard area in the Mosel wine region. It carves much of the Mosel wine region into two. The Mosel River enters Germany where the German border meets Luxembourg and France, before it wiggles its way for 145 miles North-East before it becomes part of the Rhine, (MacNeil 565).

Riesling is the primary grape variety of this area. Not only this, but Riesling from the Mosel wine region is perhaps the purest and greatest expression of this grape variety in the world. A combination of natural factors help to contribute to this remarkable quality.

The Mosel Wine region occupies 21700 acres and this snake-like region has vines which sit on staggering steep and thigh-burning hills. These steep slopes contribute directly to the quality. The area from Bernkastel to Zelting is considered the longest stretch of near-vertical vineyards anywhere in the world, (MacNeil 566).

They are steep, but they’re also the most northern vineyards in Germany. This means that the vines only get a small amount of sunlight each day.

Vineyard placement is everything here. The small amounts of light and warmth need to be capitalised on. So, the vineyards hug the slopes which face to the south. As the vineyards are in the northern half of the globe, sunlight exposure is maximised by facing the equator. Sunlight exposure is also maximised by being closer to the river. The sunlight reflects off the river which aids in ripening.

In terms of soil type, slate is key, (MacNeil 566). It is porous which lets the water drain and avoids serious cases of erosion which could lead to soil and vines tumbling down the slopes. The blue-grey slate also retains heat, which as we know is crucial in this cool environment. Slate is an integral element of the terroir within the Mosel wine region.

The best vineyards generally have larger chunks of slate, to aid in the ripening. So, you’d be forgiven for not realising that there is in fact soil, rather than simply huge chunks of rock like a quarry.

This slate is not just beneficial for the growing of healthy grapes, it seems to impart a clear, defined minerality in all of the finest wines of the Mosel wine region. If you’ve taken a walk down a rocky path, in the wake of fresh rainfall, then you’ll know the aroma of a Mosel Riesling.

These factors also help in the cultivation of other grape varieties, although Riesling accounts for over 60% of the production in this region. Yet, a few other grapes varieties have found success.

For example, Pinot Noir is a key variety, (known locally as Spätburgunder). Then, you can also find Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and even Chardonnay. This is similar to Alsace. Then, Germany varieties of Müller-Thurgau and Dornfelder have also begun to garner attention.

Mosel Riesling

Riesling Grapes | Mosel Wine Region
Riesling Grapes

Now, we will spend a bit of time going over the variety of styles of Riesling which you can find in the Mosel wine region.

Dry Riesling

These are the most common Riesling wines from the Mosel wine region. They are absolutely bone-dry and deeply acidic. This is due to the cool climate. Cool climates tend to go hand in hand with fresh, acidic grapes. Chablis in Burgundy and Champagne are both great examples of this.

Due to this, dry Riesling will often have a powerful citric flavour, along with tart green fruit notes and delicate floral aromas. Common tasting notes include lime, lemon, green apple, pear and white flowers. These will persist throughout many of the sweeter styles of wine.

The flavour intensity and high acidity also mean they’re well-equipped to long-term ageing. Over time, you’ll often see notes of ginger, honey and petrol develop. Petroleum flavours of Riesling are not uncommon and are also particularly notable in the dry Riesling wines of Clare Valley in Australia.

Traditional System of German Wine

Now, we’ll introduce you to the German system of classifying quality wine by ripeness. These terms will all be on labels of Riesling from across the Mosel wine region, (as well as German wines in general). The first classification is ‘Kabinett’. These are light and low in alcohol with an off-dry character that provides a touch of sweetness and body.

Next, is ‘Spätlese’ which translates to ‘late harvest’. They’re riper with notes of peach and a touch more body. Following this, we have ‘Auslese’. This means ‘select harvest’. These wines come from very ripe grapes in select bunches. It represents another step up in both ripeness and flavour intensity, with more stone fruit flavours coming to the forefront. You’ll also notice far more residual sugar and many of these are full on dessert wines.

Following this, we have a few examples of wine which come from grapes affected by Noble Rot. They are ‘Beerenauslese’ and ‘Trockenbeerenauslese’, (often abbreviated to BA and TBA). In these styles, grapes which have been affected by Noble Rot and hand selected. Only the perfectly ripe grapes make the cut and the end result are lusciously sweet wines where notes of honey and marmalade really begin to take over.

Our last example is ‘Ice Wine‘, (known as Eiswein in Germany). Ice Wine is produced from grapes which have frozen on the vine. They are then pressed while frozen and the ice is separated from the pulp. The smaller percentage of water leads to a much sweeter final product.

What is Ice Wine?
Grapes Ready For Ice Wine

This is a time-consuming and risky procedure that is not practiced in every vintage. However, when done correctly you get a rich, and delicious sweet wine to rival the best in the world. Riesling Ice Wine from the Mosel wine region melds classic Riesling notes with rich candied citrus fruit, ginger, honey and caramel flavours. It is truly something to behold.

If you want to treat yourself, or someone else in your life, don’t forget to check out our Monthly Wine Subscription and Gift Wine Subscription products. Each month you’ll receive hand-picked wines from small, independent family winemakers who focus on organicbiodynamic and sustainable viticulture. Learn more here:

That’s been our quick look into the Mosel wine region and a look into the wealth of high-quality Riesling wines which can be found within the Mosel wine region. This area is responsible for some of the best wines in the world and we highly recommend you dive head first into it!

Work Cited

MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd ed., Workman Publishing, 2015.

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