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Mosel: The coldest wine region in the world


Mosel: The coldest wine region in the world

Mosel is one of the world’s steepest, coldest and northernmost wine-producing regions. The region encompasses the valleys of rivers Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer in Germany, starting from Mosel’s mouth at Koblenz upstream to the neighborhood of Trier in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The steep slopes of the region’s vineyards facing the rivers are well-known to the wine producers.

The Calmont vineyard of Mosel, located in Bremm village and is hence known as Bremmer Calmont, is the steepest documented vineyard in the world with 65 degrees slope. The vineyards of the region cover an area of around 8,770 hectares, with 19 different vineyard locations and it is the largest wine-producing region in Germany with international recognition.[1]


The valley of the Mosel together with its tributaries, is Germany’s fourth largest wine-producing region. However, it has the highest Riesling wine production. It is also considered the world’s largest and most significant Riesling-producing region. Riesling accounts for more than half of all Mosel wine production. Resisling wine is considered to be crispy, lower alcoholic, higher acidity, and has fruity aromas.

Historical records suggest that the Romans established vineyards along Mosel and Rhine rivers in order to have a local wine supply for their garrisons, are believed to have brought viticulture to this area.  Mosel was a part of Roman province, Gallia Belgica (Belgic Gaul). The Romans named the river Mosella, which translates as “small Mosa.” During the Middle Ages, the area is known as the Upper Mosel in a broader sense (that is, both riverbanks) was established in 14th century and belonged to the Duchy of Luxembourg.

In other words, the border ran further east (into present-day Germany) than it does now, so Luxembourg controlled both banks of the section from Perl to the mouth of the Saar River near Konz. The Electorate of Trier ruled over Saar and Middle Mosel. The Upper Mosel was not subject to Trier Archbishop-Elector Clemens Wenceslaus’ so-called Rieslingsedikt of 1787, which was a regulation to plant more Riesling in Mosel region.[2]

Climate in the region is favorable for grapes’ growth and high yield. During the cold nights, the Mosel River acts as a heater, while during cold days, it reflects sunlight and heat. With summer temperatures averaging 64 degrees Farenhite, this heat is critical for ripening the world’s most prized Rieslings.  Furthermore, the Mosel valley’s topography provides several key features that aid in grape ripening.

The Mosel River, which runs through the valley, first reflects sunlight to the grape’s gardens. In addition, by radiating the heat it has absorbed during the day, the river will help to moderate the ambient temperature in the evenings. Second, the steep slopes along the river allow grape growers to orient the gardens to get the most sun exposure possible during the day.[3]

During the Middle Ages, villages were established around the region’s wine industry. These “wine villages,” known as “Winzerdörfer,” included paths leading from the town center up to the vineyards in the area. At the heart of the wine region was a community wine cellar where all of the wine producers could store their wines for fermentation. At the end of the 17th   century, Mosel became a center of Riesling-based wines.

Read also: why is Willamette valley unique?

St. Maximin’s Abbey in Trier owned 74 vineyards and owned over 100,000 Riesling gardens in 1695. Maximin Grünhaus’ vineyard is now regarded as one of the best Riesling vineyards in Germany and around the world.

During the 18th century, the Elector of Trier, Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony, ordered that for a period of seven years each wine produced in the Moselle region should be Riesling only. At that time, the rise of the House of Hanover in Britain saw a period of increasing export of “Moselle wine” to England. However, due to the high price of the wine, they were mostly in the hands of the royal court and English nobility, rather than replacing the burgundy wine in the village pubs.[4]

The beginning of 19th century brought an unprecedented era of prosperity for the Moselle wine industry under Prussia’s rule, beginning with the historic 1819 vintage. Throughout the 1820s there was a succession of the most favorable weather conditions. As a result, excellent wine was produced in the era.

In order to promote the wine from the region, the Prussian government lowered tariffs on imports of Moselle wines to other regions of the Prussian kingdom. The development of the Zollverein Customs Union further benefited the Moselle by reducing customs on their wines traveling to other regions of the German Confederation. However, a series of bad weather years in the late 1830s and early 1840s dampened the degree of prosperity the Moselle had previously experienced.[5]

By the 1850s, winemakers in the Moselle had discovered the benefits of capitalization in compensating for bad weather and under-ripened grapes. Another significant boom for the wine producers came a few decades later when British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone lowered excise duties on light wine, opening the UK market to the cheaper Moselle wines. This move increased the wealth of the locals and they were inclined to produce more quantity than quality wines.

Many areas that were not ideal for Riesling were soon planted by the easier-to-grow Müller-Thurgau and other Riesling crosses.[6] In the 20th century, a North American taste for sweet wines saw the prominence of Liebfraumilch, and brands like Blue Nun dominated the German import wine market. In recent times, the Moselle (as well as the entire German wine industry) has focused on reversing the reputation it has acquired in these years and concentrating on the quality of the dry wine from the area.

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  1. [1] J. Robinson Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course Third Edition pg 264-265 Abbeville Press 2003.
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. [4] H. Johnson Vintage: The Story of Wine pp. 288–296, Simon and Schuster 1989.
  5. [5] J. Robinson (ed) “The Oxford Companion to Wine” Third Edition pp. 456–458, Oxford University Press 2006
  6. [6]
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