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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 wine producers.

Did You Know: The Bremmer Calmont vineyard in Mosel, located in Bremm village is the steepest documented vineyard in the world with 65 degrees slope.

The total amount of vineyards in Mosel consists of around 8,770 hectares with 19 different vineyard locations. [1]

Mosel Overview

The Mosel Valley 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. Mosel Riesling is normally crisp, low in alcohol, high in acidity, and full of fruity aromas. It can range from sweet, to off-dry, to fully dry. 


The Mosel’s climate is favorable for growing grapes, although it can be a challenge to fully ripen the grapes every year. During the cold nights, the Mosel River acts as a heater, while during cold days, it reflects sunlight and heats onto the vineyards located on its steep banks. With summer temperatures averaging 64 degrees Fahrenheit, 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. [3]


Historical records suggest that the Ancient Romans were the first to establish vineyards along Mosel and Rhine Rivers in order to produce wine for their garrisons. Mosel was a part of the Roman province, Gallia Belgica (Belgic Gaul). The Romans named the river Mosella, which translates to “small Mosa.”

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.

Read also: Why is Willamette Valley Unique?

St. Maximin’s Abbey in Trier owned 74 vineyards and owned over 100,000 Riesling vines 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, all wine produced in the Mosel region should be made from Riesling. 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 consumed by the royal court and English nobility, rather than replacing the burgundy wine sold in the village pubs.[4]

The beginning of the 19th century brought an unprecedented era of prosperity for the Mosel wine industry under Prussia’s rule, beginning with the historic 1819 vintage. Throughout the 1820s there was a succession of 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 the imports of Mosel wine to other regions in the Prussian kingdom. The development of the Zollverein Customs Union further benefited the Mosel by reducing customs on their wines traveling to other regions of the German Confederation. However, a series of years of bad weather in the late 1830s and early 1840s dampened the degree of prosperity Mosel had previously experienced.[5]

By the 1850s, winemakers in the Mosel had discovered the benefits of capitalization (adding sugar to the grape juice to boost the alcohol content in the final wine) 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 Mosel wines. This move increased the wealth of the locals, although it did encourage producers to place more emphasis on quantity rather than quality.

Many areas in Mosel 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 export wine market. In recent times, the Mosel (as well as the entire German wine industry) has focused on reversing its reputation for low-quality, overly sweet wines and instead is pushing the focus back on high-quality, dry wines.

Want to read more? Try out this book!

Understanding Mosel Wines Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea- Why the Greeks Matter (The Hinges of History)


  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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