About two hours north-west of Frankfurt lies arguably Germany’s most picturesque wine region along the Mosel river, lined with postcard-perfect villages and famous rows of vines clinging precariously on its steep banks.
Vineyards have been planted here since Roman times having founded the town of Trier. Today, Riesling is by far the most planted variety here on the best sites, but Elbling, Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) are also dotted around.
Winding about 120 miles from Trier to Koblenz where it meets the Rhine, visitors are struck by the crazy-steep (up to 65 degrees!) vineyards, leaving them in awe how they are tended to. The valley forms a macro-climate with the mountains on each side sheltering it from the elements and the river helps regulate temperature.
Equally fascinating are the soils which vary along the Mosel, with blue/grey and red volcanic slate, which provide good drainage and retain heat – well suited to a region with a good amount of rainfall. This also provides good resistance to phylloxera – and many vines are on their own rootstocks. The red slate is said to impart spiciness, and blue slate presenting fruity and mineral characters.
Unsurprisingly, these are the most labour-intensive vineyards, with up to seven times the man-hours required to tend than other regions, with “Monorackbahnen”, cogged monorails, weaving through them to ferry crates of hand-picked grapes down.
The best “Grand Cru” vineyards face south-west to catch most of the sun, including light reflected from the river itself. These have rockstar-like status with names boldly emblazoned in Hollywood-style signage. Keep an eye out for the most famous vineyards proudly named on bottles, like Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Ürziger Würzgarten, Scharzofberger, and Erdener Prälat to name but a few.