This week we continue our discussion of my favorite wine regions. Today’s “mini lesson” is about a place that I first visited many years ago and love it still. I’ve long said that we don’t talk about these wines nearly often enough. If you’re in Little Rock on Dec. 3, that’s the date for my next eWine Sampling at Cajun’s Wharf. Taste five wines — the wines I’ll recommend in our four November ‘E’ Wine issues plus a Welcome Wine for only $10. No reservations needed, just drop by and taste at your own pace. Go to brucecochran.com for details.
Try a new wine this week!
Rudi Wiest Mosel
First, it’s not “mo ZELL” in Germany. It’s “MO zel.” Second, it’s hard to imagine a more scenic wine region, especially one with so much history. The wines are totally unique, even among other German wines, and even among German wines made from the Riesling grape, which is the main Mosel variety.
Tart, green apple flavors combine with slate soil zippiness on the finish to make a wine not totally unlike a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, but more subtle, more delicate, with lower alcohol, and sometimes, but not always, a bit sweeter.
Just about all of Germany’s dozen or so wine regions are along the mighty Rhine River or its tributaries. The Mosel River joins the Rhine near the old city of Koblenz. Along the way it twists and turns, at times almost flowing back into itself, as it wanders past timbered houses and verdant, steeply pitched vineyards.
There’s a saying here, that I learned back in 1982 when I attended the German Wine Academy. “No vine should grow where a plow can go.” This means something good for Mosel wine lovers, among which I am one of the most enthusiastic. You can’t use tractors in those vineyards. Some are so steep that they’re difficult to climb. Everything must be done by hand.
There are three sections of this very special and unique wine region. The lower section near Koblenz is not so steep and lends itself to less expensive wines made in larger quantities. The best known is the “Black Cat” of the town of Zell-Zeller Schwartz Katz.
The wines of the middle Mosel are the most famous and may be the greatest. The wine capitol would have to be Bernkastel, with its legendary Doktor vineyard. There are other vineyards nearby that are nearly as good, like Lay and Graben.
Neighboring villages also are highly exalted. Some of my favorites are Wehlen’s Sonnenuhr (Sundial), Graach’s Himmelreich (Heavenly Realm) and Piesport’s Goldtropfchen (Golden Teardrop). I also like Erbach’s Wurzgarden (Spice Garden) and Brauneberg’s Juffer (never knew what that one meant).
Middle Mosel wines tend to be finer than those of the lower Mosel, with more defined green-apple acidity and more of that slate soil mineral zippiness. But the most elegant and refined wines are those of the upper Mosel, near the Roman town of Trier where the Saar and Ruwer Rivers join the Mosel. In fact, the region’s name is officially Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.
My very favorite Mosel wine is probably Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg, which is named for a Carthusian Monastary. It is tense, thrilling, succulent and totally unique among the world’s wines.
Another saying I learned back in 1982 was “Deutscher Wein, Einzig Unter Den Weinen,” or “German Wines, Unique Among Wines.” Mosel wines are truly unique and upper Mosel wines have been a personal favorite for many years.
Some people believe that all German wines are sweet, which is not true. It is true that the dessert wines are quite famous and often expensive, but some are bone dry.
My favorites are the “off-dry” versions. They are usually labeled as the “Kabinett” level of ripeness. I also like a good “Qualitatswein.” The difference is that the former is made with only natural grape sugar.
To try a good Mosel for a good price, you might begin with either Rudi Wiest Mosel (Rudi is the nation’s premier German wine importer, in my opinion), or Slatestone, both in the $10 to $15 range. If you like those, seek out one of the single vineyard wines listed above.
For questions, comments, or to subscribe to the electronic version of E Wine of the Week, e-mail Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org.