Mosel is the name of both the river – a tributary of the Rhine running parallel to Ahr – and the wine region, one of Germany’s largest, most important and prestigious. Stretching from Trier – purportedly the oldest city of Germany and the birthplace of Karl Marx – to Koblenz, the meandering river with sharp turns and hairpin bends travels some 250km, or 125km as the crow flies. This is one of the most inimitable wine regions on earth, whose wines are instantaneously distinguishable.
Viticulture and winemaking in Mosel can be traced back to the early 1st century BC, when the Roman city of Augusta Treverorum, now Trier, was founded. Since the Middle Ages, Riesling has reigned supreme in this region, now comprising approximately 60% of all vines planted. If Riesling is a daredevil which enjoys living on the sharp edge of a knife, in Mosel it has found its natural habitat. The southernmost of German wine regions is on a par with cool-climate regions such as Bourgogne and Champagne, yet Mosel is significantly more northerly. In an area where other cosy varieties would not reach maturity, Riesling flourishes thanks to the delicate balance in which the Mosel reflects just enough sunshine and the steep slopes allow just enough exposure, while the slate-dominated soil retains just enough warmth.
Renowned for its breathtaking landscape, Mosel is home to some of the steepest vineyards in the world, some reaching a staggering 65 degrees gradient. Few crops can grow under such circumstances, and yet this is the source of some of the greatest white wines on earth. So labour-intensive is viticulture in Mosel that it is often said that it requires seven times the manpower as do flat vineyards. Despite the labour cost, Mosel wines remain, at least for now, tantalisingly affordable.
Willi Schaefer is the quintessential quality-driven family-owned estate in Mosel. With a venerable family history dating back to 1121, it has but 4.2ha of prime vineyards, some of which comprising ungrafted vines up to 100 years old, including Wehlener Sonnenuhr (“Wehlen’s sundial”), Graacher Domprobst (“Graach’s cathedral provost”) and Graacher Himmelreich (“Graach’s heaven kingdom”). Hovering between 6% and 9% ABV, its exquisite produce is immensely fruity with pristine – not the saline type – minerality and slight petillance in youth. Much of Riesling, especially Mosel’s Riesling, is consumed too young despite its substantial ageing potential, but who could blame the thirsty drinkers, when the wines are so irresistible in youth? If there are 10 regions whose wines one must taste before returning to the Creator – or Karl Marx, if you are a communist – Mosel is surely one of them.
Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett VDP Große Lage 2013
Translucent citrine with pastel golden reflex, the cordial nose offers bergamot, green apple, wet stone and paperwhite. With lively acidity and pure minerality, the adorable palate delivers calamansi, Japanese pear, crushed shells and lemon blossom. Off-dry and medium-bodied at 7.5%, the dainty entry carries onto a focused mid-palate, leading to a refreshing finish.
Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese VDP Große Lage 2013
Luminous citrine with light chartreuse hues, the alluring nose furnishes kumquat, longan, lemon curd, crushed rock and white tulip. With sprightly acidity and pristine minerality, the seductive palate provides yuzu, mangosteen, tangerine marmelade, seashells and white rose. Fully sweet and medium-full bodied at 7%, the enchanting entry persists through a melodious mid-palate, leading to a delightful finish.
Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese VDP Große Lage 2012
Limpid citrine with bright golden reflex, the floral nose presents peach, pineapple, wet stone and frangipani. With vivacious acidity and stony minerality, the attractive palate supplies Fuji apple, apricot, crushed rock and daffodil. Off-sweet and medium-bodied at 7.5%, the peachy entry continues through a succulent mid-palate, leading to a tangy finish.
Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Beerenauslese VDP Große Lage 2010
Radiant golden with bright amber reflex, the intricate nose effuses Seville orange, apricot, dried longan, crystallised tangerine peel, white clover honey and osmanthus. With animated acidity and crystalline minerality, the chiselled palate emanates clementine, nectarine, dried mango, orange marmalade, lemon honey and honeysuckle. Luxuriously sweet and full-bodied at 8%, the lush entry evolves into a symphonic mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish.
To explore the finest of Mosel, contact Ms Guiomar Pedruco of Macau Fine Wine Bazaar Co. Ltd.; W: www.macaubazaar.com.mo; E: [email protected]; T: +853 2872 0025
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages