The Mosel like so many rivers in Europe unmasks different personalities as it passes through many different regions of Germany. Beyond the bucolic landscapes dotted with fairy-tale castles, terraced vineyards and rust-covered maritime facilities, the Mosel provides a glimpse into its storied history of the region.
Mother Mosel (aka Moselle) River begins its journey in France and flows into Germany where it twists sharply for 150 miles and deposits itself into the Rhine on its way to the North Sea. Along this winding river gorge are found some of the most classic Riesling wines in the world.
Once the most efficient and fashionable means of travel throughout Europe, river cruising continues to be an ideal way to discover the culture, cuisine and unique characteristics of the many countries traveled through. Yet for all their similarities, our two main avenues of travel last summer, the Rhine and Mosel, wear two very different masks.
Father Rhine, as it is called by the locals, has long been Europe’s most important commercial waterway. Its scenic beauty has inspired countless myths and legends. By introducing vines to the region, the Romans paved the way for the excellent vintages that are a further source of the Rhine’s international reputation.
Mother Mosel, on the other hand, wears a very different moniker. Since the days of the first Romans, over 2000 years ago, the most exquisite asset of the Mosel countryside has remained its wine production. Its Riesling wines are known the world over for their quality and taste.
The Mosel is one of thirteen German wine regions known for quality wines. It is Germany’s third largest in terms of production but some consider it the leading region in terms of international prestige.
The area is known for its steep slopes of the region’s vineyards overlooking the river below. At a 65 degree incline, the steepest recorded vineyard in the world is the Calmont vineyard located on the Mosel and belonging to the village of Bremm.
Because of the northerly location of Mosel, the Riesling wines are often light, tending to lower alcohol, crisp and high in acidity, and often exhibit ‘flowery’ rather than ‘fruity’ aromas. It’s most common vineyard soil is derived in main from various kinds of slate deposits which tend to give the wines a transparent, mineralic aspect, that often exhibit great depth of flavor.
Generations upon generations of craftsmen have nurtured, embellished and refined a giant open-air amphitheater to the honor of Bacchus, the God of Wine. The towering slate cliffs store the day’s warmth for the cool evenings that follow while the grapes ripen at just the right angle to the sun.
In the middle ages, whole villages sprung up that were centered on the region’s wine industry. These ‘wine villages’ included paths from the town center up to the area’s vineyards. Nothing much has changed over the centuries except that now those footpaths have been widened and paved over for heavy transport to ascend the heights to harvest the grapes.
Dating back hundreds of years, castles dot the countryside and add to the beauty and charm of the region.
The castles are a throwback to the age of kings and queens, lowly peasants, feudal lords fighting for territory and knights in dented armor. There are huge castle walls looking down on empty moats and dining halls with their huge oak tables and tapestry on the walls. An age of chivalry and corruption and a rigid caste system. A variable plethora of images for a fertile imagination.
For me, the best part of the Mosel gorge were the periods of cruising its waterways. Ensconced in a lounge chair on top of our ship, I was surrounded by an IMAX presentation of surround sights and sounds and slowly moving images.
It became a place for me to get lost inside my head and let my imagination flourish. A time to reflect, appreciate, access and plan for the future. Different surroundings but same results. A near-silent pass through history as time slipped by and my thoughts turned toward the future.