The Mosel Valley Wine Guide
Choose wines with skill from the Mosel Valley and learn why this region has been considered the best place for Riesling in the world.
The Mosel (aka Moselle) River begins in France and flows into Germany where it twists sharply for 150 miles (250 km) and deposits into the Rhine on its way to the North Sea. It is along this winding river gorge that we find the most classic Riesling wines in the world.
So what makes the Mosel Valley so special for this wine and grape? As you’ll find out, it’s a combination of geology, geography and history (Riesling was first recorded in Germany in 1435) that makes the Mosel wine region unique. Learn how to navigate the German classification system, the vintages, and what areas within the Mosel grow the best grapes.
Grapes of Mosel Valley
The Mosel Valley is home to more grapes than just Riesling, that said, Riesling does account for over 60% of the vineyard land. Other grapes worth investigating further include Elbling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Kerner and Auxerrois. You’ll find some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay here too, often used in Sekt which is the German traditional method sparkling wine.
Mosel Riesling Tasting Notes
Mosel Riesling ranges from bone-dry to sweet but the primary aromas and taste profile are distinct and easy to identify. Mosel Riesling is a great wine to try blind tasting.
- Color: Wines start out with a pale straw color and become deep yellow as they age.
- Aroma: Young wines have medium-intensity aromas of lime and honeydew, sometimes with slightly reductive smells of plastic or mineral notes. As wines age, they reveal high intensity aromas of honey, apricot, meyer lemon and gasoline (petroleum). The smell of petrol might be off-putting to some, but to others it’s a classic indicator of German Riesling.
- Taste: The structure of this wine is what makes it so intriguing. It has intensely high acidity, usually balanced with some level of sweetness. Wines that taste bone-dry will usually have around 6–10 g/L of residual sugar and wines that taste barely off-dry may have as much as 30–40 g/L of RS. The acidity lingers on the palate and tingles. Generally speaking, Mosel wines have low to medium low alcohol ranging from 7.5–11.5% ABV.
How long can it age? German Riesling is known to age well. A wine by a quality producer from great vintage will last up to 40 years. Even modestly priced wines can age for 5 years and develop a deep golden hue with aromatics of honey and petroleum.
Finding Great Mosel Wines by Classification
Classification is the first layer of identifying quality in German wine. There are essentially 3 classifications to know in the Mosel: Qualitatswein (QbA), Pradikatswein, and VDP.
A wine produced in the Mosel region that meets a minimum ripeness level is a QbA. Quality varies in this category, from bulk wines like Black Cat Riesling to decent quality everyday Riesling wines sourced from all over the Mosel.
Pradikatswein bases quality on ripeness and the amount of grapes affected by noble rot (actually a good thing). Because the region has traditionally been so cool, ripeness has been the determining factor of wine quality. Of course, as global warming continues, and our desire for dry wine increases, we might see this change, but for now, Pradikatswein is the most common designation you’ll find in the Mosel Valley. Here are the levels:
- Kabinett: Wines that are dry with around 10% ABV or off-dry (partly sweet) with about 8.5% ABV. You’ll find a great deal of Mosel wines in this category. Many are great.
- Spätlese: “Late Harvest” Wines that range from dry to sweet using riper grapes. Wine will be dry with the words “Trocken” on the label.
- Auslese: “Select Harvest” Grape bunches are hand selected and have some level of noble rot which adds subtle notes of beeswax, saffron and ginger to the taste profile. These wines range from dry to sweet, and the dry styles will have high alcohol (usually around 14%+ ABV)
- Beerenauslese (ba): “Berry Select Harvest” Grapes are hand picked that have higher levels of noble rot. Wine created in this level are exceptionally sweet.
- Trockenbeerenauslese (tba): “Dry Berry Select Harvest” The most raisinated noble rot grapes are selected for the highest end sweet wines of the region.
- Eiswein: “Ice Wine” Only grapes freeze and are harvested frozen can a wine be labeled as ice wine.
VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter)
The VDP is an association of German wine estates that classifies wines by the quality of the vineyard. Wines are rated as Gutswein (regional wines) all the way up to Grosse Lage which designates the very best vineyards of Germany. While the association has invited only about 200 wineries in Germany, you will see these vineyard classifications on the neck of a bottle of Mosel Riesling.