: Vine varieties

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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In the 18th century, many villages produced red wine (see german history). By the early 19th century, white wine dominated and the elbling vine was planted on nearly two-thirds of the vineyard area. It still predominates in the largely calcareous slopes of the Upper Mosel. But overall Riesling, grown in over 90% of all Mosel vineyards in 1954, dominates with a 60% share. Where there is less steepness or slate, müller-thurgau and other german crosses dominate. There was a temporary surge in plantings of the more profitable Dornfelder in the late 1990s in response to increased domestic demand for red wine. None of these non-Rieslings, except for tiny pockets of spätburgunder (pinot noir) and pinot blanc, excel. The key to a fine Mosel Riesling is its backbone of fruity-tasting tartaric acid, which balances any residual sugar present, along with a frequent if vague impression of wet stone. A low-alcohol Mosel Riesling often tastes merely off-dry even when it has more than 30 g/l residual sugar. trocken wine is increasingly common, representing a return to dryness such as characterized Mosel Riesling when it achieved international acclaim in the late 19th century, albeit in an era with later growing seasons and lower must weights than today’s. As a result some dry Mosel Rieslings may be 13% or more natural alcohol, but the quintessential Mosel remains for many non-Germans a delicate (7–9% alcohol) Riesling that is fresh and subtly sweet yet invigorating. Only a minority of Mosel growers (notably along the Saar) seriously pursue the goal of non-trocken but far-from-sweet Riesling. (Throughout Germany, most prominent growers have given up on halbtrocken as a concept.) Yet, at levels of residual sugar hardly detectable as such, ravishing dry-tasting Mosel Riesling of 10–12% alcohol is possible.