: Geography

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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The Lower Mosel boasts the highest percentage of Riesling vines on the River Mosel, if only a minority of its top sites. Curving downstream from Zell to the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel at Koblenz, this subregion incorporates many small, steep vineyards which can be maintained only by hand, and the lowest percentage of flat or gently sloping sites workable by tractor. The individual holdings are not as large as those of the Middle Mosel and their sheer incline and rockiness as well as their relative isolation in a narrow, steeply walled valley have traditionally put them at a commercial disadvantage relative to their neighbours upstream. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Deutsches Eck growers’ association had some success in raising commercial consciousness as well as wine quality for these villages jointly with those of the neighbouring mittelrhein region, a close cultural and geological cousin. More recently, the name Terrassenmosel is being used as a way of distinguishing, and of creating a quality image for these steepest of Mosel vineyards, nearly all planted on terraces dating back many centuries. The stony, relatively dry mesoclimate here, as well as the frequent convergence of blue Devonian slate, red slate, and quartzite, can result in fascinating and distinctive wines, as a few of the top growers—some beginning to enjoy international attention—are proving. The precipitous walls of slate outside Koblenz at Winningen—most notably the Uhlen vineyard—are regaining a reputation for high ripeness and excellence that was essentially forgotten for nearly a century. Upriver from Winningen, in Kobern, Gondorf, and Hatzenport, several estates are demonstrating Riesling’s delicious potential. Numerous villages above and below Cochem still harbour significant Riesling plantings although their wines are scarcely recognized by name even inside Germany. At Bremm, the terraced Calmont rises 200 m/656 ft from the river. With a 65% incline, it is one of the world’s steepest vineyards and, like sites immediately upstream in Neef, St Aldegrund, and Alf, its potential is being demonstrated and its vine presence hanging on for dear life thanks to a few intrepid growers able to access their vineyards using hair-raising monorails.