Mosella – home of the best Riesling wines in the world

February 5, 2012

The Mosel valley with the hamlets Riol and Longuich

Maybe because it is Sunday, maybe because that lends itself to some introspection, maybe because I am abstaining from consuming wine for a couple of days, maybe because I have not been to my beloved Mosel for such a long time, maybe…who knows.

Anyway, on this beautiful tropical Sunday in Bangkok and while my Thai vintner friends in Khao Yai, about two-three hours north-east of Bangkok, are busy harvesting their grapes, I am exploring the writings of Decimus Magnus Ausonius (310-393 AD), a Gallic-Roman government official, educator of princes and poet who lived for some years in my home-town Trier.

The Mosel, photo taken from Nittel, the Luxembourg side to the left

Have you heard about Ausonius? No? Well, let me tell you that he was born in Buldigana, which it called Bordeaux today, and where he also died. He had studied rhetoric in Toulouse.

In 365 Valentinian I, emperor of the West-Roman empire, called Ausonius to Trier (yes, my home-town which was the capital of the West-Roman empire for a while) or Augusta Treverorum, as it was called in those days, to educate his eldest son, Gratian, the heir-apparent.

The wine village of Alken, Mosel river and castle

In 371 Ausonius published his impressions (early travel writing) from a trip in 368 which brought him from Mogontiacum (Mainz) through Bingium (Bingen) and Noviomagnus (Neumagen) to Augusta Treverorum (Trier). This work is know as “Mosella” and consists of 483 hexameters describing the land and its people along the road which now carries the name of the poet: Via Ausonius.

The “Mosella” is the only known poem from antiquity describing a single German river: the Mosel. In his poem Ausonius praised the beauty of the river, the lands surrounding it, the fertility of its soils and the industriousness of its people.

The poem has inspired endless other poets, writers and bards until the present times. I like for instance the CD “Mosella” with songs praising the Mosel region by the folk music group “Woltaehr”.

The Mosel river, photo taken from the train near Puenderich

So far so good, you might say, but what about the wine, the famous Riesling you adore so much?

Unfortunately, I did not drink that many Riesling wines from my native Mosel in 2011. I do not know how it happened. I must have explored other wines more often than usual.

However, the ones I tasted where really special and of the highest quality. I fondly remember my visits to Leiwen where I visited Grans-Fassian and St. Urbans Hof in November 2010.

Both wineries produce beautiful Riesling and other wines of the finest quality. Both belong to the association of the top German wine producers (Called VDP). Both win regularly awards. Usually the top wines are in the range of 88 to 96 Parker points, just so that you have a general idea.

Most of the wines I brought with me then, were consumed in 2011, either here in Bangkok or at my mum’s home in Trier. I admit they were the 2009 and 2010 vintages only.

I have written about the two wineries which you can find in earlier blog entries (Grans-Fassian, St. Urbans Hof).

Feel free to explore Riesling wines from the Mosel. It’s worth it.

The other Mosel: The wines of Luxembourg

September 2, 2009


Luxembourg vineyards along the Mosel seen from the German side in Wellen

Having grown up in Trier, Mosel the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is no stranger. As a teenager we used to drive to Luxembourg City to enjoy its night-life visiting the famous discotheque “Blow up” and thereby expose ourselves in a kind of pan-European experience, populating the dance floor amid dancers from Belgium, Holland, France, Germany and Luxembourg.


Mosel river with Nittel in the foreground (German side) and Machtum (Luxembourg side)

The above photo shows the Mosel valley, in the foreground the wine village of Nittel on the German side, and in the background the Luxembourg village of Machtum/Miechtem along the “Route du Vin”, the road which leads the visitor through the picturesque vineyards and wine villages of Luxembourg. I took these photos during my last visit to Trier at the end of June when I cruised along the river visiting both Grevenmacher and Nittel.

One of the best kept secrets as regards European wines are the fine wines of Luxembourg. Total production is about 12.4 million litres of which more than half is exported (mostly to Belgium and Germany). The total area under vines is about 1300 ha only which is about a third of the Yarra Valley. Luxembourg is a kind of artisan wine producer, where the winery sector is dominated by small family-enterprises, whereas large, corporate-wine industrialists shine through their almost complete absence. Of the odd 430 grape producers only about 60 have their own wineries. Most vignerons are members of a wine co-operatives at the village level.

Luxembourg is mainly a producer of dry, varietal white and sparkling wines (about 15% of total production). This is a stark contrast to the German side of the Mosel which has a strong tradition in semi-dry and sweet wine production.

Of the 15 approved wine varieties, Müller-Thurgau (Rivaner) accounts for about 29% of the area under vines followed by the Burgundy varietals (together almost 40%). Auxerrois (14%), Pinot Blanc (12%) and Pinot Gris (13%). Riesling covers only about 13% of the area in Luxembourg whereas it is the dominant grape variety on the German side of the Mosel. Luxembourg also has about 10% of the area under Elbling, the oldest wine variety in middle Europe, characterized by its high acidity which makes it ideal for the production of sparkling wines. Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer are other white varieties grown. Pinot Noir (about 7% of the area) is the most common red variety of Luxembourg.


Parent house of Bernard Massard in Grevenmacher

On of the largest producers of still wines and crémants (bubbly/sparkling for my Australian readers) is Bernard Massard. Bernard Massard is also well known in Trier where the company has a large office and wine cellars in the middle of the town centre (Jakobstrasse), but Bernard Massard owns and operates vineyards also along the Loire river in France. The parent house of the company is located in Grevenmacher. More than 30,000 visitors come to see the extensive wine cellars


Bernard Massard owns two vineyards along the Mosel: Domaine ‘Thill’ in Schengen (12 ha under vines) and Domaine ‘Clos des Rochers’ in Grevenmacher and Wormeldange (18 ha) with a combined production of about 120,000 bottles (or 10,000 cases) per year. Through the sparkling production in Trier about 3 million bottles of crémants and other sparling wines are sold. The French vineyards (Caves Monmousseau at Montrichard and La Petite Cave at Ronchamp) along the Loire river produce mainly crémants (Crémants de Loire and Touraine sparkling wines) and a variety of local wines.


Domaine ‘Clos des Rochers’ in Grevenmacher


Vineyards near Mertert/Wasserbillig

The bulk of Luxembourg’s family vineyards and wineries is much smaller than Bernard Massard. Because of the long tradition of viticulture in the villages and hamlets along the Mosel, many vintners come from families who have a strong family tradition in grape growing and wine making. Many families are related through intermarriage and therefore many wineries have combined family names most of which you will have never heard of.

Representing these strong traditions I would like to mention only three smaller wineries. I apologise to all the others; I know many of you deserve a full portrait.

Caves René Bentz, Wellenstein (5.2 ha)
The vineyards are located in Wellenstein, Remich, Wintringen and Bech-Kleinmacher. Main variety is Müller- Thurgau, however the most important varieties are Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois. The Riesling wines of the Gottesgôf selection are worth trying, and so is the 2007 Pinot Gris Côteau Wellenstein.

Domaine Viticole Charles Decker, Remerschen (4 ha)
Charles Decker has a clear vision of his wines. He is one of the few who cultivates Muscat Ottonel grapes and experiments with German new varietals such as Siegerrebe, an aromatic grape. He specialises in sweet wines. Try his Muscat Ottonel wines but also the Chardonnay and the Pinot Gris are commendable.

Caves Kayl-Noesen Nic et fils, Remerschen (6 ha)
This is a very young undertaking, with the winery established only about 5 years ago. Before that the family produced grapes and sold the fruit to other wineries. The young vintner who studied oenology in Germany, manages the estate with his father. The classic varieties of Luxembourg are the wines you should try. Their Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are ideal wines consumed with fine cuisine.


The mouth of the Sauer river at Wasserbilligerbrück meeting the Mosel

It is worth visiting Luxembourg and its vineyards and wineries. Stop at any nice café or wine bar and try the local Elbling or go for the more elaborate cool climate Auxerrois, Pinot and Riesling wines.

Information about Luxembourg and its wines:

I found the following book very useful (in German): “Weine und Crémants aus Luxemburg”, Einkaufsführer 2009, Meininger Verlag (, Neustadt, Weinstrasse.

A very informative article about Luxembourg can be found on

But also the Wikipedia write-up gives the newcomer a very good overview.

The fourth source of useful information comes from

The best German vintners and wine makers

June 1, 2009


The wine gods (photo taken from a building in Berlin)

Its certainly a great honour to be called “vintner of the year”. Since 1994 Gault Millau, Germany’s wine guide and major authority regarding wine, wine business and the wine sector, is awarding the “vintner of the year” award.

Today the total number of vintners of the year is 16, seven of which come from the Mosel wine region. The current one, however, comes from the Pfalz (Knipser brothers).

But in the years 2007 (Theo Haart, Mosel), 2005 (Kartaeuserhof, Ruwer), 2001 (Loosen, Mosel), 1998 (Mueller-Scharzhof, Saar), 1996 (Joh. Jos. Pruem, Mosel), 1995 (von Schubert, Ruwer) and 1994 (Fritz Haag, Mosel) the vintner of the year came from my home, the Mosel river and its tributaries.

(Remark: the Mosel wine region was originally called: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer)

No other German wine region has provided that many “champions”. So far the Nahe and Pfalz wine regions had two vintners of the year; and Rheinhessen, Rheingau, Frankonia, Ahr and Baden had one each (for the names of the vintners of the year: Gault Millau).

I came about this fact only by accident while researching a story, I was going to write. I have to find more Mosel wines here in Bangkok, I guess. Wish me luck.

Saar Riesling: Ayler Kupp

April 19, 2009


Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti alle Vongole was the right pasta to be enjoyed with one of my “treasure” Riesling wines. From my last trip to Germany I had brought two bottles of Riesling back to Thailand.


One of them was a ‘2007 Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett’ (dry), Saar from Bischoefliches Konvikt Trier. Nothing special, you might say, but a very decent Saar Riesling for sure (price: about 10 Euro/bottle). The terroir “Ayler Kupp” is world famous for producing excellent Riesling wines.


The wine is a typical young Saar Riesling. Actually the wine region’s official name is Mosel, but I stick to Saar, Saar being the river where the grapes for this wine are grown in a small hamlet with the name of Ayl.


We poured the wine, which had a light straw colour and is low in alcohol (11%), so that I could take a picture. I love the Saar Rieslings, they are wines to die for. They are well balanced, acidity, sugar and alcohol in a perfect combination. They have character, texture and structure. Aromas of melon, citrus, passion fruit, peach and/or floral notes are to be found.

The match of the food with the wine was perfect. The slight spiciness of the seafood pasta and the basil went very well with the citrus aromas of the young, slightly bubbly Riesling. The wine was very fruity, a citrus bomb, so to say, marvellous. If you have a chance to visit the Saar region, please take your time and taste some of the local wines.

PS: After the extensive lunch, by the way, we had some chocolate, espresso and port of course. I smoked a big Cuban cigar. The tropical heat made us feel mellow; what a joyful day.

Riesling, Riesling….heaven on a stick

March 16, 2009


My welcome meal consisted of wild boar goulash, mushrooms and Suebian dumplings (Spaetzle). What a treat, so delicious. I washed it down with a bottle of my house wine, a ‘2007 Alte Reben, Van Volxem Riesling’ from Wiltingen, Saar river. I just love the Van Volxem wines.


The very same day, a parcel arrived for me containing a bottle of wine which I won when participating in an opinion survey of a German wine magazine, Weinwelt ( I could not believe it. What a pleasant surprise this was. The wine is a “grand crue” (GG: Grosses Gewaechs) from the Pfalz, a ‘2007 Forster Ungeheuer GG, Reichsrat von Buhl in Deidesheim, Rheinpfalz. I decided to taste this wine another time and cellared it in my “treasure trove”. Thank you Weinwelt.


However, I could not resist to buy some more bottles of Mosel Riesling. I decided to try wines from Bischoefliches Konvikt. The two terroirs are very famous, one is Ayler Kupp at the Saar, the other is Eitelsbacher Marienholz from the Ruwer, another tributary of the Mosel.

The ‘2007 Eitelsbacher Marienholz Riesling’ I had with another serve of wild boar goulash the next day. It had all the zest I expected from a fresh Riesling from the Ruwer. The wine from the Saar I packed into my suitcase. Destination: Bangkok and reserved for a leisurely Sunday family meal in the tropics. I can only say: visit the Mosel and its tributaries. Here you’ll find heavenly Riesling wines. Cheers and zum Wohl.

Karl Marx and Chinese Grape Wine

November 28, 2008

To state it from the outset, Karl Marx never ever tasted Chinese grape wine in his lifetime. However, Karl Marx, the most famous son of my home town Trier, used to own for some time some of the better vineyards properties along the Ruwer river, a tributary of my beloved Mosel river.

The Marx family vineyard was found in the location “Viertelsberg” a medium quality terroir near the castle ‘Gruenhaus’. In 1857 the family sold its vineyards in Mertesdorf. Karl not only invested in vineyards and the wine industry but he also loved to drink Mosel wine. I frankly do not understand how Marx could survive those many years in London where good Mosel wines were certainly hard to come by in the latter half of the 19th century.

Marx would have enjoyed the samples of “College Wine” produced by the Chinese Agricultural University (CAU) oenology department. The wine is produced for purely non-commercial reasons. The bottles were presented to me by an old friend. We enjoyed it over a meal which marked our reunion. The wine went very well with the Chinese food on offer. Later at home in Bangkok we would have it with an Italian pasta. But in this case I felt that some depth and ‘strength’ was lacking.


The grapes for this wine come from Changli in Hebei province and were supplied to the oenology department by the well known Huaxia Winery. When I lived in Beijing in the early 1990s, it was marketed as Great Wall wine.


Swirling in the glass – what a beautiful ruby-red colour

The wine displays the typical varietal character of a Cabernet Sauvignon but is medium to lights bodied. At 12% alcohol it’s a bit “thin”/”light” for my taste. In comparison, it went well with Chinese but not Italian food.


A somehow classic design

PS: Despite the fact that the CAU is a modern university, at the entrance to its eastern campus, one of the few statues of Mao Zedong graces the gate. When I lived in Beijing in the early 1990s, my friend David McGrath (al marhum), chased the remaining Mao statues still standing in the capital city. He took photos of all of them. If I remember correctly David identified 8 statues. Around ‘Xue Yuan’ road where I stayed, I found 4 of these 8 in no time. All were to be found at the entrances of universities or other academic institutions.


The four Mao statues

F.l.t.r. and up to down: Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration and Development, China University of Geosciences, University of Science and technology, China Agricultural University.

Trier, Mosel: Wine Auction 2008

October 4, 2008

The wine city of Trier (from the Petrisberg side)

According to the website the annual wine auction of the “grosser Ring” (freely translated as ‘big ring’) a subdivision of the regional section of the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates (that is how on the website of the association, the German title: “Verband der Deutschen Prädikatsweingüter” is translated) was a full success. The association has about 200 members German wide. About 13,000 bottles of wine were auctioned off. The sale brought in an amount of € 1.3 million.

The top prices were earned by wines from Weingut Egon Müller (Saar), Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm, and Weingut Dr. Loosen, all top producers of the Mosel wine region.

The most expensive wine of the auction was a single bottle of a ‘1959 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese’ by Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm which was sold for € 5.097.96. Wow, isn’t that amazing.

But also prices for recent vintages were quite high. A ‘2007 Scharzhofberger Auslese Goldkapsel’ by Weingut Egon Müller sold for € 582.62 , a ‘2007 Graacher Himmelreich Auslese Lange Goldkapsel’ by Weingut Jo. Jos. Prüm for € 485.52 and a ‘2007 Erdener Prälat Auslese Lange Goldkapsel’ by Weingut Dr. Loosen for € 449.11

Wine bar Kesselstadt in Trier just opposite the church of Liebfrauen

The auction lasted for more than 5 hours much longer than a marathon run. The general trend as far as bottle size is concerned seems to be heading towards magnum bottles. For wines filled in such size bottles premiums were paid.

The tasting prior to the auction revealed the very high quality standard of the 2007 vintage Rieling wines. On you can find the detallied rating of the individual wines and the prices paid for the various lots sold.

Even for ordinary mortals like me, the auction is good news. The superior quality of the 2007 Mosel Riesling vintage will also apply for more everyday wines which I can afford. Next time in Trier I will indulge myself again. Why don’t you come with me.