The banks of the mighty Rhine river, and its less voluminous tributary the Mosel (as it’s known in German, Moselle in French) have both been host to vineyards since the Romans planted the first grapes here over 2,000 years ago. Deep in the southern reaches of the Rhine, the sun lingers long enough to raise red grapes, but the more northerly Mosel is now, and has always been about white grapes, and particularly the king of Teutonic whites, Riesling.
Compared to the more ambling track of the Rhine, the Mosel’s shape is typically more tortuously twisted, with steeper banks that drop right to the river. And though the soil varies a fair bit along its 400 or so miles, the Mosel is justly famous for its friable slate and shale soils. Though these often precipitously pitched and rocky vineyard sites are exceptionally hard to farm and harvest, they make the most of the paler northern sun, and minimize the region’s wetter weather as well. The sharp angles of the vineyards combined with the bends in the river (which reflects light back onto the vines), and the right compass orientations, tilt sites to perfectly capture the most sun. The steep slopes also help rain to run off quickly. Similarly, the profoundly slate and shale-rich soils serve to retain the maximum amount of solar heat, as well as playing a large role in drainage.
All that said, it’s still quite chilly in the Mosel, and the growing season is notably shorter than it is in any place south of the Alps, making sweeter, lower alcohol white wines the region’s tradition and true forte, and a strength it is indeed – By nearly everyone’s estimation, sweet and semi-sweet Rieslings from the Mosel are unique and world-class wines. So the fact that this wine is labeled trocken (“dry” in German), and that it is truly dry (despite its very modest 11.5% alcohol) was quite a surprise…Fully dry, and even more alcoholically potent white Rieslings from other German wine regions like Baden and Pfalz are fairly common, and part of the tradition in these areas, but really, truly DRY Rieslings from the Mosel? The arrow of climate change strikes another target…
A good dry, and super-crisp Riesling like this is perfect foil for rich dishes and white fish, so I made some squares of great rye bread smeared with pork-liver pate` and pickles (both hand made here in the neighborhood in Jersey City) with a dusting of paprika as an appetizer, and then a main course of flounder filets poached with vegetables and herbs, the stock from which I used to make a sweet and sour mustard cream sauce, with some boiled, buttered potatoes with chives on the side.
Melsheimer Mosel Riesling Trocken 2011
Bright, medium golden color. Fresh and pungent nose of lemon zest, peach nectar, honey, pounded herbs, chalk, white flowers, and hay. Sassy, taut, and intense palate with a slightly viscous, moderately dense texture hung with etched flavors of vanilla bean, apple, kiwi, melon, sweet asian spices, almond pastry, Shiitake mushrooms, and wet stones. Long, sweet/tart lime and tonic water finish.