Wine harvests are the same everywhere? Yes and no. The Mosel has its particularities, notably due to the steepness of its hills, the variety of the wines produced ... and its weather.
In many ways, harvest is in the Mosel no other than in all winemaking regions. Teams are buzzing. Tractors are constantly on the move. There is shouting, laughter and singing. This is the vintage climax. This is when the efforts of a year are converted into income in a matter of weeks.
And yet the Mosel has its own, very specific rituals and factors which make this unique moment even more unique. Let us highlight a few here.
One of the particularity of the Mosel is that it is a northern region. Yes, there is climate change and this affects the winemaking and harvest. But invariably in most years, air temperature will drop to below that of the Mosel river. The result is condensation in the air. Fog. Not only does the river “smoke”, the whole region is then embraced under a mantle of fog. But drive 3 miles out of the Mosel valley, and you would get sunshine!
This fog will help the spreading of botrytis, the winemaker’s friend to produce rare and expensive Auslese, BA and TBA.
But then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the sun cuts through the fog and harvest can start!
It can sometime take up to lunch before the air temperature warms up and the fog is blasted away.
A second particularity of the Mosel is that much of the vineyards are steep. And when we say steep, we mean steep. There has been some improvement to the access to the vineyards in general. But for some of the oldest vineyards such as the Ellergrub here, access is the first issue that one needs to tackle. Believe it or not, this walk here below is a way to access the vineyard.
As you see, alternatively there is the monorack, which allows to transport things up the hill and down again. However easy it is not. And very often, the only way is the 25 kg butt which is carried on the back, while walking up and down the vineyard!
The versatility of the Riesling grape makes it that the Mosel region is appreciated for its dry (tasting) wines, its light fruity wines and its rare and expensive sweet wines.
As Erni Loosen (Weingut Dr. Loosen) explains in the film here below, a clever system of multiple baskets is used during harvest to select at the same time clean grapes and botrytis-affected grapes which will form the basis of very different wines.
(Film: Dr. Loosen Wines / Andrea Johnson / Youtube - All Rights Reserved)
But not everything can be done in parallel. Patience is required to get the fruit ideal for the different wines. Estates often have to do several passes through the same vineyard (on different dates) to get the fruit with the right maturity. A Kabinett needs to be crisper. An Auslese will require riper fruit. As a result, the harvest usually stretches over several weeks, even at “normal-sized” Estates.
If there is one thing to remember from this little introductory article, it is that harvesting in the steep hills of the Mosel is still very much hard labor. There are some machines at hand to help on these steep hills, but, in the end, it boils down to manual labor.
And yet, Mosel remains one of the cheapest yet greatest “world wine” on the market!
© Text by Mosel Fine Wines "The Independent Review of Mosel Riesling"
Disclaimer: Mosel Fine Wines is an independent publication and has no commercial relationship with any Estate, association or organization featured in this article.