Tasting the wines from the Mosel, I started to come up with a theory as to why they are so unappreciated in so many markets. Consumers are led to believe that wine must be strong and possibly heavy, and if it a wine is easy to drink then it is simple and cheap. The nature of wines from the Mosel having residual sugar to offset the acids makes them very fresh, approachable and easy to drink. Therefore in their minds they almost feel guilty that they are so easy to drink. It also comes back to the idea that wine is an alcoholic beverage consumed to become intoxicated, rather than how it should be consumed, with food. Being so approachable and low in alcohol makes these wines so adaptable to food it begs the question; what does it take to get people to drink these wines more, and value them properly?
My final day (for now) in the Mosel began in the village of Mulheim at Max Ferdinand Richter. I was welcomed by Mosel legend Dr. Dirk Richter, who is probably the most knowledgeable host I have had, not only about the wines of his own region, but wines from all over the world. He is clearly someone who has dedicated his life to wine, and is always imparting his experience and knowledge on others. The winery has been in his family for numerous generations, so he has inherited a legacy of tradition and excellence. The penetration of his wines in the global market is extraordinary, considering the estate wines he produces only amount to 100,000 bottles. Using traditional practices in the vineyard and cellar, the most important thing for his wines is to over-deliver in terms of quality. As such, the classification he actually under qualifies his wines so that they stand out from their competitors. For example, a kabinett wine from the Max Ferdinand Richter estate range is at least of spatlese quality. This further adds to the undervaluing of wines in my humble opinion, but value is a market-led concept. Dirk sources fruit from a number of vineyards around Mulheim, including from Brauneberger (Brown Mountain), Mulheimer Sonnenlay, Wehlener Sonnenlay and Veldenzer Elisenberg.
The primary focus at Pruem is of course the fruit, and the vineyards having a steep south-facing slope and mostly ungrafted vines is where it begins. The secondary focus is ripeness and concentration, and ensuring that nothing is performed in the winery to intervene with this. The winemaking itself doesn’t seem particularly different to most of the other estates I have visited, so all that matters is the quality of the fruit. And the fruit is sensational, because the wines were not only the most concentrated and intense, but also showed the most minerality of any I tried over the week. The intensity actually gave the wines the impression that they were sweeter than they actually were, but this was compared to others I had tasted. The winery is a member of the VDP, but doesn’t yet use the vineyard classification system (which has just changed again).
The daughter of Joh Jos, Dr. Katharina Pruem took me up to the vineyards to show the steepness and soil composition, before we returned to taste through some of the wines. Like everyone else in the family her tertiary education wasn’t in wine, but in Law. It was great to share philosophies on wine in a relaxed environment, particularly with someone who has spent time in many markets including Australia (keep an eye out as she is there in March). The Graacher Himmelreich wines were all exceptional, particularly the 2004 Spatlese which was showing some chalky oiliness, and some savoury sweet gherkin characters. In comparison the Wehlener Sonnenuhr wines were a little bit fuller in their intensity and richness, with gorgeous depth and consistency. It was a revelation tasting these wines, and I hope I’ll get to try more again soon.
Click here to see more photos from Day Four of the Mosel Valley, Germany