Mosel is one of 13 German wine regions (Weinbaugebiete) for quality wines (QbA and Prädikatswein), and takes its name from the Moselle River (German: Mosel).
Before 1 August 2007 the region was called Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, but changed to a name that was considered more consumer-friendly. The wine region is Germany's third largest in terms of production but is the leading region in terms of international prestige. The region covers the valleys of the rivers Moselle, Saar, and Ruwer near Koblenz and Trier in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The area is known for the steep slopes of the region's vineyards overlooking the river. At 65° degrees incline, the steepest recorded vineyard in the world is the Calmont vineyard located on the Mosel and belonging to the village of Bremm, and therefore referred to as Bremmer Calmont. The Mosel is mainly famous for its wines made from the Riesling grape, but Elbling and Müller-Thurgau also contributes to the production. Because of the northerly location of Mosel, the Riesling wines are often light, low in alcohol, crisp and high in acidity, and often exhibit "flowery" rather than "fruity" aromas.
Within the Mosel region, there are the following six districts (Bereiche) and 19 collective vineyard designations (Großlagen), plus 524 single vineyard (Einzellagen) designations. Four of the six districts are situated on the river Moselle, and one each on rivers Saar and Ruwer.
District Burg Cochem / more commonly known as Untermosel or Terrassenmosel
The Cochem district is home to the some of the steepest vineyards in the Mosel planted on soil composed of blue devonian slate, red slate and quartzite. Many of the vineyards of lower Mosel are terraced, which has led many producers to adopt the name Terrassenmosel, which sounds nicer than Untermosel in German. This district produces a higher proportion of dry wines than the rest of the region. A well known vineyard from this area is the Juffermauer located near Treis-Karden which means "Wall of the virgins" in German.
District Bernkastel / more commonly known as Mittelmosel
This is the central district of the region. One of the most notable vineyards in this area is known as Doctorberg, and its wines as Bernkasteler Doctor. An apocryphal story of how the vineyard got its name originated in the late Middle Ages when a local archbishop was miraculously cured of a terminal illness by drinking wine made from the grapes of this vineyard.
Other notable vineyards of the Mittelmosel include the sundial (German Sonnenuhr) vineyards; Brauneberg Juffer-Sonnenuhr, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr. In the 19th century, large sundials were built in these vineyards so that the workers would know what time to break for lunch or the end of the work day. Since these vineyards receive the most exposure to the sun, many of the wines produced from these vineyards are richer and more full-bodied than wine produced from other vineyards. In a similar way to many of Burgundy's Grand Cru vineyards, the Sonnenuhr vineyards are highly parceled with multiple owners of individual plots or rows of vines. The Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard alone has more than 200 owners.
District Ruwertal / more commonly known as Ruwer (its formal name is due to the fact that Ruwer also is a suburb of Trier)
Located to the southeast of Trier, this region includes the vineyards around Waldrach and Kasel. The region is home to many monopole vineyards. At Mertesdorf, there is a subterranean Roman aqueduct that connects the Grünhaus vineyard with the city of Trier. The quality of Ruwer wine is particularly dependent on the quality of the vintage with cool vintages marked by sharply acidic wines that quickly fade and warmer vintage producing some of the most delicate and perfumed expressions of German wines.
The famous Ayler Kupp, Saar river
Like the Ruwer region, wine from the Saar district (along the lower course of the Saar River, in Rhineland-Palatinate) is particularly dependent on the overall quality of the vintage typically only 4 years out of every 10 producing a worthwhile set of wines. The wines that do come out of these warm vintages are noted for their apple-like freshness and steely mineral notes. The most ideal vintages allows harvest to take place between late October and mid November where the grapes can develop enough sugar to produce floral and honeyed notes.
This wine district is composed of a thin strip of land along the Luxembourg border. The region starts just north of Igel and continues south to the village of Palzem where it meets the Moseltor district. Elbling, Müller-Thurgau, and Auxerrois Blanc are some of the region largest plantings. Obermosel and Moseltor contain very few notable vineyards compared to the other districts of the region.
The Moseltor area is the most southern area of the Mosel region, and is located together with the Obermosel along the Luxembourg border. The Elbling grape is the most commonly planted here producing a thin, rustic wine with high acidity. Sparkling wine production is growing in this area. The reason why tiny Moseltor with its around 110 hectares (270 acres) of vineyards is a separate Bereich is that it, in difference to the other 99% of Mosel's vineyard area, is located in the state of Saarland, and therefore is supervised by this state's government. All of Moseltor is located within the borders of Perl.
The wines of the Upper Mosel, especially along the Saar and Ruwer tributaries, are characterized by their low alcohol content in the 6-9% range with intense fruity notes and high acidity. An obscure local poet once described them as 'Sonnenfeuer, Sternengold, Kühlen Mondlichtschein' - The fire of the Sun, the gold of the stars, and cool moonlight. The wines of the Middle Mosel are considered the most complete examples of German wines with some of the finest examples being able to age gracefully for 50–100 years. Mosel Riesling rely on a strong presence of tartaric acid to balance the grape's sugar and to help impart its fruity notes. A characteristic of all Mosel wines is their normally high acidity and transparency of clearly defined flavors. The wines of the Mosel region are traditionally packaged in long green colored "hock style" wine bottle. Historically the green color distinguished Mosel wines from the brown bottles of the Rheinhessen.
Plantings of Müller-Thurgau accounts for more the 20% of the Mosel wine production and is typically used for basic quaffing wine or sweet wine. The Elbing grape accounts for a little more than 9% of the area's production and is often used as a low-cost riesling alternative in the production of sparkling Sekt. The Mosel is also well known for its Eiswein production with the area's characteristic high acidity coupled with the sweetness produced by the concentration of the sugars in the frozen grapes.