MSR Wine Country Overview

Printed in the Sept 08 Triborder Reporter

From Perl to Koblenz, the Mosel river valley is home to the oldest and most breathtaking wine country in Germany. Settled by the Romans, vineyards have been part of the life along the Mosel for over 2000 years. Now it’s the fourth largest wine region in Germany producing some of the world’s lightest wines, delicate in flavor and low in alcohol content.

The Wine Road

With 242 Km of tightly twisting river sandwiched between steep towering hills, there is an endless supply of picturesque wine villages, awe-inspiring panoramas, and vine covered hills to explore.

To really enjoy this region, take the Mosel Wine Road (B49, B416, and B53) or the new Roman wine road, “Romische Weinstrasse,” for at least part of your journey. Marked with green signs showing a fancy M and clusters of grapes, the wine roads follows the river’s tight curves crossing it in several places to give access to more villages along the way. These quaint towns are the heart of this region where you can stop for food, a walk, or some tasting. Look for signs that say “Weinprobe” (wine tasting) and stop in for wine tasting. Most tasting rooms will offer wines from Kabinette to Auslese and only bring out the more expensive wines for seemingly knowledgeable or serious buyers.

Normal traffic laws apply, so while it’s beautiful, this is not the quick way to drive. The frequent congested towns slow the traveller making a 40 minute drive by autobahn from Trier to Burg Eltz, an over 4 hour drive. When planning your trip, do account for slower times along the river.

The Villages

Most all the towns between Trier and Koblenz tucked along the Mosel bends are quiet treasures inviting you to stop and explore their streets. You can’t go wrong here. Just drive and see what inspires you.

Trier, a quick drive from Spangdahlem, is the oldest city in Germany and an excellent place to start your journey creeping along the B49. It’s a bigger town offering more to see in terms of history and does offer wine tasting along it’s market square, but if you’re looking for a quieter town, keep driving. The Roman wine road begins at Kenn and Sweich, both ancient wine towns, and follows part of the original road laid by the Romans.

Continue and you’ll find Leiwen, Mosel’s largest vineyard area with 29 wine estates. Most have wine tastings available and several provide lodging as well. From there, drive through Trittenheim to Neumagen, Germany’s oldest wine village, and, if you have time, enjoy the bicycle lane along the vineyards where you can ride from here to Trier or Bernkastel Kues.
Piesport is a beautiful town sitting at a bend in the river. Go there and try the wines from the famous Piesporter Goldtröpfchen vineyards with grapes growing above the Loreley. With more than 15 wine estates here, there you will find plenty to taste and buy. In Mülheim try the “Zeppelin” wine famous there or visit the 800 year-old cellars at the Weingut Klosterhof in Seibenborn (open daily from 1400-1800).

Bernkastel-Kues has it all. From the castle ruin sitting above the town with its small cafe and splendid view, to the riverboat cruises stopping to pick you up right at the riverfront parking lot, and the picture book pedestrian area with brightly painted half-timbered houses, gift shops, restaurants, and wine shops where you can taste before you buy, you can easily spend the whole day here. The Weingut Lauerburg has some nice wines or, if you plan ahead, you can arrange a taste testing at the well-known Doctor vineyard (06531-3426) near the old town gate, Graacher Tor.

Between Bernkastel and Cochem are almost two dozen towns, all with something to offer. The Steffensberg vineyard in Enkirch has a 2 mile “Weinbaulehrpfad,” or educational wine trail, where you can learn about Mosel vineyards and enjoy the spectacular view. In Zell, take a walk through the vineyards from the town hall to the Runder Turm or head up to Marienburg, a fortress from 1129, to enjoy the view and a glass of wine from the Marienburger vineyard or the Schwarze Katz vineyard, famous in Zell.

Beilstein offers a medieval market square with narrow alleys and stairways leading up to the castle ruins of Burg Metternich. Stop in a weinstube at the market for a glass of Reisling from the Schlossberg vineyard.

Cochem is another town with it all. A beautiful green waterfront with playgrounds and over sized chess games lines the road on one side while shops and restaurants line the other. Venture behind that row of shops through the old gate and you’ll discover a wealth of 14th-century treasures hidden behind. The old market square, old “Brandy Ally,” and Reichsburg castle are all worth a look and you’ll be able to find plenty of shops along the way where you can taste the wine or sit down and enjoy a full glass or two. A larger town, the river boat cruises stop here as well.

Between Cochem and Koblenz, the river straightens out and so does the road, so the drive is easier and the stops are just as fun. If you get near Koblenz, stop at Winningen, known for it’s 17th-century witch-hunts and Germany’s oldest wine festival. This year the festival lasts a week and culminates with fireworks on September 7th.
Lodging:

There are limitless places to stay along the Mosel and most are reasonably priced. For 50 Euros or less, you can find a very nice double room including breakfast. Most of the Mosel and village websites are in German, but if you muddle through, you can find some amazing places to stay. “Weingut” means wine-growing estate and many of these have rooms as well. Look for zimmer (room) and gästhaus (guest house) when you searching for a place.

Other things to do:

If you’ve tasted enough wine and need a change of pace, try taking a boat ride up the Mosel to relax and soak up the scenery. Explore a castle or ruin. There are many. Or, do some hiking. Many villages also have museums with artifacts dating back to the Roman age, and churches with their own amazing histories.

Go now.

Beautiful year round, the Mosel wine country comes alive in the fall when the vines are at their peak and the grape clusters are full. This is the season with the most festivals as each town celebrates the wine culture with kings and queens, grand parties, and plenty of wine to go around.

More info:
German wines:  http://livingingk.blogspot.com/2008/09/quick-wine-guide-germanymsr.html
Mosel Wine Festivals:  http://livingingk.blogspot.com/2008/09/mosal-saar-ruwer-september-wine.html
http://www.moselhighlights.de

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