The planned bridge that could ruin Germany's cherished Mosel wine region.

Wine, beer, and other potent potables.
Sept. 10 2009 11:53 AM

I'm Tasting Tar, Traffic Cones, Motor Oil …

A planned bridge could ruin Germany's cherished Mosel wine region.

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No, it does not. Hopefully, decency will yet prevail (or budget woes will intervene) and the bridge will be canceled. But anyone appalled by the prospect of the gorgeous Mosel Valley being defaced in this way should certainly make that opinion known to the German Embassy. I think it would also be great if oenophiles expressed some solidarity with the protesters in Ürzig by uncorking a Mosel Riesling this weekend, and specifically a bottle from one of the affected vineyards. There is no shortage of superb wines to choose from. Here is a quick-and-dirty list of some of the vineyards at risk and the producers who generally do the finest work in them. (Don't let all the umlauts deter you; here's a handy guide to German wine labels.)

Ürziger Würzgarten: J.J. Christoffel, Dr. Loosen, Merkelbach
Zeltinger Sonnenuhr: J.J. Prüm, Selbach-Oster, Markus Molitor
Zeltinger Schlossberg: Selbach-Oster
Graacher Himmelreich: Dr. Loosen, Selbach-Oster, Willi Schaefer, Markus Molitor, J.J. Prüm, Heribert Kerpen
Graacher Domprobst: Selbach-Oster, Willi Schaefer, Markus Molitor, Heribert Kerpen
Wehlener Sonnenuhr: J.J. Prüm, Dr. Loosen, Selbach-Oster, Heribert Kerpen


I've had several of these wines in recent weeks. I long ago declared my affection for J.J. Prüm, and the 2007 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett ($34) is a characteristically sublime effort from this iconic estate. Typical of Prüm, there is a lot of sulfur on the nose, but if you can see (or sniff) your way past it, the wine offers up a seamless blend of ripe fruit and piercing acidity, along with enticing mineral and herb notes. Prüm is known for producing Rieslings that have an almost aristocratic bearing, and this one is no exception. The 2007 J.J. Christoffel Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett ($23) is also delicious. Aromas of strawberries, lanolin, kerosene, and herbs (it smells better than it sounds) pour out of the glass, giving way to an impeccably balanced wine of great flavor and depth; a really impressive effort.

I also liked the 2007 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett ($24); it is a lushly textured wine, bursting with apricot and cherry notes, but there is ample structure to offset the fruit. The 2007 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese ($31) has a crystalline bouquet redolent of pineapple, peach, and what I'm absolutely certain wet stones would smell like if I ever smelled wet stones. It's a dense Riesling, but here again, there is sufficient acidity to keep it from turning flabby; also a very pleasant wine. Lastly, I can't say enough good things about Dr. Loosen's entry-level Riesling, the Dr. L; this is one of the great wine values on the market. The 2008 Dr. Loosen Dr. L($12) shows lime, apple, and slate and is an exuberant and very refreshing wine.

These wines are young, and in the classic Mosel style, they are showing very perceptible residual sugar at the moment. I think they are best consumed now either as aperitifs or with spicier foods such as Indian or Thai, which can parry the sweetness. And do yourself a favor: Don't gulp the wines. To fully appreciate their complexity and balance, you really need to let them linger in the mouth and move around a bit. They are all excellent Rieslings, and drinking them makes the thought of the Mosel bridge all the harder to swallow.


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