The one common soil type along the Mosel is slate which, along with the steepness of the sites, are the two most important aspects of Mosel terroir and what gives them their unique personalities. The slate, as many producers say, brings finesse and an unmistakeable mineral aroma and taste to the wines. It is truly amazing to walk through these glorious vineyards and see all the huge chunks of slate. There are different types of slate (blue, red, Devonian) that result in different flavor profiles to the wines grown in those variants of slate.
Mosel wine is one of the most unique wines in the world and due to the treacherous angle of many of the slopes and small size of most of the estates there is not much wine to go around. Most German Riesling, including Mosel Riesling, in the United States is bought through the DI (direct import system). That is, there are tastings
held around the country during the summer of the wines and then retailers and restauranters decide what to order. That is relayed to the importer and then the orders are placed with the estates. They typically arrive in the Fall and are quickly snatched up by consumers. As distributors will usually have no backup inventory of the best wines it is imperative for the person ordering the wine to order enough to supply customer demand. The best wines always get snatched up early.
So what do these glorious wines taste like? The typical profile of a Middle Mosel wine can range from green apple and lightly mineral to more tropical and richer fruits depending on the ripeness. Typically vintages with more sun and longer growing seasons are riper than those with rainfall and cooler days. Personally I am a fan of the cooler vintages as the wines retain more natural acidity and have great length, clarity and purity. Not that I don't like many of the glorious wines of the 2005 and 2006 vintage but I prefer the cut of say a 2001. But preference is what makes individual taste such a wonderful freedom.
Mosel wines have been slowly creeping up in cost since the 2001 vintage. Now an Estate Riesling will run for $15-$23 while Kabinetts can run from $20-$40. Spatlese, depending on producer of course, can start at $30 and run to $90. Auslese can be had for $40-$150 (the higher end being for the Goldkapsule and Long Goldkapsule wines). Beerenauslese, Trockenberenauslese and Eiswein are very expensive and typically start at $100 a half bottle and can go all the way up to $3,000 and up for the rarest TBA's of which many are made in the quantity of 50 to 100 L. Not a lot.
The best time to drink these wines, I find, is in their glorious middle age when they still retain fruit but have interesting secondary and tertiary characteristics. It is fun drinking them young when their in an exuberantly fruity stage but once you have an aged Mosel Riesling there is no turning back. Some people do though prefer their Mosel Riesling young and I have no complaints about it. One important thing to note is these wines do close down, which means they can go through a phase where they may seem flabby, fruitless and non expressive. Depending on the vintage this period can be longer or shorter. It all depends but if you encounter a bottle like this that is closed I would recommend corking it back up and putting it in either your fridge or temperature controlled unit and re-tasting over the week as it will eventually open up. In some cases this can take longer than a week.
Top producers of Mosel (in no particular order) include:
Relevant posts on Rockss and Fruit: