Road Plan Threatens World's Best Riesling Vineyards


The Mosel valley. Photo by Dittmeyer via Flickr

On the steep hillsides of the Mosel valley, in southwestern Germany, the vineyards are tended by hand, as they have been since Roman times. It is not uncommon for a modern vintner to have a family history in the region going back hundreds of years. But while this long heritage of viniculture has produced the world's best Riesling wine, another holdover from the past is threatening to destroy it.Cold War-era plans to build one of the country's biggest bridges and a four-lane highway through the Mosel valley have both local winemakers and wine lovers around the world up in arms, the BBC reports. "This construction was planned in 1969, when there was not as much infrastructure in Germany as we have nowadays," winemaker Ernst Loosen told the British broadcaster. "[Today] Germany is full of motorways and we have excellent access to this area."

'Ugly Construction' Would Cut Off Winemakers' Water Supply
In addition to marring the bucolic scenery with "such an ugly construction," Loosen said, the construction would cut the vineyards off from the forest that serves as a water reservoir for the area. And all oenophiles know how important the amount of water stored in the soil is to the wine it can produce.

Loosen and other local campaigners have enlisted the support of the Green Party in their fight to protect their valley and vines and have sent a petition with more than 11,000 signatures -- gathered from wine lovers all around the world -- to the German parliament, which some hope might spearhead an effort to get the area designated as as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cultural Heritage at Risk
The qualities of the Mosel wines -- "highly prized among connoisseurs who praise the honey-gold colour, the lingering notes of peach and plum, the slightly effervescent qualities and the relatively affordable prices of many of them," according to The Telegraph -- have drawn big names in the wine world into the battle.

"Here is the very best [Riesling] vineyard, and they're going to drive a motorway through it?" wine critic Hugh Johnson, one of the founders of the save-Mosel group International Riesling Rescue, told the BBC. "It's like knocking down a cultural monument!"

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Tags: Agriculture | Germany | Wine