The Rhineland Feature
Wine Tasting in the Mosel Valley
The Mosel Valley's storybook castles and hill-hugging vineyards make it a popular alternative to the busier Rhine, be it for a soothing day or two or a week of rejuvenation. The charming town of Cochem, 55 km (32 miles) upriver from Koblenz, is a favorite destination, with its bendy medieval streets and its proximity to the magnificent Burg Eltz. Others prefer the town of Bielstein, 10 km (6 miles) farther on, which is sometimes called the "Sleeping Beauty of the Mosel."
The true wine connoisseurs often focus on the heart of the region, the Mittelmosel (or Middle Mosel), which begins about 18 km (11 miles) upstream from Beilstein, at Zell. Here vineyards tumble down steep slate slopes to riverside villages full of half-timber, baroque, and belle époque buildings. Famed for its warm climate and 2,000-year-old winemaking tradition, the Middle Mosel produces some of the best Rieslings in the world. Its many wineries are concentrated along a meandering 120-km (75-mile) stretch of the lush river valley, with picture-perfect towns and rural estates that run almost to the ancient town of Trier, near the Luxembourg border.
In the Tasting Room
The Middle Mosel is dominated by small, family-run wineries that have been producing high-quality wines for generations. Their tasting rooms, when not part of the wineries themselves, are frequently extensions of family homes, sometimes giving you the opportunity to meet the winemakers, who generally speak English at least well enough to describe their wines. Varietals like Muller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder, and Spätburgunder are produced here too, but the staple of most estates is Riesling. Opening hours vary, and although you can visit most tasting rooms outside of these times, there may not always be someone around to serve you. To avoid disappointment, check websites ahead of time for wineries' opening hours.
When to Go
The best time to visit the region is between May and September, when a lightly chilled glass or two of wine is the perfect complement to a sunny spring day or a warm summer evening. This coincides with high season in the valley, when roads and cycle paths swell with tourists, particularly in September, during the harvest. Fortunately, wine villages are never that far apart. If you find a tasting room that’s too busy, there’s invariably another around the corner. (Note: Most wineries won’t charge to taste a couple of their wines, but will expect you to purchase a bottle or two if you try more. Those that do have tasting fees—commonly between €5 and €15—often waive them if you buy a bottle.)
Options for estate visits abound in the Mosel Valley, but a few not to miss include the Grand Cru excellence of Weingut Martin Müllen, and the fantastic dry whites at Schmitges. If you decide to spend a few days in the Middle Mosel, some perfect places for overnights include the stately Weinromantik Richtershof Hotel, and the stylish Jugendstilhotel Bellevue.
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