Steep, south-facing slopes are vital in taking full advantage of the sun at this latitude, which is considerably farther north than Alsace, and the best sites produce sublime wines. These are often underpriced, owing to damage to the region's reputation from widespread plantings of undistinguished grapes on more easily cultivated land. These poor relations should not be allowed to overshadow the excellence on offer.
White wines dominate and Riesling especially. Its wines are complex when produced with skill, being light and luscious when young and yet capable of ageing extraordinarily. At their best they are the perfect balance of fruit, acidity and sweetness. Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) wines are intensely sweet and are produced in years when noble rot appears on the vines. They are remarkable and celebrated wines with prices to match.
Riesling is where the true quality wine of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer begins and ends. It accounts for over half the plantings and is the sole vine to be found in the prime viticultural locations.Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Optima and Elbling are all generally grown on unexceptional sites and the wines reflect this. A small amount of red wine is produced from the Spätburgunder grape, the German name for Pinot Noir.
Few areas of the wine-growing world are so in thrall to both climate and conditions as the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. Regarding climate, spring frosts and summer rains can cause chaos but it is sunlight that truly determines the quality of the vintage. An average amount will produce good wines, but below can be disastrous and above can lead to truly remarkable results. Conditions reflect this pressing need to harness the sun. Steep, south-facing slopes are required to take full advantage of it, though not too high or it will be too cold, whilst both proximity to a river and a soil rich in slate are sought after for the way that both will store and reflect heat back onto the vines.