Day 8 – the Moselle Valley – or grape growing for mountain goats

The Moselle Valley

The Moselle Valley

The Romans brought the art of the vigneron to what are now Germany and France. In cooler climates they favoured the hillsides along the banks of the large rivers. The steep slopes allowed for maximum sunlight, and the rivers provided water for the grapes in dry times. But you had to be fit and agile to make it all work. It’s high maintenance farming, difficult to automate, so the region aims at premium wines. They can’t compete with cheaper imports from Spain, Italy – or overseas.

A little town and its vineyards

A little town and its vineyards

Another little town and its vineyards

Another little town and its vineyards

One of the frequent barges. The rivers are highways, carrying huge volumes of goods

One of the frequent barges. The rivers are highways, carrying huge volumes of traffic

On the high slopes they use little trolleys with engines, attached to a rail, to bring up tools, and send grapes down for pressing in the Autumn. The Romans, it seems, invented a wine press way back in the early years of the current age. Grapes were tipped into a container with holes. A lid with a heavy rock was lowered onto the grapes, and that pressed the wine. When the Romans left, the locals went back to using their feet for many centuries. See how knowledge is lost?

Ecery bit of arable land is used

Every bit of arable land is used

Tending the vines, the transport ready on its rail

Tending the vines, the transport ready on its rail

A motorised transport. Note also the beautiful dry stone wall

A motorised transport. Note also the beautiful dry stone wall built from the local slate. They often added arches to the terraces to give the walls extra strength.

Scenic Jade glided through a light mist past the little towns and precipitous vineyards, the pruned vines beginning to put on leaf with the advent of the spring. The soil is built on slate, which they use as a mulch to keep the moisture and the warmth in. Mostly they grow Riesling, but with climate change, they’ve started experimenting with chardonnay and even some reds like merlot.

IMG_3366We tied up at the small town of Bernkastel–Kue, once again small and picturesque, with the obligatory ruined castle high on the hill. We’ll be here overnight.