Top Riesling winemakers speak out against vineyards threat25th May, Ürzig, Germany
A four lane road bridge and highway are soon to be constructed across the celebrated landscape of the Mosel valley endangering world-class Riesling vineyards.
Situated along the Mosel river between the German towns of Bernkastel-Kues and Traben-Trarbach is an exceptionally long stretch of rare premium quality "Grosse Lage" (Grand cru) and "Erste Lage" (First growth) Riesling vineyards. Winemakers in the region are outraged that politicians are now going ahead with a 40-year old plan to build a 1.7 kilometre long, 160 metre high bridge and highway which threaten the vineyards of some of the world's greatest wine estates.
The planned road, named the B50, will emerge from a tunnel through the side of the famous Ürziger Würzgarten wine mountain, cross the Mosel river via a gigantic concrete bridge and continue directly along the top of the vineyards of Zeltingen-Rachtig, Wehlen, Graach and Bernkastel, with an additional slip road passing close by the village of Erden. The top winemakers in the region are very worried about maintaining the quality of their vines during the lengthy building works. A scheme of financial compensation has already been drawn up to cover some of the expected problems. It is officially acknowledged that there will be a decrease in the quality of grapes in areas affected by building dust, debris and heavy plant activity; and when the bridge is completed, by the shade cast over some vineyards.
The world-class winemakers are even more concerned about the long-term impact of the road on water distribution to their vines. Existing forest above the vineyards will be removed and the new road embankment will effectively seal off a large swath of the natural hilltop. The forest currently forms the water reservoir needed to sustain the vines during the frequent spells of very hot weather; any less available water would be disastrous. The other side of this equation gives rise to the potential for flash-flooding and land erosion in certain areas.
The international wine community is shocked and appalled at what they see as nothing short of vandalism to some of the world's premier Riesling vineyards. Wine production at these famous sites has been continuing for over 2000 years: the art is highly regarded by the most knowledgeable in the business today - experts and enthusiasts alike. The wine landscape in this region is widely praised as one of the most beautiful imaginable.
Many people are puzzled by the fact that the Middle Mosel area has not been put forward to UNESCO to receive the World Heritage status that it clearly deserves. Wine production in this ancient cultural landscape is one of the very few large-scale human industries that has managed to regain a harmonious balance with nature - the vineyards and forests once again support many rare species of flora and fauna.
The B50 project has previously progressed only to be postponed several times over the past few decades, due both to legal challenges by campaigners and problems in securing private finance. The winemakers have been put through much stress and uncertainty. The situation has reached a crisis point as the politicians are now determined to see it built from the public purse. The hope that this project would fail due to the massive financial burden it will create has finally been dashed.
Some of the foremost Riesling winemakers are appealing for help in a last-ditch attempt to alert German politicians to what they believe to be extreme foolishness: the destruction of a treasure of world cultural heritage. The following statements from Ernst Loosen, Markus Molitor, Katharina & Manfred Prüm, Johannes Schmitz, Willi Schaefer and Rudolf Trossen form a damning indictment of the B50 road project and those who persist in bulldozing it into existence. These respected wine producers are calling for a permanent cancellation of the High Mosel Bridge and vineyard-topping highway. This is what they have to say:
"I don't understand why this bridge and motorway is supposed to be built at all. The maximum time saved in any direction of travel can be no more than 30 minutes. Sometimes I think the politicians want to especially spoil the most beautiful parts of the Mosel as they did in Winningen where a similarly monstrous bridge was built years ago. I often take customers there to see the amazingly steep terraced vineyards and when the bridge comes into view it is always a complete shock to them. And I am also shocked every time. The proposed bridge near Ürzig is much higher and nearly double the length of the Winningen bridge.
The main concern to the vineyards is that the motorway route is going along the ridge above some of the best vineyards of the middle Mosel. They will cut down forests, compact the earth and make sure that water will drain away very quickly from the road surface. This will be bad for the water balance of the vineyards below. Already in this decade we have had some extremely dry years - any less available water will threaten the vineyards. It is also known that dust and other pollution from large building sites can be detrimental for the vines. This building site is planned to last for 7 years and we all know that these promises are never kept. The whole project lacks any long term thinking. Sometimes I wonder, and this is my biggest fear, that there is no reason whatsoever for this bridge and motorway other than a bunch of bureaucrats who have blindly followed a plan for more than 40 years."
Ernst Loosen, Dr. Loosen wine estate, Bernkastel, www.drloosen.com
"This bridge will destroy the aesthetics of the cultural landscape at the Mosel. The impact on tourism, especially during the lengthy building works will be great. The vines will be detrimentally affected by shadow from the bridge, water distribution will be permanently altered; and all this disruption comes not just to anywhere, but precisely to some of the rare "Grosse Lagen" (Grand cru) vineyards of the Mosel. The main official argument that this road is needed to make the airport Frankfurt Hahn more accessible is highly doubtful: to destroy a cultural heritage environment for a business with no clear future is really a poor trade-off."
Markus Molitor, Markus Molitor estate, Wehlen, www.markusmolitor.com
"This giant, grotesque bridge would irreversibly deface the beautiful viticultural landscape in the Middle Mosel valley between Zeltingen, Ürzig and Erden. It is shocking to see politicians deciding to waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer's money on the disfigurement of more than 2000 years of cultural heritage, instead of protecting it and supporting its acceptance as genuine world cultural heritage by UNESCO."
Katharina & Manfred Prüm, Joh. Jos. Prüm estate, Wehlen, www.jjpruem.com
"Just before the highway hits the bridge it will go through a short tunnel through a ridge on the Ürzig side. This will allow cold air from the Wittlich depression to flow into the river valley and massively alter the micro-climates of the vineyards around the Mosel bend. Woodland will be lost due to the open style building of the tunnel (carving a large notch out of the ridge); how this will affect water distribution to the vines has not been considered. The unquestionable decline in tourism in the area caused by the bridge will threaten the existence of many local wine makers, restaurants and hotels as wine and tourism go hand in hand. Many similar sites in Europe are protected from such grave intrusions by being named as UNESCO World Heritage sites."
Johannes Schmitz, Rebenhof estate, Ürzig, www.rebenhof.de
"Above Graach is the well-known gradual landslide which comes from the top of the hill and spreads out into one end of the village at the bottom. Winemaking has been given up on parts of it due to the constant downward motion, which meant that almost every year a new row of vines could be added at the top. Here in the village we are afraid that vibrations from the road building above the Himmelreich vineyard will aggravate the landslide, and also that a change of water distribution will have an adverse effect on the vines. The road embankment will seal off the natural water channels meaning less available water in general, but also giving rise to the danger of flash flooding due to to the reduced water retention of the hill.
Willi Schaefer, Willi Schaefer estate, Graach
"I am currently developing wine, culture and hiking activities for international wine enthusiasts. A day trip includes the magnificent cellars of Traben-Trarbach, the ancient cultural landscape of the Mosel plateau on a hike to the Nicolaus Cusanus Wine library in Bernkastel-Kues and a picturesque boat trip back to Traben-Trarbach. This round trip will be carved up by the proposed Mosel bridge and highway, it's peace and tranquility destroyed forever.
Rudolf Trossen, Rudolf Trossen estate, Kinheim
A website has been set up to offer further information including pictures of the bridge and details of how to support the cause:
Campaigners are asking people to voice their concerns by e-mailing the German Chancellor Angela Merkel directly using the following link:
They also ask people to contact their MEP and German Embassy to demand an immediate and permanent cancellation of the High Mosel Bridge and B50 road project.
Print quality photos can be supplied upon demand.
Press articles and further information: