- February 4, 2017
The Style of Mosel Wine According to H.R. Rudd
- by Per Linder
When Lars worked for Mosel Wine Merchant, he once reported on O.W. Loeb and Terrence Prittie’s Moselle. That report triggered me to buy the book, and then I caught the Mosel wine history bug. Interestingly enough, Loeb and Prittie do not mention their fellow-wine merchant H.R. Rudd’s book, Hocks and Moselles, which was published in 1935. I actually learned about it through the Swedish wine author Lennart Thölén’s book on the Mosel from 1962.
Rudd’s book was a volume in a series of the Constable's Wine Library, aimed at “providing the contemporary wine-lover with exactly the facts about his favourite wines which will help him personally to appreciate and enjoy them and guide him in offering them to his friends.” In the foreword, Rudd wrote that he was reluctant to write about his favorite subject—he would rather have talked about it. Eventually, the editor of the series, André Simon, convinced him to set it down on paper. Rudd was the only non-professional writer of the Constable's; the others were lawyers, journalists, or authors.
Hugh Randall Rudd was born in 1882, in Norwich, where his grandfather had established a wine merchant business back in 1851. Just after 1900, Rudd was sent to a small village near the Rhine Valley to learn German. He learned the language, but also developed a fondness for German wine. Upon his return to England, he worked in the family business till the outbreak of World War I, when he joined the army and eventually reached the rank of major. After the war, Rudd settled in London and joined the old, prestigious wine merchant Berry Bros. & Co. as a junior partner. (Today, the firm is called Berry Bros. & Rudd, and his descendants are still part-owners.) Despite his active participation in the war, Rudd made visits to Germany as soon Europe had won back its peace. In his book, he raves about the 1921 vintage of which he tasted many different bottles. Rudd died in 1949 in the village of Eton, just west of London.
As the name of his book implies, it covers the Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen, Pfalz, and Mosel (see also "Mosel or Moselle?"). Attached to the book is a foldout map. Just like Karl Heinrich Koch's Moselwein, Rudd takes a travelogue approach and pairs his narrative with selected anecdotes from his many visits to the region.
Only on a few occasions does Rudd comment on the wines. Although he spends two chapters on the Rheingau, he never describes the wines explicitly. Maybe the reader is expected to know how they taste? He, however, refers back to the Rheingau when he describes the wines of the Nahe Valley:
The Nahe wines are light and harmonious but not quite so full bodied or full flavoured as those of the Rhine; in fact, on many occasions they are to me reminiscent of the Moselle, especially when produced entirely from Riesling grapes [back then less than 50 percent of the growing area]. One can say, therefore, with a good deal of truth that they are somewhat of a type standing midway between those of the Rhine and their kindred of the Moselle.
The chapter on the Mosel is the last one and already in the first sentence, he writes that the wines are of quite a different character compared to the wines of the Rhine. His descriptions confirm that the classic style of Mosel wine before World War II was indeed dry: “The Moselle wines in general have the same elegant, clean, dry and gay characteristics, but they vary a good deal according to the areas from which they come.”
On Saar wines, he writes:
It has been charged against Saar wines that many of them are Saar by name and sour by nature. There is a certain element of truth in this contention; they are not always of a type which appeals to the English taste. In an ordinary year they can be thin, steely, hard and unsympathetic, but German connoisseurs delight in these characteristics. In a bad year they can be too much of the good thing, even for German palates, but in a fine year there is nothing better, more delicious nor racier than the beautiful wines of the Saar Valley, with their natural bloom and fragrance.
“Probably on account of their lightness and acidity, the Saar wines are not as well-known as many of the sturdier and more highly flavoured growths of the Middle Moselle.”
“The Berncastel wines, as a rule, have quite a distinct smoky taste, and can therefore generally be picked out from others. This slight tang of soil gives them quite a character of their own, nor are they lacking in body. In fact, the higher grades are often very full bodied.”
On Maximin Grünhäus, Rudd says: “Fine they can be, delicate, aromatic and often carrying an attractive little prickle. They can be of considerable body, too, in the higher qualities of a good year.”
“Caseler [Kaseler] wines can have much character and excellence, but unless the vintage is a good one I often find them rather too steely in England, after the style of their kindred of the Saar.”
Rudd’s book is a beautiful expression of an Englishman’s curiosity and love of the region. It certainly deserves shelf space in the Mosel wine lover’s library. ♦
Photo of the book's spine.
Per Linder works in asset management; he lives in Luxembourg with his wife and two children.