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  • June 21, 2012
  • Mosel Wine in Sweden

  • by Per Linder

In my maternal grandfather’s home, only two wines were served: a red from Grand Vin Vallon d'Hanappier, Médoc, and a white from Königsmosel, or King’s Mosel. Both were delivered to the Swedish Royal Court, whose name was clearly displayed on each of the labels. I remember this from as far back as the 1970s, for I was one of the younger grandchildren, who were only allowed to study the labels.

With the memories of my family drinking Mosel wine and having explored the Mosel Valley with my friend Lars Carlberg since then, I was curious to know how long Mosels have been known in Sweden. The main source for my research is an article from Gustaf Utterström called Från vin till whisky, in Guldet i flaskan (Vin- & Spritcentralen, 1967).

According to O. W. Loeb and Terence Prittie’s Moselle (Faber and Faber, 1972), exports of Mosel wine to Scandinavia started only in the early 20th century. In the text below, it becomes rather clear, however, that Mosel wine has been known in Sweden for a considerably longer period of time.

Wine consumption started in Sweden in the Middle Ages, when it became part of Western Christianity. Not only did the Church need wine for Sunday communions, the kings were keen on throwing parties in the same way that their peers did on the Continent. Already then, wine from the Rhine, rhenskt in Swedish, was the most exclusive white wine in Sweden. The red wine, imported from Poitou, in France, was less sought after. Wine imports increased considerably under King Gustav Vasa and his sons by the 16th century. Before the House of Vasa came to power, Sweden had been in civil war with Denmark for almost 200 years and no real royal court had been present in the country.

The connection to Rhine and French wines would continue well into the 17th century. In 1674, an Italian visitor noted that French wine is drunk less often, and Spanish wine was consumed only during the winter months. Rhine wine, however, was highly appreciated and was the most popular wine of the landed gentry. Another visitor, this time from France, observes abundant wine drinking among the upper classes. The great poet of that century, Stiernhielm, writes that he prefers Rhine, followed by Spanish wine. Meanwhile, French wine is only drunk in an emergency.

One should also bear in mind that the Swedish Army, under Gustav II Adolf, had set up its winter camp near Mainz in 1631-32 and even constructed a fortress whose name still remains today—Gustavsburg. During that winter, the army acquired a taste for rhenskt.

"Rhine wine" was a general term and surely included wines from the Mosel Valley. In 1722, the custom code mentions Mosel wine for the first time.

Carl Michael Bellman (1740–1795), a national poet, sings in 1791 about the Mosel in his song “Til Buteljen” (To the Bottle). He even makes the distinction between the Mosel and Rhine:

Hvarfrån kommer du min frände,
Ifrån Mosel eller Rhen?
Från Bordeaux ell' verldsens ände?

Where do you come from my friend,
From Mosel or Rhine?
From Bordeaux or the end of the world?

Bellman was a troubadour and occupied a post as a civil servant. There is no hint in his biography that he visited Germany, much less the Mosel. On the other hand, he was close to King Gustav III, who supported him. It’s most likely that he learned about Mosel wine at the Court. Bellman's songs about partying and drinking are still popular in Sweden today. A visitor shouldn't be surprised to hear one of his songs sung before the schnapps is brought out and drunk at a dinner party.

A contemporary of Bellman’s, the writer Anna Maria Lenngren (1754–1817), also knew how to distinguish between the Hocks and Moselles in her poem “Den elaka drömmen” (The Wicked Dream):

Harpax gaf ett stort kalas
(Notabene, gubben drömde).
Laget för hans välgång tömde
Stora bålar, fulla glas:
Rehnskt och mosel och madera
Dracks som vatten—gubben led,
Vaknade och svor en ed
Att ej nånsin drömma mera.

Harpax threw a big party
(Nota bene, the old man dreamt).
The company to his success emptied
Large bowls, full glasses:
Rhine and Mosel and Madeira
Were drunk like water—the old man suffered
Woke up and swore an oath
That never ever dream anymore.

There is no record of travels to Germany, hence we can only assume that she, like Bellman, was exposed to Mosel wine in Stockholm under Gustav III.

A hundred years later, August Strindberg (1849–1912), during his time in Paris, wrote one of his famous plays “To Damascus.” In the first act and first scene, “Street Corner,” the main character, The Stranger, sitting in a Stockholm café, spots a beggar who enters with the following exchange:

Beggar (sitting down at a table): "Wine. Moselle!"

Landlord (consulting a police list): "I can't serve you: you've not paid your taxes. Here's your name, age and profession, and the decision of the court."

Beggar: "Omnia serviliter pro dominatione! I'm a free man with a university education. I refused to pay taxes, because I didn't want to become a member of parliament. Moselle!"

Strindberg made several journeys on the Continent and lived both in France and Germany, where he certainly was exposed to many different wines. He was not well seen by the king at the time, so that he presumably learnt about wine on his own. Sweden and Strindberg were surely influenced by Moselwein as Modewein, the period towards the end of the 19th century when the light, dry, and refreshing wines of the Mosel became fashionable in Germany and abroad.

Thus Mosel wine was well known in Sweden before 1900. Let us continue our journey till today.

The Nobel Banquets

The King of Sweden hands out the Nobel Prizes in Stockholm each year on December 10. After the ceremony, a banquet is held in the city hall of Stockholm. Many of the wines served here become household names in Sweden. For instance, my grandfather's choice of red wine for home was served at the Nobel Banquets in 1937 and 1938. Liebfraumilch, served for the first time in 1911 and then in three consecutive years from 1926–28, is another example of the marketing success of the banquets. Glancing over the menus from 1901–2011, German white wine was a natural choice up until the mid-1930s. Before the First World War, Rhine wines were served every year. After the Great War, the sommeliers expanded their horizon in Germany and selected wine from the Nahe and Mosel, too. The first Mosel to come on the wine list is a 1913 Zeltinger Himmelreich at the 1921 banquet, followed by a 1913 Ohligsberger at the 1922 event. After the Second World War, German wine has only been served on three occasions—1952 Ockfener Bockstein (1954), 1983 Johannisberger (1992), and 1998 Bernkastler Badstube Eiswein (2001).

Wholesale and Retail

Before moving on, here is a short overview of Swedish policy on distribution of alcoholic beverages. In 1917, a system of rationing was introduced (Motboken) and, in 1922, a referendum was held on total prohibition, but it was turned down. The rationing was kept till 1955. In that year, all importers and retailers were expropriated by the state. The government then introduced monopolies: Vin & Spritcentralen (V&S) as importer, and Systembolaget as retailer. When Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, the import monopoly had to go and V&S was sold, but Systembolaget is still in place.

Various encyclopedias don't mention Mosel wine in Sweden until 1955, when Svensk Uppslagsbok quotes some of the most famous names and brands in Sweden, such as Zeltinger, Moselblümchen, Königsmosel, Graacher Himmelreich, and Bern-casteler Doctor.

In 1955, the first Systembolaget catalogue has been said to contain an impressive list of German wine (Kronstam, 2005). Moselblümchen, Liebfraumilch, and Hochheimer were imported in casks and then bottled by the V&S. Above this entry-level quality came Königsmosel, also a commercial wine and still sold today at the Systembolaget and in other Nordic countries.

One of Sweden's most active writers on wine, Lennart Thölén (1913–1996), had several books on wine published in 1962. One of his books was on the Mosel, where he mentions that wine from the region was served at the Royal Order of the Seraphim banquet every April 28 with the first course of smoked salmon. He, however, laments that the Mosel wines on sale in Sweden are rarely naturrein, but rather almost always improved (i.e., chaptalized) wines.

Loeb and Prittie note that the Swedish market had a taste for Mosel wines. Between 1952 and 1972 exports increased fivefold. During this period, Sweden had the strongest economic growth in the world.

Königsmosel and Piesporter Falkenberg

One cannot talk about Mosel wine in Sweden and leave out Königsmosel. The earliest reference that I've found in Germany is in the Deutschen Wein-Zeitung from 1895. Seven years later it is mentioned in a book on the wine merchants Deinhard & Co. Both sources refer to it as one of the fantasy brand names on the Mosel.

The Mainz wine merchant family Maas Nathan imported Königsmosel to Sweden well before 1930. The wine became very popular in Sweden and was served at the Royal Court until the end of the 1990s. As many other wine merchants in Germany before the Second World War, they were Jewish and gained much respect in Sweden for their wine. Under the Third Reich, they sold their firm to their supplier of Mosel grapes, the Drathen family, and fled to Sweden. In 1945, the Drathens sold the firm back to the Nathans, who trademarked Königsmosel in 1956.

Ewald Theodor Drathen (1901–1993) took over the Königsmosel business in the 1970s. The Drathen winery was sold to Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller (ZGM) in 1992. Today, Königsmosel is a blend of about 90 percent Riesling and 10 percent Rivaner with around 35 grams of residual sugar per liter.

In the late 1970s, Piesporter Falkenberg was introduced in Sweden and soon became near cult. The Koblenz wine merchant Deinhard marketed the wine. It was drier and more exclusive than the Königsmosel. Falkenberg is an official hillside single vineyard, above the famous Goldtröpfchen, thus it was natural that consumers took notice of the higher quality. Deinhard had the name "Deinhard Piesporter Falkenstein Riesling" registered as a trademark in 1987. Ten years later, Deinhard was taken over by Henkell & Söhnlein Sektkellereien KG. In the Swedish catalogue, Deinhard Piesporter Riesling replaced Piesporter Falkenberg. The former is 100 percent Riesling from around Piesport and has circa 27 grams of residual sugar per liter.

With the new rules in 1995, Systembolaget demanded yearly sales of 27,000 liters in order for a wine to come into the standard catalog. Most German, much less Mosel, wine producers cannot meet this figure, thus a decreased number of Mosel wine is available in Sweden.

Today, any wine from the EU can be privately imported to Sweden with the necessary paperwork. If you should find an interesting wine on this website, do contact the producer.


Mosel wine has been known in Sweden since at least 1722 and has been a natural choice for Swedish wine drinkers till today. It's been some years since the Nobel Banquet included a Mosel Riesling. Bearing in mind that Mosel wine is closely linked to traditional Swedish cuisine, it should be only a matter of time till we see it at the banquet again.

The Mosel wines that have been distributed in Sweden via Systembolaget's main catalog have been for the most part entry-level wines. With this new online guide, you now have an opportunity to be informed and updated on what's happening among the best producers of the Mosel region. ♦

Image: Carl Michael Bellmann portrayed by Per Krafft (1779).

Per Linder works in asset management; he lives in Luxembourg with his wife and two children.