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  • May 18, 2015
  • The Health Benefits of Mosel Wine

  • by Lars Carlberg

meurer_mosel_saar_weineBack in the mid-nineties, Eberhard von Kunow, the former owner of Weingut von Hövel, once told me on a visit to his estate in Oberemmel that he likes to drink a bottle of his own Saar wine when he feels a cold coming on. I can still remember this after all these years. In fact, I often reach for a bottle of Hofgut Falkenstein or a similar pure, dry Mosel Riesling when I feel sick.

In the 19th century, it was not uncommon for doctors, and not just from the region, to prescribe Mosel wine for various ailments, including colds. I found several old books on this topic at the archives nearby my flat in Trier several years ago. In different 19th-century books, Mosel and Saar wines were touted for their general health benefits, especially against kidney stones. Today, acidity is frowned upon and thought to be unhealthy. Many drinkers say that they can't tolerate a high-acid Mosel Riesling.

In Der Moselwein als Getränk und als Heilmittel (Mosel Wine as a Beverage and as a Remedy, 1821) by Dr. Carl Graff, Mosel wine is said to help cure chronic maladies, especially urinary stones. Dr. Carl Graff (also spelled Dr. Karl Graff) was based in Trarbach. Years later, he wrote a book titled Der Mosel-Wein gegenüber der pestilentiellen Cholera (Mosel Wine Against Pestilential Cholera, 1848). He dedicated the book to "the highly respectable city of Cologne as protector of Mosel wine": "Der hochbaren Stadt Köln als Protectorin des Moselweines gewidmet." Cologne was an important city for the wines of the Mosel back then.

In Felix Meyer's Weinbau und Weinhandel an Mosel, Saar und Ruwer (Winegrowing and Wine Trade on the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer, 1926), he even lists many of the doctors, including in England, who extolled the health benefits of Mosel wine, which, of course, included the Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer. In contrast to the heavy Rhine wine, Meyer points out that Mosel wine not only became fashionable but also much liked by physicians. Meyer says that it exhilarates one's mind, revives one's weary nerves, reassures one at work, regulates the blood, assists one's appetite, digestion, and prevents constipation. It is well liked as a table wine. It is a remedy for the flu and it revives a hypochondriac and gloomy person.

Dr. Michael Föhr, in Neumagen, also wrote about the health benefits of Mosel wine in 1835. He was born in Piesport and had his book published in Berlin. It doesn't stop there either. There's so much 19th-century literature on the health benefits of drinking Mosel wine. In Dr. W. Hamm's Das Weinbuch (The Wine Book, 1865), Mosel wines are deemed healthy and recommended for hemorrhoids and bladder troubles in particular. In 1886, Dr. J. Blumberger also wrote about the health benefits of Mosel wine in his book published in Cologne. In August Trinius's Durch's Moseltal: Ein Wanderbuch (Through the Mosel Valley: A Guide Book, 1897), he talks about the populace's exceptional health (certain diseases were non-existent), which could be attributed to Mosel wine's acidity. (For more details, see "Light, Digestable Rieslings from the Saar and Mosel.")

In 1866, Dr. Franz Meurer in Zell published a book about the excellent health benefits of Mosel and Saar wines and their healing effects from his 30 years of experience. His book was published by Lintz'chen Buchhandlung in Trier. In his introduction, Dr. Meurer acknowledges the earlier work of Dr. Carl Graff but also explains how and why Dr. Graff failed to acknowledge certain winegrowing areas of the Mosel. Dr. Meurer writes that one major improvement for the quality of Mosel wine was more Riesling, rather than Kleinberger (Elbling). He also recognizes that Saar wines are like Mosel wines in their characteristics and virtues. From certain sites, he writes that the Saar outclasses the Mosel.

In the beginning of his book, Dr. Meurer has an analysis of a Mosel wine from the Apothecary Karl Pfeiffer. It's an 1819 Piesporter. The wine had low alcohol and high acidity, with almost no residual sugar. He points out that even the best Mosel wines from 1819—which was a very good vintage, unlike 1818—had barely any unfermented sugar leftover.

Dr. Meurer first writes about the general health benefits of drinking wine and, in the second part, about Mosel and Saar wines more specifically. In the third section, he gives us his thoughts on wine improvements for Mosel and Saar wines. He feels that all types of additions, such as sugar to raise the alcohol content or chalk to lower the acidity, are unfavorable, even though in lesser years, such as 1834, it might be necessary. The wines, however, lose some of their character, purity, and grace, which—if not properly administered—can lead to headaches, faintness, and queasiness.

Lastly, Friedrich Wilhelm Koch writes in his book Der Weinbau an der Mosel und Saar (Viticulture on the Mosel and Saar, Lintz, 1881) that Dr. Arnoldi, who was a well-known Mosel wine expert in Winningen, never had in his practice a patient with a kidney stone because of Mosel wine. Like Dr. Meurer, Koch advocated pure Mosel and Saar wines for their fresh and lively acidity. ♦

Photo of the title page of Dr. Meurer's book on Mosel and Saar wines courtesy of Landesbibliothekszentrum Rheinland-Pfalz.

  • Andrew Bair says:

    Thank you for the interesting article, Lars. Certainly wish Mosel wines would cure seasonal allergies – it’s been a brutal season for tree pollen over here in Boston.

    Just curious: have you ever come across any historical account of aromatized wines (think of Barolo Chinato) being made in the Mosel for medicinal purposes?

    • You’re welcome, Andrew. I haven’t read any historical accounts of aromatized Mosel wines.

      It should be noted that the various doctors are referring to dry Mosel wines, rather than those with unfermented sugar, which is deemed less wholesome.

      • Andrew Bair says:

        Thanks, Lars.

        • You’re welcome, Andrew. Today, I came across an article by Hermann Bresgen of Weinmarkt. In this Trier wine weekly, he writes, in 1885, that Mosel and Saar wines with their “racy prickle” were fashionable with the newly affluent classes in the modern industrialized Germany. The wines helped cheer their spirit and ease their nerves better than the “heavy and massive” wines that would later cause headaches and all.

  • Two 2014s in this light, pure style are Weiser-Künstler’s Trabener Gaispfad Kabinett trocken and Hofgut Falkenstein’s Niedermenniger Herrenberg Kabinett trocken.

  • In Der Aufschwung Neuenahrs zum internationalen Weltbad (Neuwied, 1893), Bresgen wrote that a dry brisk Mosel wine was ideal for diabetics.

  • Christian von Stramberg wrote in his book Das Moseltal zwischen Zell und Konz (1837) that the wines of Casel (Kasel) were well known as a remedy against kidney stones.

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