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  • 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.

  • H.R. Rudd has an English dry sense of humor. I love the story about his bicycle trip from Trier down the Mosel, where he ends up getting a flat tire and meeting another Englishman at a hotel in Bernkastel. Rudd, annoyed by him, gets up early the next morning to travel on his own. Unfortunately, he ends up running into the same gentleman at a restaurant in Traben-Trarbach. During their late lunch, Rudd excuses himself “for five minutes” and asks the head waiter to give him the bill quickly, so he can pay and ditch his travel companion.

    Rudd calls Moselle’s soil volcanic. Slate is a metamorphic rock, whereas rhyolite, in Ürzig, is volcanic.

    It’s interesting to note that he says that Freiherr von Schubert “owns by far the larger part of the vineyards of Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg, to quote it in full.” Even in the 1930s, there is no mention of Abtsberg for this prime section of the hillside. The stone vineyard gate, built in 1873, has the inscription “Maximiner-Grünhäuser-Herrenberg.” Other landowners and growers still had vines near the tail end of what is today the Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg vineyard.

    Rudd also mentions that “[t]hese [Grünhäuser] wines have a great following among connoisseurs, especially in Germany itself.” As Per pointed out, Rudd describes the wines as “delicate, aromatic and often carrying an attractive little prickle. They can be of considerable body, too, in the higher qualities of a good vintage.” This indicates that the ripe botrytis-affected grapes tended to give the more full-bodied wines.

    On a side note, he talks about how the whole staff at Grünhaus placed hundreds of pans filled with coal tar, briquettes, or similar fuel around the vines on a cold spring day, as they were worried about the grave risk of spring frost in the night. These would be lighted if the temperature drops below a certain point.

    It should be noted, too, that Rudd talks about the Ruwer at the start of his section on the Middle Mosel. The Saar is treated in a separate chapter with the Upper Mosel (see “An Overview of the Mosel Region,” including the ensuing comments, for more on this). He highlights several of the sites in Saarburg (including Rausch), Ockfen (Bockstein, Geisberg, and Herrenberg), and Ayl (Kupp and Herrenberg).

    On his visit to Wiltingen, Rudd mentions both the sites of “Scharzhofberg and Scharzberg—very often the best growths of the whole Moselle if fortune is only kind.” He is invited to drink bottles of 1892 and 1895 Scharzhofberger, which surprised him. “As a rule, Moselle wines are not long lived. A great deal of their charm is their bounding youth. As a general rule they do not keep and should be drunk quite young. There are always exceptions, of course, and here I had two of them, but the considerations also were exceptional.”

    “Those Wiltinger wines—Kupp, Braune Kupp, Braunfels, Gottesfuss—how elegant and full of breeding they are!” But he finds in a great year, like 1921, that they can be “fairly heavy” and not for everyday drinking. In contrast, he finds “a lot of light wine” in Filzen, which “often possess that natural sparkle or spritz that is so attractive in the Moselle wines.”

    Also of note is that the red grapes in Coenen (Könen), across the Saar River from Filzen, were grubbed up “ten or twelve years ago without any regrets.” Rudd didn’t believe you could “make good red wine in a real white wine country such as this.”

    (See my notes and comments on ‘Real Mosel Wine’ for more details.)

  • Andrew Bair says:

    Hi Per,

    Thank you for taking the time to review this book. I’ve been enjoying your contributions to Lars’ site.

  • Gilberto Colangelo says:

    Thank you for the contribution. Very interesting and triggered me to buy the book, which arrived today. 🙂

  • Per Linder says:

    Hello Andrew, many thanks for your kind words. Gilberto, glad that you liked it and bonne lecture! I recently bought the volume on Burgundy, by the Irish journalist and poet Stephen Gwynn, which I still have to finish.

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