The wine regions under threat from development

2. The Mosel

Already under construction (see picture below taken by db’s Rupert Millar last month) is a 1.7km, 160m high concrete bridge across some of Germany’s most prized vineyards and a UNESCO heritage site.

Mosel bridge

Work on the Upper Mosel Crossing is well underway, as db saw last month during a visit to the source of the world’s greatest Rieslings. A further image of the bridge can be seen below.

Back in May 2011, a massive four-lane road bridge, which crosses the Mosel Valley, was given the go-ahead despite objections from influential members of Germany and Britain’s wine trade – both Hugh Johnson OBE and Jancis Robinson MW OBE were vocal in their opposition to the project.

Called the Hochmoselübergang (Upper Mosel Crossing), the bridge was first proposed in the late 60s at the height of the Cold War when thousands of US troops stationed in the region sought a faster link between their bases.

Over the course of the following 40 years, the project was subject to revised plans, court challenges and impact studies – which the opponents said failed to address their key concerns.

Today, proponents of the bridge have pushed the project through, saying it will cut journey times for lorry drivers crossing Germany from Eastern Europe.

However, others says that current road connections are adequate, while the cost of such time-saving for this road-freight is immense, both economically and visually.

The road emerges from a tunnel through the side of the Ürziger Würzgarten wine mountain and continues 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.

Aside from its visual impact, the road building endangers an exceptionally long stretch of rare Grosse Lage (Grand Cru) and Erste Lage (First Growth) Riesling vineyards. Also, of great concern is the long-term impact of the road on water distribution to the vines, because existing forest above the vineyards has to be removed, while the new road embankment effectively seals off a large swath of the natural hilltop.

Importantly, it is this forest which currently forms the water reservoir needed to sustain the vines during the frequent spells of hot weather.

Speaking back in 2009, Katharina & Manfred Prüm from Joh. Jos. Prüm estate in Wehlen outlined the impact of this building project.

“This giant, grotesque bridge would irreversibly deface the beautiful viticultural landscape in the Middle Mosel valley between Zeltingen, Ürzig and Erden.”

Continuing, they commented, “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,” they added.

Distressingly, the bridge is now almost complete, while shockingly, a leaked report early last year showed that it may already be structurally unstable.

As reported by db in January 2014, a local government document recently obtained by journalists from the German magazine Der Spiegel apparently says that planners failed to properly investigate “slip surfaces” which are deeper than originally thought.

Loose boulders and shingle go as deep as 70 metres on parts of the bank and yet, the document is said to report, builders will only sink foundations to 47m leaving the 525 foot high bridge dangerously unstable.

Such setbacks will doubtless only increase the cost of this road bridge and the length of time it takes to finish the project – €330 million was initially set aside for the scheme with a completion date of 2016.

In the meantime, the damage is already done – as you can see, once more, in the picture below.

Hochmoselbrücke-Mai2014

The bridge photographed in May 2014. Picture course: Wikipedia

One Response to “The wine regions under threat from development”

  1. The same threat of industrialization looms over the Finger lakes Wine region in New York. A Texas-based gas company wants to turn the heart of the region into the largest fracked gas storage and transport hub in the North Eastern United States, using abandoned, unlined and unstable salt caverns to store millions of gallons of propane, butane, and methane a few hundred feet away from Seneca lake, a 4.2 Trillion gallon fresh drinking water source for 100,000 people and home to world-class wines. Seneca Lake is the jewel in the crown of the Finger Lakes, drawing international attention from Louis Barroul from Chateau de Saint Cosme, and Johanne Selbach of the Mosel Valley in Germany. Both are growing grapes and starting ventures in the region, and are vehemently opposed to this industrialization which will include active burning flare stacks, huge open brine pits, a truck and rail depot, compressor stations– all in the bucolic, burgeoning wine region. We would love for this story to get some attention. For more information, please contact us at: http://www.gasfreeseneca.com

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