One of the reasons grapes (and olives) have been so successful in the human diet is that they will grow ANYWHERE. While we have not often chosen to supplant staples like corn or wheat to plant vineyards, grapes themselves thrive on the margins of possibility.
These slopes overlooking Germany’s Mosel River at Bernkastel-Kues are absolutely vertiginous. Even the rough-hewn stone stairs are little improvement. The slaty soil in which these Riesling grapes grow erodes down the slope and has to be carted back up every year. The latitude provides only low average temperatures. Stout-legged harvesters enjoy no luxury of machination hauling these grapes to press.
And in most years, karmic justice prevails (brought along by dedicated muscle and know-how) marshaling the produce of these staked vines into piercingly flavorful, inspirational examples of wine – specifically Riesling.
As to the wines themselves, their homeland prized ripeness above all else for hundreds of years. What else could bring pride in the land of thin sunlight and temperature? The German classification system still maintains its foundations of quality in grape sweetness at harvest. But with consistently productive years in the upper tiers of classification, growers wishing to distinguish themselves are crafting ever drier versions of their wines. They are mimicking their French neighbors, really (and it’s turnabout).
So let the stereotypes erode. Only carry them back up if you have to. We don’t have to live with vertigo, but it does offer perspective to the valleys.