Zell on the Mosel
The Mosel valley is mostly open to the southwest and protected on the north
and east. It is also sheltered from the rain by the Eifel and the Hunsrück.
This gives it a special climate where frosts in spring (late frosts) or in
the autumn (early frosts) are very rare. In other words, it is an ideal climate
for cultivating the Riesling grape, the grape which not only needs the longest
growing season, and but is also of the highest quality. Archaeological finds
have proven that the
Treverians already grew grapes for wine in this region. The actual development
of Mosel wine began with a decree by the
Emperor Probus (278-280 AD) which allowed for its general cultivation. A good
climate is not the only thing necessary for good wine. Soil also plays a decisive
role. After the widening of the
valley, with its colourful and steep sandstone sides, the Mosel starts cutting
deeply through the Rhenish slate mountains and meandering with extreme twists
and turns ("Central Mosel"). The deep Kasten valley in the central Mosel area
with its blue-green Hunsrück slate is characterized by its steep bulging and
gentle "slip-off" slopes making it ideal for viticulture. Between Trarbach
and Treis-Karden northeast of
the valley becomes steeper and its floor narrower. This is where the lower
Mosel area begins with its sloped terraces, high slopes planted with grapes,
thick mountain forests and the steep valleys of the small tributaries ("Terrace
Mosel"). The substratum is composed of layers of quartzite, reddish argillaceous
slate and graywacke. The next time you enjoy a wine named "Zeller Schwarze
Katz", an "Ürziger Würzgarten", a "Bernkasteler Doctor", a "Piesporter Goldtröpfchen"
or a "Trittenheimer Apotheke", think about the fine differences between the
lime and calcium rich soil of Hunsrück slate of the central Mosel and the
argillaceous slate, rich in silicate and graywacke of the Terrace Mosel.
The area around Zell was already populated in Celtic times, as the connecting
path from the Hunsrück arrived at the Mosel here. The town itself was probably
founded in Roman times, with a little port and storage halls for trading.
The name "Zell" (Latin "cella"=basement/storage) probably refers to the
town’s function as a trading place. In 1222, Zell received city rights, and
subsequently built a city wall with several towers and three city gates. The
fortification of the city was completed in 1229, but only the "Bachturm" and
the "Pulverturm" are preserved, symbols of Zell to this today. The city was
owned by the Trier Electorate and even got a princely castle (completed in
1543), as a secondary residence of the Elector and the residence of a civil
servant. A severe fire in 1848 destroyed many medieval buildings, but the
historic old city kept much of its original charm.