Hugh Johnson: A priceless region in wine terms – but of little value to the government

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The Independent Online

You don't have to be a wine lover to recognise that this plan is stupid and unnecessary and should have been ditched years ago. You don't build unnecessary roads with viaducts these days, especially to provide access to an airport that was a hangover from the Second World War – and is only used these days by Ryanair. This plan, a 30-year-old one that died because of a lack of rationale, was suddenly born again in April 2008 on the extraordinary grounds of linking Hahn to the Low Countries.

The road link is where the river, the Mosel, is at its most famous, picturesque and attractive to tourists. The bridge would be 160m high, which means that any cathedral in Europe could fit underneath it. The link follows the crest of about the most famous vineyard stretch in Germany, which produces some of the finest white wines in the world. The Wehlener Sonnenuhr is a world-famous, superlative vineyard that produces a sweet wine that's considered immortal. The link will affect the hydrology, the water flow and drainage of the slopes below. There's no argument about this – and since the conditions are perfect for top wine at the moment, any effect will be negative.

I have interviewed the mayor and he says he is personally not in favour but that some villagers back the project. There are not many inhabitants around here, and those who do need a living, not viaducts flying overhead. It was not too hard to persuade some of them with new facilities for the village, a new school building or roundabout, just a few little political promises for such a major project. And there's no way down from this huge road to the people below, so they can't get any extra tourists out of it.

From a wine point of view, it cannot improve things. But Mosel wine is relatively unimportant to the state government. There are about 8,000 hectares of vineyards in the whole stretch of the Mosel region. There are two other much bigger areas in the same state – Rheinland-Pfalz – with many more voters. But it's going to ruin the environment in a tranquil spot. In this beautiful valley, you will hear traffic for evermore. The state's minister of transport (and agriculture too, curiously enough) wrote to me, asking me to shut up. I wrote back saying telling him exactly what I think about his project. He hasn't answered.

Hugh Johnson is a British wine expert who has campaigned against the road

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