Many of Germany’s banner wines are found in the Palatinate, in addition what may be the Continent’s most beautiful vineyards. A world of warm and unctuous, succulent and mature Rieslings make this region a must-visit for those in search of a new wine destination.
Since the 1930s, its gorgeous towns and vineyards have formed part of the German Wine Route (Deutsche Weinstrasse).
The Pfalz (Palatinate) is home to the largest and some of the best vineyards in Germany. They are found along an 80-km strip separating them in an imaginary way from the varieties located in northern Alsace (France), in a kind of natural extension that takes the shape of vines in the shadow of the Haardt range, a natural continuation of the Vosges Mountains.
The Pfalz’s location makes it the driest and sunniest wine region in Germany.
The Pfalz’s long, dry summers make the region more than ideal for producing dry wines full of fruity intensity and flavor, although you can also find Trockenbeerenauslese wines, with an alcohol content that rarely reaches 6.5% but sugar levels that are stratospheric.
Varieties and wines
Hugh Johnson describes the region as the “workshop” of Germany for a wide range of whites and reds of all complexions. Accordingly, red varieties represent nearly 40% of the vines, with the red variety Dornfelder being the second most cultivated, behind the eternal Riesling.
Dornfelder is a cross between different red varieties (Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe), created by August Herold in 1956. Wines made from this variety are focused on fruity flavors, with a magnificent color and light structure.
Local varieties are beginning to make a name for themselves on the international scene, thanks to Müller-Thurgau (obtained by crossing Riesling and Madeleine Royale) and Kerner (a hybrid of Trollinger and Riesling). These are varieties that produce concentrated, oak-influenced wines that are growing in prestige every day and are made by young, daring winemakers.
Other interesting varieties offered by the region include Rülander, which has lots of body and a spicy flavor (synonymous with Pinot Gris wines enriched with noble rot, to differentiate them from the dry version of Pinot Gris wines known as Grauburgunder); the aromatic Traminer (Gewürztraminer), and the pleasant, elegant full range of Pinots: Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder, and Spätburgunder (Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir).
Destination: The Mittelhaardt
You can’t talk about the Pfalz without talking about RIESLING. Like that, in capital letters. And when you talk about Riesling, you inevitably talk about Mittelhaardt.
This is a collection of unique vineyards located on steep slopes, spread among the stunning towns of Forst, Wachenheim, Deidesheim, Bad Dürkheim, and Ruperstberg. It’s tiny piece of the pie that is the Pfalz, but one that really goes above and beyond.
The standard for Mittelhaardt Rieslings is embodied by meaty, succulent wines. These are wines with great maturity showing rich notes of honey and stone fruits. Wines with body, balance, and an interesting acidity.
Stopover: Forst and Bad Dürkheim
Forst is reputed for being the origin of the country’s best wines, compared by its inhabitants to the elegant spire that crowns the tower of the town’s church. Just yards away from the church, lies the Forster Jesuitengarten, the town’s quintessential high-quality vineyard.
The wines from Forst are characterized by a very special texture in the mouth, an opulence shown off by the best wines from the most prestigious producers in the region, such as Geos Mosbacher.
Bad Dürkheim is known for the liveliness of its sausage and wine festival held every fall and forms the ideal destination to put the finishing touch on a truly hedonistic getaway to the region.
The Pfalz in itself forms its own universe designed for vine growing and producing wines of undeniable quality. In turn, the lovely towns with wooden houses nestled between orchards and vineyards dotting the region provide us with a poetic and aesthetic touch that is far from what you may picture at the outset.
Steep slopes and dizzying terraces interspersed between medieval villages make this region an organized, structured puzzle turned into a piece of heaven on Earth. Riesling willing.