Pfalz – sometimes translated to Palatinate, which goes back to the latin name of Palatium, the term used by the Romans who have brought the wine to our region. I prefer to call it what it is: Pfalz.
Some refer to it as Germany’s Tuscany. And while I do not usually use that comparison, I can understand where it comes from: a very mild climate, 1800 sun hours per year (some years can reach 2000), grapes, figs, lemons and even kiwis growing here. Cypresses on rolling green landscapes, framed by the hills of the Haardt mountains – it certainly has some Southern European flair around here. (But not without being well organized, as we Northern Europeans like it. – So I heard from a Swedish friend describing it.)
Germany has 13 wine regions, of which 6 are located in the municipal area of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate): Mosel, Ahr, Mittelrhein, Nahe, Rheinhessen, and the Pfalz – which is situated farthest south of these 6. With ca 23.000 hectares under vines, the area is Germany’s 2nd largest wine growing area (after Rheinhessen), counting for almost 25% of the total vines. The vineyards are concentrated along the 85 km long Weinstrasse (wine route), on a rather narrow belt, and are organized in two Bereiche (areas): Mittelhaardt/Deutsche Weinstrasse and Südliche Weinstrasse. (We Germans love to make things a bit more complicated.) The Weinstrasse itself was founded and named so in 1935 (under Nazi regime, which makes it tricky for celebrations of anniversaries), and reaches from Bockenheim in the North to Schweigen in the South, where the French (Alsacian) border sets an end to it.
In the past, Pfalz wines were sold at prices comparable with top Bordeaux wines. Royals loved our wines, and i.e. the Suez canal opening ceremony included a wine from Pfalz. However, 2 world wars took their toll and even for a longer period after that, mostly bulk wine was produced. The reputation, if any, was nothing to brag about. But! During the last decades a lot has happened! And today’s generation of winemakers is highly educated, with many bringing with them experiences from working in wine regions abroad. That combination, together with the traditions and knowledge passed on from many generations back in time, seems to be a winning formula.
Riesling (20% of the vines) has become the main (of 45) white grape variety of the Pfalz, pushing the long time Müller-Thurgau off the throne. With almost 5500 hectares, Pfalz is now the largest Riesling area of the world. But also red wines are gaining importance: with 40% of vines being black grapes, the Pfalz is today Germany’s largest red wine area, producing award winning wines. 22 black varieties can be found here, with Dornfelder and Spätburgunder among the leading ones.
If you belong to those Scandinavians, that only pass us on the Autobahn on your way to Southern Europe, I am inviting you to stop by and discover some of the Pfalz with me! Until that, Invinitum will be your gateway to learn more. In future posts, you will learn about the two Bereiche, the wines and the people behind. And next week we’ll take you to the biggest winefest in the world…
For further reading:
My interview with a Pfalz-specialist
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