The Pfalz is one of Germany’s largest regions (and Germany’s largest red wine region), producing every third bottle of German wine purchased domestically. The word Pfalz is a derivation of the Latin word palatium, meaning palace. The English equivalent, Palatinate, is sometimes used to refer to the Pfalz. Pleasant, mild white wines rich in bouquet and full of body are produced from Riesling and Müller-Thurgau grapes in the Pfalz, while deep-coloured and quite complex red wines are made from Dornfelder grapes.
The Pfalz is home to the world’s largest wine barrel, the world’s largest wine festival (in Bad Dürkheim), the world’s oldest wine in the Palatinate Historical Museum, and the first and best known wine route, the German Wine Road.
Major Town: Bad Dürkheim, Neustadt, Landau
Collective Sites: 25
Individual Sites: 317
Vineyard Area: 23,652
– Lots of sun
– Variable climate
– One of Germany’s warmest regions
– The mild climate is due to the slopes of the Palatinate Forest
Loam is prevalent, often in a mixture with other soil types, such as loess, chalk, clay, colored sandstone or sand.
Top soil types:
Chalky loam and clay
The Pfalz runs from the south of Worms to the French border (Alsace), between the foothills of the Palatinate Forest, the densely forested Haardt Mountains (an extension of the Vosges), and the Rhine plain.
With over 23,000 hectares, Germany is home of the world’s largest vineyard area dedicated to Riesling. Riesling is predestined for northerly wine-growing regions and grows in all 13 German regions. Depending on type of soil and microclimate, it yields grapes that produce wines with extremely diverse nuances. They range from bone dry to lusciously sweet and from everyday wines to rare, high-quality collectibles. A “typical” Riesling is reminiscent of peach or apple on the nose, and has pronounced acidity. It is fantastic for food pairing and sparkling wine production.
Known for their approachable, light and refreshing taste, Müller-Thurgau wines make for easy, everyday drinking. Bred in 1882 by Professor Hermann Müller (1850-1927) from the Swiss canton Thurgau, this namesake wine now accounts for about 12% of Germany’s vineyard area and is grown in all 13 German wine-growing regions. The wines have a light Muscat tone, usually mild acidity, and sometimes, a flowery bouquet.
If Germany’s finest white wines are produced from Riesling, its red wine counterpart is Spätburgunder, which reaches top form in German sites. Germany ranks third worldwide in area devoted to Pinot Noir, after France and the USA, with almost 12% of the vineyard areas planted with the grape. Ranging from ruby to garnet red, Pinot Noir wines are slightly tannic, mild in acidity, and have a long finish with aromas reminiscent of blackberry and cherry.
Dornfelder was bred in 1955, originally developed for use as a blending wine to add color to pale red wines, but has quickly become known as a classic German wine. Dornfelder is vinified in all styles, but primarily as a dry wine. One distinctive style is a very fruity Dornfelder that brings forth the grape’s intense aromas of sour cherry, blackberry, and elder. Other growers ferment and/or age their Dornfelders in casks or barriques, focus on tannins and structure, and create rich, smooth, and harmonious deep color. All styles have an unmistakably deep color.
Although it is a mutation of Pinot Noir and has pinkish skin, Grauburgunder is a white wine grape. It produces pale to golden yellow wines reminiscent of mango, nuts, almonds, and quince. It is vinified in stainless steel or oak, and typically denotes a dry, medium-bodied wine with fairly lively acidity. Germany now ranks third worldwide in terms of vineyard area devoted to Pinot Gris.
Portugieser wines are uncomplicated, fruity, and fresh – easy drinking for everyday enjoyment. Medium-bodied and mild in tannins, they have restrained aromas of red currant, raspberry, sour cherry, or pepper. Pressed immediately or after a brief period of skin contact, the pale red color is well suited for Rosé. However, if yields are strictly controlled, the grape is capable of producing deep red, full-bodied red wines of substance. There are no conclusive findings on the origin of the grape, but it made its way from Austria to Germany in the 19th century.
Weissburgunder wines’ fresh acidity and delicate fruitiness make it not only an ideal food wine, but also a light summer wine. A white mutation of Pinot Gris, the grape has shown a steady upswing for several decades; its area has doubled within the past ten years, with Germany having the second highest number of plantings after Italy. German Pinot Blanc is typically vinified dry and have a slightly nutlike aroma.
This Trollinger x Riesling crossing was only first introduced in the early 1970s but already saw its peak in 1992. Since then the number of plantings has declined. Known as Riesling’s “little cousin,” this aromatic wine is perfect for everyday drinking with aromas of pear, apple, currant, apricot, and more, and can be vinified dry to sweet.
Chardonnay, one of the most popular grape varieties in the world, is cultivated in virtually all wine-growing countries. In Germany, the grape was added to the list of officially permitted varietals in 1991, and has slowly but surely gained ground. Thus far, results have been good and even impressive in areas where the Pinot family has played an important role, such as Baden or the Pfalz. Most Chardonnays are vinified dry, fermented and/or aged in stainless steel or barrique casks. Fresh, fruity Chardonnays are also used for sparkling wine production.