True or Pfalz: Germany only produces white wines. The answer is (drum roll) Pfalz. And no, Pfalz is not German for false. Instead, it’s Germany’s second largest wine producing region after Rheinhessen and approximately 40% of its production is devoted to red grape varieties.
True or Pfalz: Germany only produces white wines. The answer is (drum roll) Pfalz. And no, Pfalz is not German for false. Instead, it’s Germany’s second largest wine producing region after Rheinhessen and approximately 40% of its production is devoted to red grape varieties. Other German wine regions also produce some red wines, but in much smaller quantities than the Pfalz.
Never heard of the Pfalz? It is located in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. It starts about 60 miles south of Frankfurt and extends southward for approximately 52 miles to the French border. Its western border is the Haardt Moutains, an extension of the Vosges Mountains of Alsace, and it extends eastward in a narrow plain about eight to nine miles wide. Go east another 10 to 12 miles, and you will reach the Rhine River.
Red wine production is feasible in the Pfalz because it is Germany’s sunniest and driest wine region and the second warmest after Baden. The climate is such that even figs, kiwis, and lemons can be grown. Nevertheless, grape cultivation is primary. Vines were first introduced in the area by the Romans in 1 AD, and today, there are 45 white and 22 red varieties allowed in the Pfalz. The most important white are Riesling, Muller-Thurgeau, and Kerner. Primary reds include Dornfelder, Blauer Portugieser, and Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir), but small quantites of St. Laurent, Merlot, and even Cabernet Sauvignon are also grown. The wines tend to be dry (trocken in German) and full-bodied; however, both Dornfelder and Portugieser can sometimes be slightly sweet. Portugieser is also the source of many Roses.
Another interesting facet of the Pfalz is the famous Deutsch Weinstrasse or German Wine Road. It is the first wine road or route and was established in 1935. It runs the length of the region and terminates at the very impressive German Wine Gate at the French border. Along the way, it passes through many picturesque towns and villages with their half-timbered construction. It also passes many wineries. Tastings are generally available and free, but calling ahead for an appointment is recommended.
When you do reach the German Wine Gate, if you wish, you can continue on into France and the northern extension of the Alsace wine region which is north and west of Strasbourg. Continuing to the south you can join the Alsace Wine Route which begins south of Strasbourg. Other than the language on the signs, the villages, wines, and cuisines are remarkably similar, not surprising when you consider the proximity and history of the two regions.
Unable to visit the Pfalz? Do the next best thing and explore its wines.
Unfortunately, this is not always easy. Despite its history and size, Pfalz wines can be hard to find, due to the following: First, there are about 6,800 wineries and 10,000 growers in the Pfalz, most of which are small, family-run operations with little distribution. Second, most of the Pfalz wines are consumed in Germany. Every third bottle of wine consumed in Germany is from the Pfalz. Finally, the region has had a reputation for producing reliable but inexpensive wines. This is changing however. Like many wine regions around the world, new young wine makers, modern techniques, and available, inexpensive land are making the Pfalz an innovative and exciting wine growing region, especially for red wines. Top producers worth the search: Knipser, Von Buhl, Dr. Burklin-Wolf, Becker, Bassermann-Jordan, and Villa Wolf.