With some 23,000ha of vineyards, Pfalz is Germany’s second largest wine region, marginally smaller than Rheinhessen, which has approximately 26,000ha. Formerly known as Rheinpfalz (or Rhine Palatinate in English), Pfalz (or Palatinate in English) as a name derived from the Latin word palatium, i.e. palace.
The fortune of Pfalz wine is one of a rollercoaster. Viticulture and winemaking in the region may have been initiated by the Celts in the 6th century BC, but significant growth began only after the arrival of the Romans in the 1st century AD. During the Great Migration Period – or barbaric invasions, if one see things the Roman way – vineyards and villas were destroyed, but viticulture was revived by abbeys and monasteries in the 7th century. The Thirty Years’s War (1618-1648) once again devastated Pfalz and its viticulture, but the region saw its heyday in the 19th century, then the phylloxera plague befell. Nonetheless, Pfalz wine was amongst the most reputable and expensive wines in the 19th century, and would possibly remain so but for the two World Wars in the subsequent century.
Pfalz as a wine region is often juxtaposed with Alsace, its southern neighbour. Indeed, protected by the same Haardt/Vosges mountain range, Pfalz’s growing area stretches from south of Worms to the Franco-German border around Wissembourg. Like Alsace, Pfalz is known for its rich and ripe style, dry and warm climate, as well as being adept at the likes of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. With every fourth vine in Pfalz being Riesling, the region represents 15 percent of Riesling plantation worldwide. Pfalz may not be as well-known as the likes of Mosel and Rheingau, but it is the first region in Germany to have its own Weinstraße (Wine Route).
For the savvy connoisseurs and oenophiles, Pfalz is one region to watch closely. With its kaleidoscopic portfolio of terroirs ranging from chalk, clay, granite, keuper, limestone, loam, loess, marl, porphyry, sandstone and slate, ambitious and quality-driven producers have much variety to work with. More than 100 estates have turned fully organic. A. Christmann (whose proprietor-winemaker Steffen Christmann is currently President of Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter), Bassermann-Jordan, Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Müller-Catoir and Reichsrat von Buhl are amongst the leading producers in the region.
To be continued…
Some of the wines were tasted at the VDP.Weinbörse 2017 in Mainz, additional ex-cellar samples supplied by Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl.
A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc made as per méthode traditionnelle. Saturated citrine with shimmering golden reflex, the imaginative nose effuses cloudberry, wax jambu, thyme, brioche and crushed rock. With brisk acidity, steely minerality and fine mousse, the graceful palate emanates pomelo peel, green apple, verbena, fresh dough and crushed shells. Medium-bodied at 12.5 percent, the poised entry carries onto a laser-focused mid-palate, leading to a cleansing finish.
A single-varietal Pinot Noir made as per méthode traditionnelle. Limpid salmon pink with tea rose-vermilion reflex, the floral nose presents red apple peel, white strawberry, potpourri and crushed rock. With vigorous acidity, traces of tannins, firm minerality and fine mousse, the adorable palate supplies blood orange peel, rosehip, dried herbs and crushed shells. Medium-full bodied at 12.5 percent, the tutti frutti entry evolves into a focused mid-palate, leading to a scented finish.
A single-varietal Riesling made as per méthode traditionnelle. Bright citrine with radiant golden reflex, the invigorating nose offers pomelo peel, Chinese pear, fresh dough and paperwhite. With piercing acidity, clear minerality and medium-fine mousse, the vibrant palate delivers green apple, ume, crushed shells and lime blossom. Medium-bodied at 12.5 percent, the invigorating entry continues through an articulate mid-palate, leading to a clear finish.
An organic single-varietal Pinot Noir rosé made as per saignée method. Luminous coral pink with salmon-tangelo reflex, the pure nose reveals red apple, pink peach, wet stone and rose petal. With ample acidity, traces and tannins and clean minerality, the dainty palate furnishes raspberry, strawberry, crushed rock and tulip. Medium-bodied at 12.5 percent, the tantalising entry persists through a tangy mid-palate, leading to an endearing finish.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France,
and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages