No summer without Riesling in the Palatinate

Summer wines
Summer wines and Schorle glass

When the temperatures rise above 35 degree Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), summer has inevitably hit the Palatinate – one of Germany’s sunniest regions. Public swimming pools are crowded, crushed ice is sold out and cars turn into ovens. Those are the symptoms of this blistering heat blowing over Germany. The last resort for such days are cold summer wines being stocked in the fridge and waiting to be opened by thirsty Palatine people.

When looking for the right summer wine, the Palatinate offers a great variety of white and red wines. But first of all, what exactly qualifies a wine to be named a summer wine? Wine specialists say that a summer wine needs to be light with low or moderate alcohol level. Usually, the limit is 12 percent of alcohol. In addition to the alcohol level, summer wines are characterized by high acidity, fruitiness and sometimes intense flavors. Well, this is the theory and tastes may differ. If your summer night starts with a barbecue and ends with rock anthems, the most important thing is that your stock of freezing cold bottles will never run out.

I invite you to have a look at my suggestions for summer wines. You welcome to share your favorites on my blog!

  • Riesling served with sparkling water
  • Riesling Kabinett
  • Riesling Cuvée
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Scheurebe
  • Bland de Noirs (of Pinot Noir)

I have to admit that Riesling is very predominate in this list. As a big Riesling fan I might be a little bit subjective at this point. Regardless of my wine philosophy, what really matter is the right spirit at a hot summer night. Listen and enjoy!

Five candidates running for Palatine Wine Queen

Five candidates have turned in their applications to become successor of the ongoing Palatine Wine Queen Laura Julier. A jury of wine specialists and press representatives will select the winner at the event center “Saalbau” in the town of Neustadt on October 2nd. All candidates have to prove wine knowledge as well as their ability to speak in public. After several interview rounds the jury will determine the new Palatine Wine Queen and a coronation will follow. Based on the tradition, all other candidates will then become Palatine Wine Princesses whose duty is to support the Wine Queen in her various tasks.

Wine Princess of the village of Mussbach
Wine Princess of the village of Mussbach

The rules say that every candidate has to show its qualification by working for two years as a Wine Princess at one of the hundred Palatine wine villages. If their term is over, they are allowed to run for Palatine Wine Queen. So there is no doubt that those women will be great ambassadors of the Palatine wine and the Palatine region. The candidates for the 2015/2016 term are:

  • Laura Becker from the village of St. Martin
  • Tanja Huber from the village of Herxheim am Berg
  • Julia Kren from the village of Meckenheim
  • Lisa Momm from the village of Duttweiler
  • Julia Stieß from the village of Frankweiler

Each wine village is very proud of their princessess. Signs at the entry of villages, which show the current wine princess, illustrate this pride. Often, the candidates belong to a family which is dedicated to the viticulture.

Palatine Champagne – Celebrated Blanc de Noir Wines

Blanc de Noir wines have met a great success in the Palatinate in the last years. White-pressed Pinot Noir [in German: Spätburgunder] is now served at most wineries. Offered as a summer wine it is challenging Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and other white wines.

Route du Champagne - Reims (Fotolia)
Route du Champagne – Reims (Fotolia)

The term Blanc de Noir [in English: White from black] is French and comes from a well-known wine region, which is centered by the town of Reims. Since several centuries the winemakers from there have developed a technique to press the red-colored grapes to create a prestigious bubbly, commonly called Champagne. Timing is everything. While the inside of the grapes only consists of white pulp, it is the red shell which contains the red colorants. So the winemakers press the grapes just at the same day of the harvest to avoid any coloring of the pulp. Through this procedure a light and fresh white wine with some spicy flavors is created. As wine lovers may know, red wine generally has a lower acidity as white wines. This makes the Blanc de Noir the perfect summer wine.

RPortugieser Weißherbst in the traditional Dubbeglas
Portugieser Weißherbst in the traditional Dubbeglas

In Germany, the general expression for Blanc de Noir is “Weißherbst”, which means white-pressed wine. If the term “Blanc de Noir” is used, often the label also mentions the specific wine site where the wine is harvested from. The idea of both terms is the same, so no need to plunge into the complex German wine law. Today, most wineries prefer the term Blanc de Noir – eventually for marketing reasons.

According to weinkenner.de there has been times when Rosé wines or Blanc de Noir were produced from low quality red grapes. The high quality grapes were reserved for the production of red wines. The remaining grapes or the juice was turned into Rosé wine or Blanc de Noirs. Those low quality grapes – mostly in the overripe state or rotten – did seriously damage the wine. As a countermeasure coal pieces were added to absorb all harmful substances. Afterwards, the coal pieces were filtered. However, as the coal also absorbs the grape pulp, the wine quality is strongly impacted. As a result of this practice, there were only mediocre Blanc de Noir produced in the Palatinate.

Today, time has changed. Many wineries have decided to make high quality Blanc de Noir wines. Which means they use high quality grapes and apply new techniques such as the malolactic fermentation. One of the latest wine tasting organized by the wine magazine VINUM decorated two Palatine wines among 88 Blanc de Noir. Among them a wine from the Sektgut Immengarten Estate located in the village of Maikammer and one from the winery Corbet situated in the village of Diedesfeld, nearby the town of Neustadt. The VINUM editor Benjamin Herzog was very pleased by the wines presented and describe them as the ideal summer wines.

Palatine dialect – Uffgepasst!

Palatine wine in dialect
Palatine wine in dialect

A common motto in the Palatinate is “Weck, Worscht un Woi” [in English: Roll, sausage and wine]. Don’t be desperate if you can’t find those words in your German dictionary. They all are dialect. If translated to proper German, you would say “Brötchen, Wurst und Wein”. The first word has entirely changed, the second and the last one still show some common roots. The motto perfectly illustrates the Palatine way of life. As much as food and wine shape the Palatine spirit, it is incomplete without its dialect.

Like Bavarian, the Palatine dialect is part of the people’s cultural identity. The younger generation continues to speak dialect – in particular at home. Sometimes, you hear a mix of standard German and dialect. There are many variations of the Palatine dialect. Certain sounds or words help locals to identify someone’s home town or home village. You may also recognize some French words as a results of the French occupation in the past. For example, a buggy is called a “Schees” which comes from the French word “chaise” [in English: chair].

Sweet Chestnut Spot - Keschde Plätzel
Sweet Chestnut Spot – Keschde Plätzel

The Palatine dialect is predominately used in the Palatinate and neighboring regions. One major exception is the Pennsylvania German (or Pennsylvania Dutch) which is a derived from the Palatine dialect. In the 19th century, thousands of Palatine people immigrated to the USA and continued to speak their language. According to Wikipedia, today, there are still about 250,000 speakers of Pennsylvania German – most of them are Amish and Mennonites.

A common phonetic sample is the following sentence: In de Palz geht de Parre(r) mit de Peif in die Ker(s)ch [in English: In the Palatinate the pastor goes with the pipe inside the church]. This sentence also illustrates that the Palatine dialect is more rhythmic as the standard German. Some other characteristics are that the “h” is not pronounced when it is in the middle of the word. So, the town of Deidesheim changes into “Deisem”. Another typical aspect is a great dominance of “sh” and “d” sounds. For example, Weinstraße [Wine route] turns into “Woischdroos”.

More samples of the Palatine dialect.

Sauvignon Blanc Mastered by Palatine Wineries

Sauvignon Blanc Grape
Sauvignon Blanc Grape

Sauvignon Blanc is a very common white wine which may be found in many wine-growing regions in the world. Its genetic parent vines have not been identified yet. However, it is certain that this old grape variety was first cultivated in France. Its cultivation is permitted in the Palatinate since 2000 and, today, covers about 100 hectares. Read more

At the Mundus Vini springtasting 2015 six Palatine wineries were awarded for their Sauvignon Blanc wines:

1. Winery von Winning (Deidesheim)
2. Winery Bühler (Kallstadt)
3. Winery A. Diehl (Edesheim)
4. DLR State Winergy and Hospitaller Estate (Neustadt)
5. Deutsches Weintor Wine Cooperative (Ilbesheim)
6. Wine Cooperative Edenkoben (Edenkoben)

More information about the selected wines at www.meiniger.com.

Merlot: Palatinate goes French

Purple red Merlot grapes
Purple red Merlot grapes

This grape variety has its origin in France, where it has been mentioned the first time in the 14th century. There is also genetic evidence that this grape variety is related to older French grape varieties, such as Carbernet Franc. Its name may refer to the blackbird [in French: Merle]. A bird which loves eating the Merlot grapes.

Read the full post

Eselshaut Wine Festival inside the oldest winery of the Palatinate

Wine donkey from the village Mußbach
Wine donkey from the village Mußbach

The Eselshautfest is one of the most popular wine festivals in the Palatinate. Its name refers to a historic wine site located in the village of Mußbach nearby to the town of Neustadt. The site belongs to the wine territory of the Gimmeldinger Wine Spider. The name Eselshaut means “donkey skin”. Unfortunately, there are no reports that allow conclusions about the name’s origin. Regardless of this mystery, the wine donkey has become an essential element of the opening ceremony. During the opening procession the local wine princess is riding on a donkey which also carries a barrel of wine. The serving of this wine marks the opening of the nine-day wine festival.

Weinbiet Wine Cooperative
Weinbiet Wine Cooperative

The festival is hosted by several wineries. Those are the wine cooperative Weinbiet and the wineries Steigelmann, Lingenfelder, Völcker, Schäfer and Hellmer. The most important among them is the wine cooperative Weinbiet. This wine cooperative consists of 80 winemakers from the villages of Mußbach, Gimmeldingen and Haardt. Together all 80 winemakers represent 320 hectares of high quality vineyards. Since 2011, the cooperative is listed among the top 100 wineries in Germany. This week, the cooperative was recognized for its 2014 Riesling Spätlese from the wine site Mußbacher Eselshaut at the competition “Best of Riesling”, organized by the German Ministry of Agriculture.

200-year-old wine pressing machine
200 year old wine pressing machine

The wine festival is strongly linked to the village’s history. There are written records that in 7th century a winery and a farm were operated by Benedictine monks in today’s center of the village. In the 13th century Hospitaller monks took over the estate. With more than 500 hectares of land and under the protection of the Counts of Palatinate the estate reached its economical peak in the 16th century. It is also during this time when the tradition of an annual summer festival started. The Counts invited his ministerial officials to an opulent dinner with following amusement. During this period the estate became popular under the name Herrenhof [in English: Master’s court] which refers to the priests as masters. Today, the estate is owned by the German state and is used for various cultural events and as a museum. The estate’s vineyards continue to produce great wines and are sold under the name Staatsweingut and Johannitergut [in English: State Winery and Hospitaller Estate]. Each wine festival ends with a church service commemorating the monk’s role in the village’s history.

Storck Tower inside of Herrenhof
Storck Tower inside of Herrenhof

The different architectural styles illustrates the estate’s history. Predominate styles are baroque and renaissance. For instance, the main house is built with typical baroque elements. Whereas the stork tower and entrance gate represent the renaissance area. Many of these buildings were rebuilt for several times, until they appear with today’s design. Surrounded by high walls the spacious estate creates a unique atmosphere and, therefore, makes it the ideal spot for a wine festival.

Niederkirchen: More than 1300 years of wine tradition

Niederkirchen Wine Festival on a Saturday evening
Niederkirchen Wine Festival on a Saturday evening

The Niederkirchen Wine Festival looks back on a 40 year tradition. Located in the east from the glorious Wine Route, wine has always played an important role. The wine festival is a great opportunity for locals to illustrate their dedication to wine. According to them, conviviality, love of live and liveliness are the village’s virtues. Aren’t those the right words for a good toast?

The first documented mention of the village of Niederkirchen dates back to 699 AD. All the villages Niederkirchen, Forst, Meckenheim and Ruppertsberg belong to the municipality of Deidesheim. Niederkirchen and Deidesheim share a particular common history. At the beginning both villages belonged together. However, in the 13th century there was a separation. As a result the village was named Lower Deidesheim before it changed into today’s name Niederkirchen. Finally, in the 19th century a reunification took place when Niederkirchen joined the municipality of Deidesheim.

Saumagen Burger with Sauerkraut
Saumagen Burger with Sauerkraut

Besides their common history, most of the villages’ vineyards are part of the same wine territory. This territory is called Deidesheimer Hofstück [in English: Deidesheim Court Lot]. Since the early Middle Ages local farmers cultivate vines there. Illustrious name of vineyards sites, such as Monastery Garden, Chateau Hill, Forster Monster or Ruppertsberg Rider Path testify the village’s long wine tradition.

Main entrance of the Weinmacher wine cooperative
Main entrance of the Weinmacher wine cooperative

The center of wine cultivation is the village’s wine cooperative, named Die Weinmacher [in English: The wine makers]. This 110 year-old cooperative offers wines from top sites. In 2011, it was nominated by the German wine magazine “Weinwirtschaft” as the best wine cooperative in the Palatinate. Two things stand out when visiting the cooperative: First, the wine tasting salon, and, second, the cooperative’s success in marketing their brands. The newly renovated wine salon is centered by a large, rectangle, wooden bar that invites wine lovers for a wine tasting. The menu’s highlight is a dry 2013 Riesling from the site Rupperstberg Rider Path. A light sweetness of an old vine provokes a real explosion in the taster’s mouth. In 2013, the wine magazine Mundus Vini ennobled this wine with a gold medal, confirming the wine cooperative’s role among the top wineries. Marketing is also mastered at this cooperative. The newly created brand line “Unerhoert” [in English: Outrageous] celebrate a great success in Germany, and the internationally promoted brand “Blue Fish” has been listed among the top imported wine brands in the USA.

Discover the Palatinate Forest

The Palatinate Forest [in German: Pfälzer Wald] forms together with the bordering Vosges Biosphere Reserve a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It covers about one-third of the entire Palatinate and it is listed among the biggest forests in Europe. Predominate characteristics of the Palatinate Forest are its sandstone formations, castles and a rich wild life. Every year hundred thousands of hikers and bikers frequent its trails and visits its mountain taverns.

Entrance of Haardter Castle at the Edge of Palatinate Forest
Entrance of Haardter Castle at the Edge of Palatinate Forest

With about 500 castles the Palatinate Forest is like a trip back to Middle Ages when knights and counts inhabited this region. Famous castles are the Berwartstein castle and the triple castle of Altdahn-Grafendahn-Tanstein. The Bertwartstein was once home of the legendary robber knight, called Hans Trapp. For destroying a close-by monastery, he fell in disgrace with the Pope and the Palatine Count. While being an outlaw he turned into a brutal robber knight. Later, his life story became a source of many tales. One of them is about the Maiden’s Jump. It is told that when a maid crossed the knight’s path, she was fleeing on the top of a hill. In her fear, she jumped from the top of a huge rock to escape.

Even if most of the castles were destroyed in the past and remain only as ruins, each wanderer is rewarded by an astonishing view over the Palatinate Forest. It is special highlight when medieval festivals turn some of the castles into places with fighting knights and entertaining jugglers.

Read more about the Palatinate Forest

New Discovery in the vineyard

Juice bag in the vineyard
Juice bag in the vineyard

Mysterious juice cartons in the vineyards raise questions among walkers. Do Palatine wine growers apply new methods of wine cultivation? Is the bag filled with a special vitamin cocktail to fasten the vine’s growth? Or, is the bag part of a marketing campaign initiated by creative wine makers? Those and other questions might have crossed the walkers’ mind.

The answer is clear and simple. The bags protect the young vines at a stage when they are the most vulnerable. The damages caused by game animals, such as deer or wild pigs, are a serious problem for wine growers. Those game animals live in the nearby Palatinate Forest. During the night they leave the underwood and stroll through the vineyards. Their favorite dishes are the sprouts of young plants, such as vines, or fruits, such as grapes.

The regional newspaper Rheinpfalz interviewed one of the wine experts of the Rural Service Center of Rhineland-Palatinate (DLR). The expert explains that the juice cartons are nonconforming products or misprints, which are not allowed for normal use. But there is also a financial incentive, because those cartons may be purchased at a bargain price. Besides the fact, that these cartons protect the vine sprouts, there is another positive side effect. As hot air is captured inside the carton, a micro climate evolves, which may indeed fasten the vine growth.

First year vines in the wine spider territory
First year vines in the wine spider territory

When the vine is strong enough and less vulnerable for hungry animals, the wine makers remove the juice bag. From the third year on, the vine’s grape are ready for harvest. The first harvested grapes are called the virgin crop. At about 20 years the vine reaches its peak in terms of total crop. It is usually about this time when the wine growers decide to remove the old vines and plant new ones. Taking into account the life cycle of a vine, it is important for a successful wine grower to understand the upcoming trends in taste and demand.

Old vines often carry high quality grapes, which results in flavor-rich wines. In Germany, vines, that have at least 40 years, are allowed to use the specification “old vines”, which is an indicator for premium quality. Some prestigious wines come from vines that are more than 60 or 80 years old. The oldest vines in Germany belong to a 400-year-old Gewürztraminer vineyard. This vineyard is located in the Palatine village of Rhodt at the beginning of the Southern Wine Route.