Wine tasting and wine science joined in one event. This is the philosophy of the St. Martin Wine Path, which takes place in the village of Saint Martin in the Palatinate. Along a path, in the middle of vineyards, 14 tents invite to taste local wines served by local wine growers. Each tent is associated to a specific grape variety. In most cases the grape variety grows close by in the vineyards.
Besides wine tasting, there are signs that educate visitors about grape characteristics. Sample of stones illustrate the soil’s consistence and show which soil fits the best to the grape variety. For instance, chalky soil is the favorite consistence for Pinot Gris. Or, the rose quartz, a mineral, is associated with Gewürztraminer wine.
Thanks to the sunny weather, many visitors found their way to the two-day event. A local marching band as well as other musicians entertain the wine lovers. Sometimes, the wine lovers get the chance to chat with the local wine growers. Those are the moments when those specialists share some of their knowledge and give interesting insights in the wine world. They talk about the ups and downs in demand for specific wine grapes. For instance, the Scheurebe grape sees a decreasing demand at the moment. One reason is related to the fact that Scheurebe is strongly competing with Sauvignon Blanc as both wines have a similar taste.
The village of Saint Martin belongs to the municipality of Maikammer, located at the beginning of the Southern wine route. The village is surrounded by about 200 hectares of vineyards, all belonging to the wine territory called Chateau Ludwig Heights [in German: Schloß Ludwigshöhe]. The real Chateau is in proximity and situated at the foot of the Rietburg castle. It is no surprise that the first settlers of the village were Roman hunters. A small temple, dedicated to the goddess Diana, has been found inside the village’s territory.
The village’s traditions are strongly related to the Saint Martin, a French bishop who was canonized by the Pope in the 4th century. Even if there is no historical link between the Saint Martin and the village, the Saint’s day, which is November 11th, was proclaimed as a local holiday. One highlight is the traditional lampion procession with hundreds of kids signing the traditional song that tells Saint Martin’s life story.
Liberty in the wine glass. For its fourth time the Black, Red, Gold Wine Festival takes places in the village of Hambach, nearby to the town of Neustadt. A group of local wineries revived an old wine festival by uniting old traditions with national history.
The name Black, Red, Gold refers to the German national colors. In 1832, more than 30,000 citizens from the Palatinate and neighboring regions met to peacefully demonstrate for democratic rights. The march from the village of Hambach to the Hambach Chateau became a symbol for democratic movements. One of the flag, carried by members of a free paramilitary regiment, was later used as pattern for the national German flag.
The festival’s heart is along the street which directly leads to the Hambach Chateau. When walking uphill each visitor passes the four wineries: Müller, Naegle, Schäffer and Kaiserstuhl. All those wineries are family-run since more than 100 years. The oldest winemaker family is Neagle-Bonnet who cultivates wine since 1796. It is followed by the Müller family and the Schäffer family who are in the business since 1828 and 1843. The winery Kaiserstuhl, run by the Nickel family, is an exception as its name does not refer to the family but to a specific wine site, where the winery has many vineyards.
All wineries offer wines cultivated in top locations – some of them at 200 meters (656 ft) above the sea level. Wine sites in Hambach are: Kaiserstuhl, Kirchberg [in English: Church’s Hill], Römerbrunnen [Roman Well], Feuer [Fire] and Schlossberg [Chateau Hill]. The village of Hambach is also well-known for its many sweet chestnut trees, growing at the Chateau Hill. Locals from Hambach are very proud of its home town, but the good thing is, that they like to share this pride by organizing lovely wine festivals.
There is a long tradition for the Wine festival in the town of Wachenheim usually taking place in mid-June. During two weekends the village attracts more than ten thousands of locals and visitors from the Palatinate. Wineries open their gates or serve their wines with local dishes at the village’s main square. A top destination is the Wachtenburg castle. It towers over the village and rewards the steep hike with an astonishing view over the Rhine Valley.
The small town of Wachenheim is located between the town of Deidesheim and the town of Bad Dürkheim at the edge of the Palatinate Forest. The castle, which is a ruin today, was built in the 12th century, but already destroyed in the 15th century. After being owned by the Count of Sickingen, it was sold to the famous wine-family Bürklin who finally donated the castle to the town of Wachenheim in 1984.
Wine plays a major role in this small town. It is part of its historic identity as well as its today’s economy. Wine tales date back to the Middle Ages. One of them is about a wine-drinking competition. When the region’s count asked the local farmers to bring him the 10th part of their harvest, they suggested a wine-drinking competition. As they won the competition, they were allowed to keep the 10th part of their harvest.
There are three major wineries in Wachenheim: The Sparkling Wine Castle [in German: Schloss Wachenheim], the Wachtenburg Wine Cooperative and the winery Dr. Bürklin-Wolf. The Sparkling Wine Castle is one of the top three producers of sparkling wine in Germany. It produces about 220 million bottles per year which represent 10 percent of the world-wide sparkling wine production. Its brands, such as Faber or Schloss Wachenheim, are available in most supermarkets in Germany and many stores abroad.
The Wachtenburg Wine Cooperative consists of 58 wine-growers. According to the German wine magazine “Weinwirtschaft”, this cooperative is among the top five in the Palatinate. The cooperative convinced the jury with a wide range of wines including red wines, such as Pinot Noir and Merlot, or blended red wines.
The winery Dr. Bürklin-Wolf is a top address for premium white wines from prestigious vineyards located in Wachenheim and the surrounding villages Forst, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg. With about 85 hectares of vineyards, it is the biggest winery in the Palatinate. The winery’s rise began when the Congressman Albert Bürklin married Louise Wolf from Wachenheim in 1875. From that moment on the estate has become not only a center for high-quality wine cultivation but also for cultural events.
The London-based International Wine Challenge (IWC) awards three Palatine Wines with a gold medal. Moreover, Palatine wines receive three silver and one bronze medal. Most of the selected Palatine wines represent the Riesling grape variety. Other awarded grape varieties are Pinot Blanc as well as a blend of Riesling and Silvaner.
The Palatine wine maker Gerd Stepp stands out in the competition. All three gold medals decorate his wine bottles produced in the village of Asselheim. Asselheim is a small village in the northern part of the Palatine Wine Route in proximity to the famous wine town Kallstadt. It is no surprise that one of the gold-winning wines comes from vineyards, which are located in Kallstadt and historically called “Sow Stomach” [in German Kallstadter Saumagen]. Those hillside located vineyards are rich in chalk and loess. Therefore, they offer perfect conditions for Riesling wines.
The wine maker Gerd Stepp has a great experience in the international wine business. Prior to joining the family owned estate in the Palatinate, he was working as buyer for the UK store Marks & Spencer. Together with Matthias Gaul they run the estate and are working hard to receive international recognition in the wine world. Being awarded with the IWC Riesling Trophy in 2015 is bringing them closer to this goal.
The full list of IWC awarded Palatine wines are available at the IWC website. Follow this link.