The cultivation of wine has a long tradition in the Palatinate starting with the Romans, who were the first to plant vines. It is told that Roman officers brought the vine plant with them to ensure the supply of wine for their personal well-being as well as to keep up the morale of the numerous Roman soldiers stationed in the Palatinate region. Close to the village of Wachenheim there are still the relicts of a Roman farming estate, called Villa Rustica. After the Romans left the locals continued to grow wine and further developed the viticulture while experimenting with new grape varieties.
Today, the Palatinate wine-growing region is divided into a northern area, the Mittelhaardt, and a southern area, called the Southern Wine Route. There are about 140 towns and villages along the Wine Route with four major wine centers in the towns of Landau, Neustadt, Deidesheim and Bad Dürkheim. The mild climate that averages 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) sets the prefect conditions for wine cultivation. The Palatinate wine region counts almost 2,000 hours of sunshine compared to a 1,600-hour average elsewhere in Germany. The climate is strongly influenced by the Palatinate Forest holding back the rain and creating very friendly conditions for the wine grapes.
One sign of the moderate climate is the early almond tree blossom in March, which marks the beginning of spring and is celebrated with the first wine festival in the region. Even Southern European fruits such as figs, lemons and kiwifruits flourish here and in hidden gardens you may even find palm trees and cypresses. This is why the region is sometimes called the Palatine Tuscany, indicating a Mediterranean flair that sets the region apart from any other wine region in Germany.
Geologically, the Palatinate has a rich variety of soils ranging from red and yellow sandstone to chalky or volcanic soils. It is the art of wine-growers to choose the right soil for each wine variety. For instance, loose sandstone soil may be ideal to produce mild and elegant wine whereas chalky soil helps to build full-bodied, aromatic wines. Each vineyard distinguishes in soil consistency and its specific exposure to the sun from other vineyards. Single vineyards or wine sites generally belong to a specific territory, called Großlage in German. Famous territories in the Palatinate are Vineyard Spider, Almond Heights, Court Terrain or Marian Garden. A vineyard or wine territory is generally located near to one or two villages and therefore is strongly associated with the local identity.
Many wineries are in possession of a set of different vineyards, allowing them to offer a wide range of wines. The practice of mixing grapes of different varieties – as it is applied for world-known cuvé wines such as Bordeaux (a mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes) – is not very common in the Palatinate. On the other hand, almost all wineries offer wines whose grapes were harvested in different vineyards but belong to the same variety. Mixing grapes of different vineyards is sometimes described as a sign of lower wine quality – however it always depends on the specific territory. At the end of the day it is the art of the wine-growers and the Palatine cellar masters to produce outstanding wines and create their own signature wines.