Learning more about Palatinate wines
German Wine Classification System
The German wine quality system includes specific categories, established by a law passed in 1971 and amended in 1994, according to which wine classification depends on must weight (Oechsle Scale), sugar content and regional designation of origin.
Tafelwein - Table Wines
Landwein - Regional Wines
Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) - Quality Wines
Wines from one of the 13 winegrowing regions, which must meet specific quality standards.
Prädikatswein o Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) - Quality Wines with Special Attributes
They must meet the highest quality standard. Produced from allowed grape varieties in specific areas of the 13 winegrowing regions, they are divided into six subcategories:
Kabinett: In addition to meeting all the quality standards ofa QbA wine, a Kabinett wine must be made fromgrapes containing at least 70 to 80 degrees Oechlseaccording to the production area and grape variety.It is the lightest wine in the Prädikatswein range andcomes in both the dry and medium-dry version.
Spätlese (Late Harvest): The grapes are picked later in the season as comparedto QbA and Kabinett and must be fully ripe at timeof harvest, with 80 to 90 degrees Oechsle. Theseare ripe and elegant wines, with high residual sugarvalue, and can be either dry or sweet.
Auslese (Select Harvest): Noble wines made from fully ripe grapes, sometimeswith a noble rot character, and selected directlyon the vine at time of harvest. Unripe or damagedgrapes are rejected. Either dry or sweet wines with90 to 110 degrees Oechsle.
Beerenauslese (Select Berry Harvest): Wines made from perfectly healthy, overripe andoften noble rot-affected grape berries, which arepicked and selected by hand from bunches on thevine. Very sweet wines containing 125 to 150 degreesOechsle. The minimum alcohol content is 5.5 %.
Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) (Select Dry Berry Harvest): The top-of-the-range wines, the rarest and mostexpensive ones, featuring great concentration,complexity and ageing potential, produced onlyin the best vintages. Made exclusively from grapeberries dried on the vine or noble-rot affected,harvested and selected by hand. Oechsle degrees: 150/154. Minimum alcohol content: 5,5 %.
Eiswein (Ice Wine): Harvest time is between November and December,when temperatures fall below zero and the grapeshave frozen on the vine, allowing the must toconcentrate naturally and the frozen water toseparate during pressing. A sweet wine containing110 to 128 degrees Oechsle and 5,5% minimumalcohol.
The Palatinate wine region
Historical half-timbered houses, colored sandstone, and slender church spires make up a cultural landscape that has matured and developed over centuries. There’s a lot to love here, lavished as it is with natural beauty and diversity. One side is protected by the Pfalz forest, while the other reveals a wide sea of vines stretching deep into the Rhine Basin. The climate is invitingly mild, and in just a few weeks thousands of tourists will converge to gain a glimpse of the blossoming almond trees. That alone is a bit atypical for Germany, but on the whole we do still fall under winegrowing climate zone A. A good thing too, as it is practically a guarantee for crisp and refreshing wines marked with a notable yet integrated vein of acidity.
Although the winegrowing region is officially divided into two sections, from a climatic standpoint three would make more sense. The first is the southern wine route, which benefits enormously from its proximity to Alsace and the copious natural. Some Pfalz vintners in fact have vineyard holdings in France, although the grapes are still allowed to be sold as German wine. ‘Burgunder’ grapes, meaning white and red grapes from the Pinot family, are well represented here, especially Weißburgunder aka Pinot Blanc. But given the mosaic of soils left behind by the Rhine Rift, many other grapes and of course Riesling thrive here as well, meaning growers have a relatively freehand to decide what works best with their specific soils and conditions. Names like Rebholz who is here tonight with his son and many more were revolutionaries back in the 80s and 90s, driving progress in the region. Today these names form the canon, with an impressive cadre of young, ambitious winegrowers nipping at their heels.
On the Mittelhaardt, between Neustadt and Bad Dürkheim you’ll find several renowned estates that have been in existence since the Nine Years’ War. On the edge of the Haardt, the estates between Neustadt and Wachenheim have long held well-known, and in some cases even fabled, terroir. Bürklin-Wolf, Bassermann Jordan, and von Buhl, not to forget Müller Catoir, who are also here tonight, are just a few of the names that arise again and again, although they are also followed - and perhaps sometimes even outshone - by a number of next-gen, talented producers.
The Pfalz forest forms an almost impenetrable barrier here against poor weather, rain, and cold winds, unlike in the southern and northern sections of the Pfalz, where the forest is a bit thinner. Take a trip to the edge of the Haardt where we are almost now here at Chateau Hambach as I say and you’ll quickly understand how and why Pfalz wine, as well as the growers themselves, are known for being so relaxed, approachable, and often downright charming. The sun, which can be almost unbearable in summer, disappears in the early afternoon behind the Pfalz forest, leaving an atmosphere of ease and tranquility. Famously known as the ‘blue hour,’ or perhaps better, hours, it is an invitation to relax, lay down one's labors and greet the end of the working day with a spritzer/Schorle or a glass of Riesling.
And make no mistake: Riesling is what the Pfalz is about, it’s a crucial strand of the region's DNA. Art often references the ‘golden ratio,’ a ratio that can be applied equally well here. Body, texture, substance, freshness, and fruit all fall in balanced measure, delivering a dry wine with the generous Pfalz charm... inviting first one sip, then another, then maybe just one more.
Riesling also is the heartbeat of the northern Pfalz, which at its extremes in the Zellertal swings almost imperceptibly into the rhythms of the Rheinhessen hills. Here, as in the southern portion, wine was formerly sold by the barrel, often as part of mixed agricultural farms with fruit and field crops. The Pfalz remains strong in terms of volumes and price - even if that’s not something people like to talk about. The north at this point has made tremendous progress, although one could say the same about the Pfalz in general. An awareness of quality is also reflected in the good-natured competition between the more than 1,100 independently trading producers in the Pfalz, as well as in our strong local personalities.
Riesling is tradition as well. It reflects local origin and heritage. Alongside lived tradition, we "Pfälzer" are open and curious. At Geilweiler Hof and throughout the region, there's serious experimentation underway with fungus-resistant Piwis. And Pinot grapes, especially Spätburgunder, are coming into a style all their own. Across the entire region, established boundaries are being tested, new paths are being tread, and even Riesling has seen enormous progress in the past 10-15 years. The nearly Baroque style - a Pfalz trademark once upon a time - has given way to a new lightness and freshness.
Meaning that what distinguishes the Pfalz is its relaxed expressions of iconic grand cru sites, the warm hospitality of its winegrowers, and its remarkable terroirs often found at the intersection of forest and vine. Through all of it, the Pfalz stands for a genuine interplay between young and old, between sundowners and grand crus, haute cuisine and rustic specialties - in short: a wine culture that welcomes you to sit down and enjoy. Here’s to you, in the Pfalz or as we say: “Zum Wohl. Die Pfalz.”
It is the most widely grown grape variety in the Pfalz region. It gives an aristocratic wine, of extraordinary elegance and ageing potential, yellow to pale green colored, with a complex bouquet offering notes of green apple, peach, apricot and tropical fruit, which evolve into spicy and honey aromas with ageing. Rich and round on the palate with a lovely acidity and aromatic richness, without excessive alcohol nor buttery notes. In short, a great wine!
A very old and productive variety, a cross between Traminer and the white Osterreichisch Weiß. It is highly frost-resistant and gives straw-yellow colored wines with a pale green tinge. Extraordinarily fragrant and rich in floral aromas, well-balanced on the palate with lovely acidity, but not age-worthy.
The Pfalz provides the ideal soil and climate to grow Gewurztraminer grapes. The ripe berries verging on pink give intensely yellow, almost golden colored wines, which take on amber nuances with ageing. A rich bouquet of fruity, floral and spicy aromas. Structure and alcohol are backed by a well-balanced acidity.
Müller-Thurgau / Rivaner
A wine created by Hermann Müller in 1882 by crossing Riesling and Chasselas grapes. Pale straw-yellow colored with a light green tinge, offering elegant, intense and fruity aromas, in addition to a deep vegetal note. Elegant and fresh on the palate, with floral notes coming back, good acidity and a delicate aroma of nutmeg.
Weissburgunder / Pinot Blanc
Thought to be a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir, it gives delicately fragrant and flavoured wines, intensely dry on the palate, with good structure and vigorous acidity. Well-suited for ageing in oak barrels or barriques, where it takes on golden nuances and expresses its characteristics to the fullest.
Grauburgunder / Pinot Gris
A cross between the Trollinger and Riesling varieties, Kerner grapes give a bright, inviting and elegant wine, offering aromas of citrus fruit and aromatic herbs. Savoury and intriguing on the palate, with a delicate nutmeg flavor, good structure backed by pleasant freshness and thickness on the palate.