If you are looking for fine German wine and food, consider the Pfalz region of southwestern Germany. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local Riesling. The Pfalz region is just about as far as you can get from Berlin and still remain in Germany. Just over the border lies the famous French wine-producing region of Alsace.
In fact, one major Pfalz wine producer has extensive vineyards on the other side of the French border. Its grapes are considered German or French, depending on where they are processed. Has Pfalz been making wine for a long time? The wine museum in Speyer, Germany proudly displays a glass amphora containing 1600 year-old wine, perhaps the oldest wine in the world. Pfalz is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) long, situated near the Rhine River.
The best vineyards were in the hands of the Church until Napoleon's visit. The region boasts of about 25,000 vineyards whose average size is less than 2.5 acres. Not surprisingly, most of these grape growers are part timers. Pfalz was traditionally the number one German wine-producing region.
It now ranks number two, not far behind its northern neighbor Rheinhessen in both total wine production and vineyard acreage. This area is sometimes called The Palatinate, and has been called the Tuscany of Germany. As you might guess from its extensive wine production, the region enjoys a mild climate. Who would have thought that figs and lemons grow in Germany? They do in the Pfalz. White wine represents about 80% of the total wine production. The two top grape varieties grown here are Mueller Thurgau, a German developed hybrid, and the often noble Riesling.
Portugieser is the most common red grape variety, but Pinot Noir can also be found, especially if you ask for Spaetburgunder, its German name. About 10% of Pfalz wine is classified as basic table wine, over 70% as middle quality QbA wine, and the remainder higher quality QmP wine. The German Wine Road crosses the Pfalz region.
Virtually anywhere you go on this road you can find something worth seeing, worth tasting, and I daresay worth eating. One place to visit is Deidesheim with its historic houses, town hall (Rathaus), and churches, especially the Gothic Church of St. Ulrich. Every Pentecostal Tuesday the church's entry is the site of a billy-goat auction, folk dancing, and a parade.
The neighboring village of Lambrecht pays a tribute of a billy goat to Deidesheim for grazing rights, and has been doing so for more than six hundred years. The area includes the Schloss Deidesheim, a castle first built in the Thirteenth Century. The present castle was built in 1817. The original castle's moats are now gardens. Other attractions include local artists, and the wine estates of Pfalz's major producers, the three Bs, Bassserman, Buhl, and Bürklin.
Before reviewing the Pfalz wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with a Pfaelzer Teller (Bratwurst). For your second course enjoy Schoenhof Pfannchen (Ham Gratin in Brandy Cream Sauce). As a dessert indulge yourself with Rotweinkuchen (Red Wine Cake). OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Wine Reviewed Lingenfelder Bird Label Riesling 2004 11% alcohol about $13 Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. Bottles of Rainier Lingenfelder's ornithological labels are deservedly sought-after, because they offer excellent quality at very good prices. This off-dry Riesling, which pairs beautifully with medium-spiced Thai dishes, is a perfect example. You get lovely, rich fruit (tropical, melon, citrus), zesty acidity, and great balance, It's a perfect pick-me-up for dreary winter days, too: open a bottle and sip it before dinner. Before my review of this wine, I'd like to make a brief comment on the bottle.
I don't think that I ever found a bottle harder to open. It may happen twice, but it certainly won't happen three times or more. And now for the review of the wine itself. My first pairing was with a cheeseless lasagna.
The wine was very pleasant with nice fruit and lightly acidic. The acidity did a good job of cutting the meat's grease. When it encountered a slice of poppyseed cake the wine became more acidic but remained very good. It tasted of melon and citrus fruit. This Riesling next accompanied baked filo dough rolls covered by sesame seeds, stuffed with ground chicken and peas, and topped with a Middle Eastern salsa.
The salsa was moderately spicy and included tomatoes, red peppers, and onions. This pairing was quite successful. Once again the wine's acidity cut the meat's grease, and the salsa intensified the wine's fruit. The meal's conclusion was not as fine; a slice of apple cake containing mint chocolate was simply too sweet for the wine. Interestingly enough, the cake did intensify the wine's citrus taste. I then tried stove-top cooked chicken in a sauce containing paprika and cumin, potatoes and tomatoes.
The wine was quite fruity; this time I tasted lime. It was refreshingly acidic. The only German cheese available in my favorite imported cheese store was a Limberger.
This cheese is famous for its pungent smell, being the target of comedy by Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Abbot and Costello, Looney Tunes and others. Limberger is a cow's milk cheese with a soft interior. When I bought this cheese it had no real smell but by wine tasting time its odor started to develop. The wine was able to retain its fruit but did have a flat aftertaste.
When facing a ripe Camembert from France, an unpasteurized cow's milk cheese, this wine lacked fruit, but as if to compensate, also lacked an aftertaste. Neither pairing was successful. Final verdict. I like this wine, and I like its price.
I will probably give the bottle one more chance. But if I have more trouble there are plenty of other German Rieslings out there.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches computer classes in computers in a French-language community college in Ontario, Canada. His major wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com . His major article website is www.travelitalytravel.com