The Pfalz and Rhine Terrace Feature
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The Wines of Rheinland-Pfalz
The Romans planted the first Rhineland vineyards 2,000 years ago, finding the mild, wet climate hospitable to grape growing. By the Middle Ages viticulture was flourishing and a bustling wine trade had developed. Wine making and splendid Romanesque cathedrals are the legacies of the bishops and emperors of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz. This region, now the state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland Palatinate), is home to 6 of Germany's 13 designated wine-growing districts, including the two largest, Rheinhessen and the Pfalz.
In the Pfalz, you can follow the Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Road) as it winds its way north from the French border. Idyllic wine villages beckon with flower-draped facades and courtyards full of palms, oleanders, and fig trees. "Weinverkauf" (wine for sale) and "Weinprobe" (wine-tasting) signs are posted everywhere—an invitation to stop in to sample the wines.
Most of the wines from both Pfalz and Rheinhessen are white, and the ones from Rheinhessen are often sweet, fragrant, and less dry than their counterparts from the Pfalz. Many are sold as offene Weine (wines by the glass). The classic white varieties are Riesling, Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau (also called Rivaner), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc). Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Dornfelder, and Portugieser are the most popular red wines. The word Weissherbst, after the grape variety, indicates a rosé wine.
Riesling is the king of German grapes. It produces wines that range widely in quality and character; Rieslings are noted for their strong acidity, sometimes-flowery aroma, and often mineral-tasting notes—all reflections of the soil in which they're grown. Riesling made its name throughout the world as a sweet (lieblich) wine, but many Germans prefer dry (trocken) versions. Importers, especially in the United States, don't bring over many dry Rieslings, so take the opportunity to sample some while in Germany.
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