Quite recently I was part of a dinner party when the topic turned to wines. As the dinner party was hosted in South Africa the conversation was mainly about South African wines, then a bit about Spanish reds and on to Californian blends. I kept quiet and just listened.. listened to want-to-be sommeliers and just-for-fun wine-lovers. Maybe because I didn’t really partake in the conversation someone just wanted to be polite and involve me, or whatever the reason might have been, I was asked which kind of wine I’d prefer. I would have probably answered something in the line of: “a Merlot, Kleine Zalze, 2006 was a pretty good year”… not really interested in the conversation anyway and happy to have given a sociably acceptable answer. BUT.. by incident, just a few days before this dinner party I happened to have been in Frankfurt and was taken out for dinner where we had a lovely German white wine! A “Grauburgunder” which is a Pinot Gris to be specific and… it was delicious! It actually blew me away (ok, ok.. the company I had, too). It was the first time ever that I was truly convinced by a German wine. And that’s why I actually jumped into the conversation and started to praise German wines in general and especially the ones from the region I come from.
The reason why I didn’t involve myself in the conversation before was purely because I don’t really like conversations about wines by “amateurs”. I don’t intent to sound arrogant, but fact is that I have worked with professionals before. As a student I worked for sometime as the PA of a wine journalist. He is quite well-known in Germany, author of the book “Die Weine der Pfalz” and he is frequently invited to be part of the jury at wine tastings. I accompanied him during two seasons and assisted him in writing his articles for trade and consumer magazines. Not that I am considering myself a wine connoisseur, but at least I am able to distinguish between someone who knows what he is talking about and a show-off.
One thing I do know is that one of Germany’s most popular wine growing regions is the Palatinate – the area my family comes from. When I look out of the windows from my house in Germany then I’m gazing straight into the most beautiful vineyards. My grandfather owned some vineyards and he used to make his own wine. In my childhood the whole family helped to pick grapes when it was harvest time. It was before the harvesters destroyed the landscape and it was a bounding family tradition. Apparently, it is the planet’s biggest Riesling growing region. Besides the wine, the Palatinate is also famous for its friendly climate (even almond trees grow there) as well as its many wine festivities. It boarders France to the South-West and the river Rhine to the East.
Then yesterday, I came across an article about Palatinate wines in a magazine (Focus). According to the magazine every 3rd bottle sold in Germany comes from the region. But not only does the quantity constantly increase, the quality does too. More and more wines from Palatinate gain international recognition at wine shows and tastings. International jurors don’t hold back with comments like “Palatinate is Germany’s most exciting wine region”. Another fact is that not only the Palatinate wines receive awards all over the world, also Michelin Stars are shining brightly over the region.
The weird thing is, that when I was much younger I just wanted to leave.. leave to the big city, even live abroad because the Palatinate seemed so provincial. Now, I can’t even wait for my next visit.. driving through the most beautiful landscape, meeting up with the friendliest people and sipping on the best wine Germany has to offer.
For any one who considers to visit Germany, I would highly recommend a stay at one of the many wine estates during harvest time in September and going out with the vintner for a day. It will be an unforgettable visit.. no matter how young or old you are!
References: Juergen Mathaess
“Weine der Pfalz” by Juergen Mathaess, Publisher: Falken