Pfalz, – also known as the Palatinate, Rhineland-Palatinate, Rheinland-Pfalz or Pfalz – is an important State and region in the Upper Rhine Valley in south-west Germany. It lies west of the Rhine and is bounded on the south and south-west by France (the Pfalz is almost a prolongation of France’s Alsace region) and on the west by the Saar region (Saarland). Its location has seen the Pfalz subject to frequent wars (not of its own making), especially in the 17th- and 18th centuries. 

State capital: Mainz.

Getting there: A 30-minute drive from Strasbourg in the neighbouring French region of Alsace, and about the same distance from Frankfurt. 

The name: In German history, the lands of the count palatine (or Palatinate) was a title held by a leading secular prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Pfalz and its English equivalent of Palatinate derives from the Latin palatium, meaning palace. The imperial residence (palatium) in ancient Rome was on the Imperial (Palatinate) Hill, the first of Rome’s seven hills to be settled, and the one on which the first imperial palace stood. By extension the word palatium came to be used of any imperial residence, and ‘palatine’, a lord with royal priveleges, and palatinate, the territory he ruled. The term was adopted by the Holy Roman Empire, whose foremost secular prince was the Count Palatine of the Rhine. The English form Palatinate is often used in reference to the Pfalz, and is the short form of ‘Pfalzgraftschaft bei Rhein’ or the Countship Palatinate of the Rhine/Rhine territory formerly ruled by the counts palatinate. Pfalz thus counts as one of the Rhinelands, but the Rheinpfalz vineyards are well away from the Rhine. Kaiserpfalz, for example, is also an imperial palace. 

Wine production: The Pfalz is Germany’s second largest wine region.

Vineyard area: Over 22,000 ha of vines. 

Main towns: Asselheim. | Bad-Dürkheim. | Bissersheim. | Böchingen. | Bockenheim-an-der-Weinstrasse. | Dackenheim. | Deidesheim. | Deidesfeld. | Dirmstein. | Duttweiler. | Ellerstadt. | Erpolzheim. |  Forst. | Freinsheim. | Gimmeldingen. | Gleisweiler. | Gönnheim. | Grosskarlbach. | Haardt. | Hambach. | Herxheim am Berg. | Kallstadt. | Kindenheim. | Kirchheim an der Weinstrasse. | Konigsbach. | Laumersheim. | Leisböhl. | Leistadt. | Mussbach. | Neuleiningen. | Neustadt-an-der-Weinstrasse|Niederkirchen. | Obersülzen. | Ruppertsberg. | Sausenheim. | Ungstein. | Wachenheim. | Weisenheim am Sand. | Zell.

Terroir: The Upper Rhine Valley is a rift valley, formed over millions of years when the Alps were being created, leaving a broad mix of geology and soil types, often across even only small surface areas. Over time, via the Tethys Sea (the name given by geologists to the ancient proto-Mediterranean basin) brought algal colonies which settled at the bottom of the Rhine rift. Limestone reefs formed what is now the hilly landscape from lime slurry and silty clay sediments. This range of hills in the Pfalz is called the Haardt, almost a northern prolongation of Alsace. This rises to 670 metres (2,200 feet). It is crowned with many ruined castles as well as forests, in this case the Palatinate Forest or Pfälzerwald (see Palatinate or Palatine forest) which includes pine, beech and oak. The forests play a key role on the mesoclimate and variations in thermal winds. Below the forests and along the lower slopes of the Haardt mountain range are the vineyards. The vineyards end on the valley floor where they give way to arable crops, which are grown on a 10-mile (15km) strip of land right running down to the banks of the Rhine river (the region was in fact called Rheinpfalz until 1992). Source: Sven Leiener website.

Geography: The Pfalz vineyards occupy the lower slopes of a single range of hills, the Haardt, between 500-700 feet a.s.l facing east over a plain. The hills–the Haardt Gebirge–run from 1,000–1,200 feet a.s.l, crowned by forests, and extend from Herxheim (north of Bad Dürkeim) to near the French border with Alsace. The vineyards run 50 miles on the Deutsche Weinstrasse (‘German Wine Road’) from Klienbockenheim in the north to Schweigen-Rechtenbach on the French frontier to the south. The route directly passes 35 towns, with another dozen or so within two to three miles of it. The Pfalz can be divided into three parts:

– 1) The Unter Haardt is the northern third. Wines are made near the border with Hesse in the villages of Zell (not the same as the the Zell in the Mosel), and Harxheim (not to be confused with Herxheim further south in the Pfalz near Bad Dürkheim).

– 2) The Mittel Haardt is the central section of the Pfalz comprising 17 villages. These are Asselheim, Bad Dürkheim, Bissersheim, Böchingen, Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse, Dackenheim, Deidesheim, Diedesfeld, Dirmstein, Duttweiler, Ellerstadt, Erpolzheim, Forst, Freinsheim, Gimmeldingen, Gönnheim, Grosskarlbach, Haardt, Hambach, Herxheim am Berg, Kallstadt, Kindenheim, Kirchheim an der Weinstrasse, Königsbach, Leisböhl, Leistadt, Meckenheim, Mussbach, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, Niederkirchen, Obersülzen, Ruppertsberg, Sausenheim, Ungstein, Wachenheim.

– 3) The Ober Haardt  is between Neustadt and the border with France comprising over 100 villages, most of which are on the plain, exceptions being the better hillside villages of Hambach, Maikammer, St Martin, Rhodt, Weyer, and Burrweiler.

Tourism: The Pfalz is known for walled villages, half-timbered houses with steep roofs and flower-filled window boxes, game and trout streams, as well as Federweisser or ‘feather-white (still-fermenting grape juice served at harvest time) and Schoppenwein (jug wine, ‘vin de carafe’).

Climate: Pfalz is among Germany’s warmest, driest, sunniest wine regions and unusually for its latitude it produces cherries, peaches, plums, lemons, apricots, apples, figs, almonds and sweet chestnuts as well as wine. The Pfalz is unofficially called the “German Tuscany”. The centre of the region comprises the Mittelhaardt villages of Wachenheim, Deidesheim, Forst and Ruppertsberg.

Wineries

Certified Biodynamic: Das Hirschhorner Weinkontor Frank John (Neustadt). | Weingut A Christmann (Gimmeldingen). | Weingut Alter Zollberg (Schweigen). | Weingut Bender (Eschbach). | Weingut Dr Bürklin-Wolf (Wachenheim). | Weingut Dr Wehrheim (Birkweiler). | Weingut Eymann (Gönnheim). | Weingut Janson Bernhard (Harxheim). | Weingut Jürgen Leiner (Ilbesheim). | Weingut Odinstal (Wachenheim). | Weingut Müller-Catoir (Haardt an der Weinstrasse). | Weingut Pflüger (Bad Dürkheim). | Weingut Rebholz (Siebeldingen).

Certified organic: Reichsrat von Bühl (Bad Dürkheim). | Weingut Brand (Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse). | Weingut Fitz-Ritter (Bad Dürkheim).