Slow down and be charmed by the German Wine Route. It’s for anyone who is not averse to a good class of wine and to a bit of socialising with the locals.
From time to time you can trust Germans to know where their country is at its best. West of the Rhine and right next to France, the much-beloved German Wine Route in the Palatinate runs through the country’s second largest wine growing area. Starting in Bockenheim in the north it works its way down south for 83 km and ends in Schweigen, right on the French border.
The German Wine Route is the oldest scenic route in the country, and the region it passes through is enchanting throughout most of the year. In spring, when the almond trees lining the road are in bloom; in August when the route is closed for car traffic for one day to give cyclists free reign. Or in late summer and early autumn when wine festivals take place virtually every weekend in one of the villages along the route.
Knowing about wine is not an exception but the rule
These qualities have attracted a long list of famous names. Visitors to Deidesheim, for example, will be joining a list that includes the Queen, Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and Václav Havel. Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, a native of the Palatinate region, introduced all his state visitors to the delights of German wine and local food with a gourmet twist at the five-star Deidesheimer Hof restaurant and hotel. And at Edenkoben King Ludwig I of Bavaria built himself a little castle, now known as Villa Ludwigshöhe. Neustadt and its Hambach Castle have played their part on the national stage, too, because this is where the 1832 Hambacher Fest (Hambach Festival) marked the birth of democracy in Germany.
But back to the wine. Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Reichsrat v. Buhl or Bassermann Jordan are some of the renowned traditional estates along the Wine Route, known for their high-quality products and the famous Palatinate Riesling. Some of them open their cellars – huge and cave-like structures – to visitors, and being guided through the systems of tunnels is both spooky and fascinating. But it is also worth seeking out some of the younger winemakers in the region, especially those who engage in organic winemaking and continue their family tradition in a 21st century fashion.
The German Wine Route is often described as Germany’s Tuscany, because the climate is mild enough for all kinds of curious things such as a kiwifruit plantation in the wine village of Maikammer. But let’s not compare this place to somewhere else in the world. Visitors should not come here and look for Tuscany in Germany, but to admire characteristic little villages like St Martin, a picture-perfect German wine village with timber-framed houses, gazebos, gables and high round archways.
For some the route may have a Mediterranean touch, but actually this is simply a little corner of Germany where the sun maybe shines a bit more often than in other parts, and where drinking and knowing about wine is not an exception but the rule.