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 Pinot Noir. The Pfalz is a narrow region about 80 kilometers long, close to the river Rhine. The Church owned the best vineyards until Napoleon redistributed them. There are about 25,000 vineyards whose average size is less than a hectare (about 2.5 acres).
Given their small plots, most vineyard owners work elsewhere to make a living. While Pfalz was once the number one German wine producing region, it now ranks number two in both total wine production and vineyard acreage behind its northern neighbor, Rheinhessen. In the Pfalz, sometimes called the Tuscany of Germany, temperatures often climb into the mid ninety degrees Fahrenheit (mid thirty degrees Centigrade) and many farmers raise "southern" crops such as figs and lemons.
About 80% of Pfalz wine is white. The most widely grown grape varieties are the German developed hybrid Mueller Thurgau, and the generally higher quality Riesling. Local red grape varieties include Portugieser and to a lesser extent Pinot Noir, better known by its German name, Spaetburgunder. About 10% of Pfalz wine is classified as basic table wine, over 70% as middle of the road QbA wine, and the remainder is classified as 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. The city of Neustadt and its suburbs are close to the halfway point of this road. Every October they host the Deutsches Weinlesefest (German Wine Harvest Festival) with many, many floats and a German Wine Queen.
Make sure that you visit the Marktplatz (market square) on market days (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) when local farmers sell their produce. Take a look at the square's many Baroque and Renaissance buildings and its Gothic church whose north tower boasts the largest cast-iron bell in the world. If you're in good shape, climb the south tower and enjoy the view.
You may find it more difficult to get a glimpse of the Elwetritsche, a fabled half bird, half human creatures of the Pfalz forest. You can ride through the forest on the Kuckucksbaehnel (Steam Train) from the Eisenbahn Museum (Railroad Museum) behind the main train station. You'll have to plan in advance because these trains run every other Sunday during the season.
Finish your tour of Neustadt's Old Town with a few medieval lanes where you will probably want to eat, drink, and shop. 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 Grumbeersupp (Potato Soup).
For your second course enjoy Gequellde mit Lewwerworscht (Cooked Potatoes with Liver Sausage). As a dessert indulge yourself with Schwarzwaelder Torte (Black Forest Cake, Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Cherries). OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price. Wine Reviewed Lorch Pinot Noir Classic 2004 13.5% alcohol about $14 Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. This Pinot Noir displays pretty cherry, plum and earth tones.
It is dry, light-bodied with a nice, lingering fruit/acid finish. This charming wine's hint of tannin is softened by the lemon, while the cucumber and dill match the Pinot's earthier tendencies. My first pairing was with slow cooked meatballs and potatoes, accompanied by a somewhat spicy red pepper, tomato, and garlic "salsa". This wine was round and long but not imposing. It was moderately acidic and held up well to the spices. Perhaps surprisingly I tasted some bubble gum.
No it wasn't a Beaujolais Nouveau. I like to think that I know when I'm drinking a Pinot Noir, but such wasn't the case here. I finished the meal with a top-of-the-line chocolate mousse cake but the combination wasn't really good.
The cake and the wine didn't meld. My next trial involved a home made barbecued chicken that had marinated in a sweet and sour Thai sauce. The side dish was a specialty of the local supermarket, roasted potatoes cooked in chicken fat. Yummy.
I found the wine nicely acidic and quite fruity. The wine's fruit was a good match for the fruit in the marinade. On the other hand, I thought that the potatoes would bring out the earthiness of the Pinot Noir. Such was not to be. The final meal included store bought barbecued spare ribs, rice, and sautéed eggplant in a tangy tomato sauce including the skin. The Pinot Noir was fruity, round, and somewhat earthy with a touch of tobacco that lingered.
In a sense I finally realized that I was drinking a Pinot Noir or almost. The eggplant brought out the dark fruits in the wine. After the food was gone, the last sips of wine were powerful and mouth-filling. My first cheese pairing was with a relatively soft and buttery German Edam cheese.
The Pinot Noir was round and strong. Then I tried pairing it with a French Camembert cheese that had seen better days. I cannot say that I'm a fan of ammonia.
The Camembert cut into the wine's fruit. Final verdict. This wine was pretty good.
I think that I would buy it again, but not waste it on cheese. Also I am not at all sure that I would drink this wine when I'm really in the mood for a Pinot Noir.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but between you and me, he prefers fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods and good company. He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink what he wants, in moderation. He loves teaching computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new wine, diet, health, and nutrition website www.wineinyourdiet.com and his global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com.