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January 29, 2010

Please meet the Pfalz!

Interview with Matthias Mangold:

Matthias, you are a journalist with many years of experience within the delicious world of wine and food. Besides writing for newspapers, magazines and more, you have published several books about wine and food. Originally you are coming from Franken and after having lived abroad for some time, you today call the Pfalz your home. You know the wines and wineries and many of the winemakers of the area, but you do not sell any wine yourself. You love to enjoy a good glass of wine and you know how to combine it with nice food.
So! you are the perfect person to ask some questions about German wines in general and about the Pfalz in particular:

Q: German wines: It seems to be rather common, when talking about German wines (outside Germany) to refer to the off-dry and sweeter wines. Also the traditional wineries and wine-making methods. Is that the whole truth? Should German wines be seen as 'sweet wines'? Is it that simple?
A:[genusstur] Especially in the 1960s and 1970s the fashion was sweet, indeed. Germany does have a long tradition of producing excellent sweet wines as Auslese, Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese. 200 years ago, the price for a bottle of Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese from Mosel or Rheingau was twice as high as most Bordeaux. Today, high class sweet wines are a minority and hard to sell in most German regions. Dry wines are the majority, even though a little residual sugar is very welcome in terms of taste. German wine is on an upwind, nationally as internationally.

Q: Do you see any new trends? Are there modern styles and how do those look like in comparison to the traditionally known?
A:[genusstur] The trend goes in two directions. On one hand, you have a focus on regionality - working with the classic grape varieties such as Riesling or Burgundy -, on the other hand especially young winemakers have an international approach and understanding in what they are doing. To bring both ends together, that is the aim.

Q: Can you try to summarize Germany's wines with a few words?
A:[genusstur] Germany is the perfect country to achieve crisp, clear and fruity white wines that show a refreshing acidity and a long liveliness. No other country has the tradition, the culture and the climate to top these products. Plus: we have a massively increased quality level as far as the reds go. There is practically no comparison between a German red wine 1980 and 2010. Q: Sorry... but what about the Loire with its crisp wines of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis and Burgundy with their phantastic Chardonnays? Here you find long traditions and the right climate, too. A:[genusstur] Yes, that is correct, but the Loire wines are supposed to be consumed rather young - and Chardonnay can only age a certain time span, since its acidity level is lower and won´t hold the wine as fresh as a Riesling can. One more advantage: out of a Riesling, you can make a bone dry wine that goes into a one-liter bottle. Or you make a Trockenbeerenauslese. Or everything in between this wide span. That cannot be done with any other grape variety and in no other place in the world.

Q: 13 German wine regions stand for ca 100.000 hectares under vines. Rheinhessen (26.000 ha) and Pfalz (24.000 ha) are the biggest areas, but some people will say that Mosel and Rheingau are more widely known. Even the average wine drinker (I am not referring to the connoisseur) here in Sweden or in the US will have heard Mosel rather than Pfalz, is my observation during the years living abroad. Why, do you think, is that so?
A:[genusstur] It´s a question of image. As I said, 200 years ago, people knew about high class sweet wines from the regions along the Rhine river. Kings and queens were drinking Mosel and Rheingau products. The Pfalz, for a long time, was regarded to produce quantity, not quality. If you look at awards and wine guides today, the top wine region in Germany is Pfalz.

Q: What comes to your mind when you hear the following regions? Give us one word (ok, 2-3) for each:
A: Mosel:[genusstur] Great-ageing riesling
Rheingau:[genusstur] Faded glory
Pfalz:[genusstur] still rising higher

Q: Pfalz: Riesling is the leading grape variety. Dry, off-dry and sweet wines are made. What are the trends you can see? One winestyle increasing/declining? Other grape varieties taking over or at least becoming more important too?
A:[genusstur] Riesling and Late Burgundy will remain to be the quality leaders, but one can notice a switch from varieties such as Portugieser, Müller-Thurgau and the rather new Dornfelder to White and Grey Burgundy and to international grapes, e.g. Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon. Which is ok for me. But I don´t think that the winemakers would gain a lot by excessively planting Tempranillo, Sangiovese or Syrah. Those should be sidekicks for experimentation.

Q: Visiting as a tourist or simply trying to buy a Pfalz wine in other countries: Not everybody is reading all the wine guides, before going shopping or travelling. How can the average consumer find a good wine and/or winery? What's your advice?
A:[genusstur] Before you travel, check the internet. There are many private forums in which consumers share their impressions and experiences. Once in the Pfalz, go have lunch or dinner in some of the numerous wine restaurants and ask the owner for tips and advice.
Q: Thank you. But how about shopping at the local supermarket (in USA, i.e.) or from the Swedish monopoly: what can the consumer use as a guidance when choosing a wine from Pfalz? Or getting more precise: pls look at the list of available wines at the monopoly-shelves (there is another range of wines that can be purchased via ordering, those we exclude for now) here in the country. Any quick comments on this? Does this reflect the Pfalz? Price per bottle in SEK, the boldprint. Sorry, only white wines available. (Currently, not one single German redwine can be bought just off the shelves here, but you can order some.)
A: [genusstur] The wines where the producers are mentioned are surely top quality. All the others I have no idea who they could be from.

Q: VdP - Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter stands for Germany's and the Pfalz' Crème-de-la-Crème. Recognizing the eagle-logo on a bottle is a safe bet to buy that wine?
A:[genusstur] Under the VDP umbrella, you have around 200 wineries, most of which are the best producers in the country. You can trust the eagle - although there is much much more to explore off the beaten tracks.

Q: Any other significant symbols to look out for that can help make up a decision?
A:[genusstur] Not really a symbol. Just look out for the way the labels are styled. Especially younger winemakers lay a strong emphasis on modern labels - not overstyled, not fashionable-stylish, just a classy, clear style. In many cases, the wine is pretty much like the label.

Q: Generally, there seem to be many wines at comparable prices - are there big quality differences within the Pfalz? If so, are they reflected in the prices?
A:[genusstur] Price and quality don´t always go hand in hand. Top quality demands a higher price, that´s right, but the Pfalz offers a wide range of good wines with very, very reasonable pricing. They cost a lot less than what they give you in the glass.

Q: The curious wine drinker wants to get a taste of the Pfalz - name 6 wines to pick for a tasting that will show the spectrum.
A:[genusstur] Riesling, Spätburgunder, Dornfelder, Gewürztraminer, Grauburgunder, Scheurebe.

Q: Just to explain... Spätburgunder is the German version of Pinot Noir, you refer also to it with 'Late Burgundy'. Dornfelder is a dark purple-red wine with intensive color. Grauburgunder is the Pinot Gris, a white wine from a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. Explain the Scheurebe for us, please.
A:[genusstur] Scheurebe is the cross of Silvaner and Riesling. It has an intense bouquet of Grapefruit, Cassis and other fruit and is considered to be the German answer to Sauvignon Blanc. It can be vinificated dry or sweet.

Q: Are the Pfalz vintage years of utmost importance for the average wine drinker? Or are the nuances detectable for the advanced connoisseur only?
A:[genusstur] The vintages can make a big difference. Not in Chile, not in Australia or in South Africa, but definitely in Europe, thus also in the Pfalz. 2003 all wines were quite fat and high in alcohol, with the whites being less acidic. 2006 we had bad rain at harvest time, many wineries encountered problems with their red grapes in respect of foulness. 2008 was perfect for Riesling, 2009 is considered to be nearly perfect for everything. And yes, the average consumer would notice those big differences as well.

Q: Anything you feel should be mentioned here?
A:[genusstur] There is a high danger of getting addicted to this region - you might want to come over and over again.

Q: Why should people come and see the Pfalz? What is special with the region?
A:[genusstur] The landscape is great, the people are friendly and welcoming, we have the most sunshine hours of Germany, the climate is ideal. And with more than 2.000 wineries along the German Wine Route, you´ll be sure to find just what suits your palate.

Q: Last but not least: tell us about your cooking events and winetours. Coming to the Pfalz we can book a day with you and you will....
A:[genusstur] ... either show you around in one of my wine tours that start at 10 a.m. and run until 5 p.m., I will set you on a very pleasurable culinary track by means of a wine seminar or a cooking event. You can check out what I have to offer at, or just write me an email at

Thank you so much, Matthias, we are looking forward to our next trip to Pfalz!


  1. Excellent interview! You may also be interested in the stuff I write, for example:

  2. Thank you! I will be checking your site!
    Viele Grüsse aus dem Norden