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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Pfalz, until 1992 known as Rheinpfalz, is an important wine region in southern germany in terms of both quantity and quality. The 23,567 ha/58,210 acres of vineyard follow the eastern edge of the Haardt range (a northern extension of Alsace’s Vosges) for about 80 km/50 miles (see map under germany) along the so-called Deutsche Weinstrasse, or German Wine Route, officially established in 1935 to link 40 villages. Viewed from a satellite, these vineyards would seem to reach in finger-like strips 8 km or so into the plain, which stretches a further 12 km to the Rhine. In some of the villages of the district in the southern half, the Südliche Weinstrasse, vines occupy nearly all the available land and viticulture has expanded greatly since the 1960s; only those parts of valleys at risk from cold air remain unplanted. Significant differences in character, especially with Riesling, emerge from varying elevations and striking diversity of soils ranging from calcareous through sandstone to the basalt that characterizes the top vineyards of Forst, with many sedimentary, metamorphic, and volcanic variations in between. The relatively sunny, dry Pfalz, long a mecca for German tourists and, like Rheinhessen, long associated with the cheap and cheerful, has since the 1980s acquired a national and international reputation as an innovative and exciting wine-growing region buoyed by demand for the red and dry white wines in which it excels and by the proximity of prosperous metropolitan Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, and Karlsruhe. Of the roughly 10,000 vinegrowers in the region, over half deliver their grapes to producers’ associations, merchants’ cellars, or one of 18 co-operatives, of which a number boast not only high standards but also significant shares of top vineyards.