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As in many Old World countries, the rise of viticulture in Germany came about as a result of the Roman Empire, who saw the potential for vine cultivation in the vast flatlands around the base of the Rhine valley. Indeed, for over a thousand years, Germany's wine production levels were enormous, with much of the south of the country being used more or less exclusively for growing grapes. Over time, this diminished to make way for expanding cities and other types of industries, but Southern Germany remains very much an important wine region within Europe, with many beautifully balanced and flavorful German wines being prized by locals and international wine lovers alike. The hills around Baden-Baden and Mannheim are especially noteworthy, as these produce the high end of the characteristic semi-sweet white wines which couple so perfectly with German cheeses and pickled vegetables. However, all of Germany's wine producing regions have something special and unique to offer, and are a joy to explore and experience.
The beautiful German wine region of Pfalz is the second biggest in the country, and is upheld as one of the finest in all of central Europe. A long and narrow region, just nine miles wide, it sits on the French border, and shares many characteristics with Alsace on its western border. This is a peaceful, verdant region, where grapevines outnumber inhabitants by a ratio of six hundred to one, and as such, it comes as no surprise to find that the wines produced here are laid back, elegant affairs which pair perfectly with the slow-cooked cuisine of the region.
The history of Pfalz is an impressive one, and before the phylloxera epidemic wreaked its effects on the region, it was widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Indeed, the Riesling wines of Pfalz used to grace the tables of the crowned heads of Europe, and were even served at the dinner which heralded the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The fine old vines which grow there benefit from the warm and dry summers (this is the warmest region of Germany by far), and the very mild winters which produce wines of extraordinary balance and expression.
Pinot Blanc is a popular white grape varietal most commonly associated with the beautiful French region of Alsace, but which is also grown across Central Europe and Italy. In Germany and Austria it is known as Weisseburgunder, in Italy it is called Pinot Bianco, and is one of the key varietals in the alpine regions of Alto Adige. Pinot Blanc is the main white grape varietal in Alsace, where it is prized for its ability to beautifully express the fine terroir on which it is grown, and it is used to produce exceptional single varietal wines, as well as blended wine such as Edelzwicker. Pinot Blanc is also a key component in this part of France’s signature sparkling wine, Cremant d’Alsace.
The wines made from Pinot Blanc are typically medium to light bodied, but they possess a remarkable freshness and clean character, which reminds us of the cool, green hillsides of their homeland. Apple, honey and biscuity, yeasty flavors are typical in fine Pinot Blanc wines, as well as a good level of minerality, making it a popular choice for those looking to pair a fine white wine with a wide range of foods. Although it is almost never oaked in Alsace, Italian vintners have a tendency to age Pinot Bianco in oak barrels, adding an extra dimension to this wonderful varietal.