By Celia Strong
As we head toward spring, many of our thoughts turn to new and lighter wines to match the fresh warmer weather that’s coming.
New, too, is the source for this week’s wine — the Pfalz region of Germany. This area, also known as “the Palatinate,” is located in southeastern Germany, just north of France’s Alsace region. It is between the Haardt Mountains and the Rhine River. The mountains protect it from the very cold and wet weather blowing in from the Atlantic. In fact, this protection makes the Pfalz one of the warmer and drier areas of Germany. So warm and dry that almonds, figs and lemons grow here along with wine grapes, hence its nickname — the Tuscany of Germany.
There are several interesting facts about the Pfalz region. It is Germany’s second-largest wine region with just under 60,000 acres of vineyards. Riesling, the dominant variety in Pfalz, produces about one quarter of the wines. The average daytime temperature during the grapes’ growing season is 55 degrees, and the region sees 40 percent more annual hours of sunshine than in the Mosel, while rainfall is about 40 percent less.
Villa Wolf is our winery this week. Originally called the J L Wolf Estate when it was founded in 1756, the name changed when they built an actual villa in 1843. Going into the end of the 20th century, the estate lacked good management and their wines’ reputation suffered. Dr. Ernst Loosen took over the winery in 1996 and has turned it back into a standard of German wine production. His goal is to produce wines that are pure and authentic and represent the Pfalz style — drier and more full-bodied than Mosel wines, with full fruit flavors. To ensure their high quality, all their vineyards are sustainably maintained and the fruit is very gently handled. Winemaking is minimalist. While Rieslings are their show pieces, they also produce a dry Gewurztraminer, a minerally and dry Pinot Gris, and, our wine, a rosé made with Pinot Noir.
Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé is the perfect new wine for this spring — and the rest of the year, too. The grapes for this wine are selected from estate vineyards, chosen for the flavors and textures they have to make a classic rosé, or “Weissherbst” in German. Only perfectly ripe grapes are chosen — none under or overly ripe — And only Pinot Noir. After harvest, there is a brief maceration, four to six hours, that gives the wine its lovely salmon shade. No red wine is added to augment the color or weigh down its flavors and textures. Fermentation is done exclusively in stainless steel. No malolactic secondary fermentation occurs, so the wine maintains a crisp acidity. Just before bottling, a minimal, light filtration is done. The finished wine is light and refreshing, with bright fruit flavors — strawberries, red cherries, red currants, plums. The fruit flavors are very forward, but also delicate, and very well-balanced with the wine’s acids. Its flavors and textures linger in your mouth for quite a while. A great new wine — true or Pfalz? True! For $11.99. Enjoy.
Celia Strong works at Billís Liquor & Fine Wines on Ladyís Island.