Together, the Pfalz and the Haardt Mountains combine to form one of the great tourist areas of Germany complete with scenic drives, wonderful cycle and hiking paths, and a sophisticated hospitality industry. The Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Route) is an 80 km (50 mile) scenic drive that runs from Bockenheim in the north to Schweigen-Rechterbach in the south – it is the oldest demarcated wine tour in the world, established in 1935, and links 40 villages on a north south line.
This southwestern region of Germany, adjacent to France, enjoys 1800 hours of sunshine a year. With an almost Mediterranean climate it is no surprise that crops other than grapes also flourish including almonds, peaches, apricots, cherries, sweet chestnuts, walnuts, figs, tobacco and many vegetables including asparagus and chicory.
Like so many things, the establishment of the wine culture in the Pfalz is owed to the Romans whose legions occupied the area in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Archaeological excavations support their early viticultural enterprise – an example is ruins of a Roman winery just to the south of Freinsheim. In the Middle Ages, monasteries served as custodian of the knowledge of wine and its appreciation. Fortifications were built, some say, for the protection of wines rather than property, and the practice of demanding wine as rent from the farmers on the extensive monastic lands helped sustain a wine industry. Accounting records of the Lorsch and Weissenburg monasteries provide definitive evidence of wine production in Grosskarlbach from as early as the year 763.
More information about the Pfalz wine region can be found at the German Wine Institute website, the English version.