There are about 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and there are exactly 44 in the district of Südliche Weinstraße (Southern Wine Route). In the town of Hochstadt close to Landau each of the 44 stars stands for an ingredient of a beverage that is clearly a rarity in the local wine-growing area: Palatinate Gin.
Palatinate mornings are vibrant on Saturdays. Visitors from across the region flock to the little villages in search of excellent wine. Some of them target certain locations; others let themselves be guided by name boards decorated voluptuously with vines on the façades. “May I offer you a taste? A St. Laurent for example? A tangy red wine with cherry and cassis aroma and pleasant notes of chocolate and oak.” Dominic Stern is an old hand at describing wines from his own cultivation. Naturally—because the 35 year-old started to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps already at the age of 19, when he entered the parental company.
“The quality of our region’s wines has increased tremendously over the past decades. My grandpa was a cooper; he made wooden barrels and tubs for fellow winemakers. Hard to imagine this today.” Dominic knows the stories from the time, when Palatinate wines were not showered with international prize medals yet. “Palatinate Riesling has gained an excellent standing internationally. I want to achieve this reputation with our red wines as well. I travel a lot with fellow wine growers: to Spain, across France, and lately through Hungary. We visit wine-growing estates and exchange experiences. They are usually surprised when I tell them that I concentrate on my red wine. Clearly, there is room for improvement, but we have come to keep up with some of the established drops already.”
Just imagine foreign colleague’s astonishment when Dominic pulls out a colourless half-litre bottle filled with a liquid clear as glass from his luggage: the 44 Star Gin. “Gin is a real winner. There are new varieties on the market every month and German distilleries have tried their hand at gin for a while. I was one of the first wine growers in the Palatinate to take this bold step in 2014.”
The red and white wine bottles have disappeared form the bar. Two glasses with ice cubes took their place. Skilfully slicing some lemon zest with a peeling knife, Dominic turned from a wine grower into an experienced bartender. Five centilitres for each glass, lemon peel on top, an adroit stir and filled up with Spanish tonic water from a little can—Dominic’s guests seem to be teleported from tranquil Hochstadt to a trendy, urban bar in Berlin-Kreuzberg.