Fifty wine-makers younger than 35, eight renowned wine experts and a big blind tasting event: this is Die Junge Südpfalz, the “young Southern Palatinate.” In 2017, the prize for winegrowers was already awarded for the seventh time. What might sound like a boisterous party to outsiders, is actually the highlight of a year of toiling for the young participants. Under the sun of the Southern Palatinate region, a generation of ambitioned winegrowers has matured, breathing new life into the traditional businesses of their parents.
Driving south along the wine route, the vines swish by in rhythmic staccato. Snow is rare in the sun-kissed Southern Palatinate region, but once it is sprinkled like icing sugar on the roofs, fields and church steeples along the country road, the lanes are almost deserted. Only in the village of Kirrweiler with its 2,000 inhabitants are signs of life: cars are queuing in front of a courtyard entrance. Armed with spade and shield, a little knight is positioned resplendently at the entrance gate of the Hartmann winery. Gazing vigilantly through his bright red spectacles, the cuddly patron watches the happenings in the forecourt. The head of the winery Christian Hartmann insists on taking his clients’ wine boxes to their cars and to cautiously stow them inside himself. “On weekends, it is quite busy here at the winery, when clients from all over the region come here.” He dashes back to the store room and reloads his cart with the six-bottle cases that pile up all the way to the ceiling.
His woollen cap pulled down over his ears Christoph Bauer leans at the entrance of Hartmann’s wine shop. Both men grew up in the Southern Palatinate region and are about the same age. Yet, as opposed to Christian, Christoph is not a vintner, but works in the wine marketing sector. As a social media and PR professional, it is his job to spread the word about these splendid wines, making them known throughout the world on behalf of the association Südliche Weinstraße. “I first met Christian in 2016, when he participated in our contest Die junge Südpfalz – da wächst was nach (The young Southern Palatinate region—something is regrowing there) for the first time. Back then, he was ranked ninth. I am so glad for him that he gained 88 of 100 credit points in the overall rating. He really deserved it.”
By now, the cars with registration plates from the Palatinate region, from Hesse and Baden-Württemberg have left Kirrweiler. Christian disappears behind the bar counter of the just recently renovated wine shop and returns with three glasses of Scheurebe. “The 2016 vintage is almost completely out of stock. That’s the wine I received most credit points for. I can still hardly believe that it turned out that way already at the second try.”