Democracy and wine, the two pillars of the Palatinate


Pink almond blossoms in the early spring, the vine-framed red sandstone façades of vintner houses in the summer, fig trees in the gardens and ripe chestnuts in the autumn. The Pfalz region around Neustadt an der Weinstraße sits between the Haardt mountains, the Palatinate Forest and the Upper Rhine Plain and has a charm all its own. Some people call it the Palatinate feeling. It’s a good mood born of ample sunshine and a balmy breeze from the vineyards laden with Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Dornfelder.

And if you raise a glass in a toast in Hambach, you will inevitably be drinking to democracy. Hambach Castle still towers high above the town. The ‘cradle of German democracy’ really made its mark on political history on 27 June 1832, when patriots, lawyers, tradesmen, doctors, merchants, students and winemakers marched up to the castle from the marketplace in Neustadt. A procession of more than 20,000 people wove its way up towards the ruins of what was once a knights’ castle on the Kastanienberg, playing music and waving flags of black, red and gold, and demanding freedom of the press, national sovereignty and unity. The protests continued for six days and the castle became the stronghold of the struggle for democracy in Germany.

And because it was the Palatinate, the wine flowed in abundance. It had to be that way, because the Bavarian government had banned the political demonstration announced by publicists Johann Georg August and Philipp Jakob Siebenpfeiffer, which was declared a festival instead.

The ‘cradle of German democracy’, Hambach Castle near Neustadt an der Weinstraße in the Palatinate

The ‘cradle of German democracy’, Hambach Castle near Neustadt an der Weinstraße in the Palatinate

The patriotic procession also passed the Naegele estate in the Schlossgasse, which leads up to the Kastanienberg. The wine estate founded by Georg Naegele in 1796 is still a family tradition today. There is a complex of baroque buildings making up the Oberzehntkeller belonging to the former prince-bishops of Hambach, and the inner courtyard and state rooms are the highlights. If you take the 37 acres of vineyards and add the select grapes delivered by friendly estates to the castle winery every year, you get a total of just over 110 acres.

Enjoy the view from the flag tower of Hambach Castle in Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Palatinate

Enjoy the view from the flag tower of Hambach Castle in Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Palatinate

View of Hambach Castle, surrounded by vineyards near Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Palatinate

View of Hambach Castle, surrounded by vineyards near Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Palatinate

The Hambach Castle winery is based in what was the Lichtenberger estate house, where King Ludwig I of Bavaria celebrated the birthday of his wife, Queen Theresa, in 1854. The estate house was also built in the same style as the Bavarian king’s Villa Ludwigshöhe. The winemakers bought it in 1902 for 20,000 gold marks, which was money they did not have, but it was loaned to them by the local pastor.

With around 100 members, the castle winery is the smallest independent winemaking cooperative in the Palatinate and the oldest in Germany. It markets around 60 premium wines and sparkling wines produced from Burgundy and red wine grapes. In homage to the early democrats, one particularly special Dornfelder dry red wine is known as ‘Cuvée Siebenpfeiffer’. Rich in colour, it has a wealth of berry and sour cherry on the nose and fine vanilla notes, but is still delicate and playful with a really long finish.

Ten years after the Hambach Festival, the Palatinate gifted the building to Bavarian Crown Prince Maximilian, whose ambitious plans to build a reproduction of Hohenschwangau Castle were not destined to succeed. However, the former ruins were rebuilt and are now brightly lit up at night and visible all the way down in the Upper Rhine Plain. The castle’s links to winemaking have also been preserved, and many delicious Palatinate and Hambach wines can be enjoyed in the castle restaurant.

Delicious wine tasting at the Winning estate, Palatinate

Delicious wine tasting at the Winning estate, Palatinate

More leisure tips for culture lovers in the Palatinate:


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