Palatinate wine and terroir – Interview with winemaker Dorothea John


We interview former Palatinate Wine Princess Dorothea John from Neustadt-Königsbach about her home region. She was named Wine Princess in 2020 and represented the Palatinate at home and abroad during 2020/2021. However, the coronavirus pandemic meant the majority of her appearances were on a digital basis, but that did not stop her filling the role with the traditional Palatinate joie de vivre. As the daughter of a winemaker with a degree in wine, she is a real expert and is currently reinforcing her knowledge by completing a master’s in ecological agriculture.

Dorothea, why did you want to be the Wine Princess for the Palatinate? Tell us your reasons.

As the Palatinate Wine Princess, I had the opportunity to spread the word about the wonderful Palatinate region and its wines, to spark people’s interest and fire up their enthusiasm for my home region. I wanted to share this passion and everything that goes with it – the wonderful, varied scenery (and its vines), the enchanting little villages and the countless little wine-making and handicraft companies. As the Palatinate Wine Princess, I was an ambassador for my home region and could spread my enthusiasm all over the world.

Winemaker Dorothea John with red sandstone, characteristic of Palatinate viticulture, Palatinate

Winemaker Dorothea John with red sandstone, characteristic of Palatinate viticulture, Palatinate

What connects you to your home region? What do you think the Palatinate represents?

A walk through the vineyards and collecting chestnuts, or ‘Keschde’ in the local dialect, in autumn. I love the sociability and the hospitality of the people of the Palatinate.

The Palatinate is the second-largest wine-growing region in Germany, producing wines that are famous, both nationally and internationally. Dorothea, what makes the wines of the Palatinate special compared to other regions?

The fact that they can be so different! The Palatinate boasts a wide range of different soils, micro-climates, terraces and the most different vineyards, grape varieties, cultivation methods and, of course, the varied styles of the winemakers. All this is what makes Palatinate wines so unique for me!

Red sandstone is everywhere in the region and can be found in numerous historic buildings and natural landmarks, including Speyer Cathedral and the Devil’s Table in the rocky landscape around Dahn. The red sandstone is also in the soil. Can you tell us what impact this has on the terroir and the wines?

Vines can absorb the minerals dissolved in the groundwater through their roots. Wines growing on red sandstone generally produce more intense fruit and a more distinct acidity than those grown on shell limestone, for example. They are often said to have a characteristic citrusy bouquet. The term ‘terroir’ conveys more than just the soil, it also relates to the climate and the style of the winemaker. This is what makes the wine so exciting.

What is your favourite place along the German Wine Route and what makes this place so special for you?

My favourite place is the Neustadter Sonnenweg. We have planted a new vineyard on the old sandstone terraces right next to the Palatinate Forest and the town of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse. This contrast between the town and the countryside makes it a really special place for me. The location also demands 100% manual work, with a team of goats the only long-term solution to managing the weeds.

The wine bars of the Palatinate are an opportunity to discover, learn and sample. Which wine bars do you enjoy visiting? Which wine bars would you recommend for wine tasting?

I enjoy visiting wine bars with my colleagues and sampling interesting wines in a relaxed atmosphere. All wine bars have their own charm, there is something for everyone. My personal favourites are the Vinothek Dr. Bürklin Wolff in Wachenheim, which has a traditional feel, and the newly built Weinwerk Reinhardt in Ruppertsberg.

Wine tasting at the vinotheque Weinkammer, Palatinate

Wine tasting at the vinotheque Weinkammer, Palatinate

Vines in the golden evening sun, Palatinate

Vines in the golden evening sun, Palatinate

What is your personal insider tip for a visit to the Palatinate? What experiences are not to be missed?

My personal insider tip is the Altschlossfelsen. Even though I come from the Palatinate, I only heard about them last year and set off to see these unique sandstone formations for myself. I also think you cannot visit the Palatinate without going to a wine festival or going for a walk through the Palatinate Forest.

You are very active in your free time. What are your hobbies and why are you so keen on them?

Apart from wine, I have lots of other hobbies and the Palatinate is the perfect place for them. I have a quarter-acre garden where I not only enjoy gardening, I also keep colonies of bees. Nature conservation is very close to my heart. I also really enjoy cooking, especially using my home-grown fruit and vegetables. I’m really outdoorsy and love getting out in the fresh air. I regularly go swimming in the lakes or climbing in one of the countless disused quarries. For a longer adventure through the lovely Palatinate Forest, I like to go jogging, riding or mountain biking.

Three more questions, one-word answers only please.

Favourite grape variety?

Riesling

Favourite food to go with it?

Asparagus

Best vintage?

1990

Enjoying wine in front of the Nanstein castle ruins, Palatinate

Enjoying wine in front of the Nanstein castle ruins, Palatinate

Fascinating red sandstone in the Palatinate


In our first video, Martin Seidler shows you the colourful red sandstone of the Palatinate, with all its nuances from dark red to yellowish white showcased in works of arts, churches and castles, and the region’s unique landscape. You can even taste it in the wine – the friendly Palatinate winemakers will be only too happy to show you how the minerality and acidity of the rock leaves its mark on the wine in your glass!

More cultural travel highlights and activities in the Palatinate


Nanstein Castle

Landstuhl The imposing ruins of Nanstein Castle are the landmark of the Sickingen town of Landstuhl, visible from afar. Nanstein Castle, which was built in the…

Drachenfels Castle ruins

Busenberg The Drachenfels is one of the main attractions in Wasgau. It was probably built shortly after 1200. In 1523, the castle was almost completely…

Castle complex Alt-Dahn - Grafendahn - Tanstein

Dahn The ruins of the three fortifications are perched on five adjacent red sandstone rocks. The castles are first mentioned in documents in the first half…

Berwartstein Castle

Erlenbach bei Dahn Location: Near Erlenbach (Palatinate).The only inhabited castle complex in the Palatinate. The impressive 12th century Wasgau Castle is perched on a…

Judenhof with SchPIRA Museum and mikwe

Speyer Between 1084 and 1349, a strong Jewish community developed in Speyer. The ruins of the synagogue and the ritual bath are testament to this. Immerse…

German Wine Gate, Schweigen-Rechtenbach

Schweigen-Rechtenbach It is the gateway to the German Wine Route as well as the landmark of the dual municipality of Schweigen-Rechtenbach. It was built in 1936 by Joseph…

Vinothek Par Terre

Landau in der Pfalz Vinothek Par-Terre: Wine cellar and restaurant Null41 in former French barracks. Award-winning design concept by Michael Michalsky and fine wines from…

Altschlossfelsen

Eppenbrunn Location: Near Eppenbrunn, starting point in Spießweiher car park.The Altschlossfelsen, measuring 1.5 km in length and 30 m in height, are located in…