Famous vineyard sites
Idig – Vineyard of the Electors of the Pfalz
This famous vineyard site is located in the heart of the Pfalz wine-growing region, in Königsbach, a wine village north of Neustadt an der Weinstraße.
From the top of the hillside vineyard there are wonderful views over the Rhine plain, extending to the Odenwald (Oden Forest east of the Rhine, in the Hessische Bergstraße region) and the Schwarzwald (Black Forest in Baden). On a clear day, it’s possible to see the silhouettes of the cathedral in Speyer (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the castle in Heidelberg.
By 1809, the site was recorded in the official land registry as “Im Idig,” but its origins date from at least the late Middle Ages, when it was documented (1387) as “unseres gnädigen Herren Pfalzgrafen 18 Morgen Weingarten im Idischen” – roughly translated – “an eleven-acre vineyard ‘im Idischen’ belonging to our gracious lord, the count Palatine.” Since the 14th century, it numbered among the properties of the counts Palatine (and later, electoral princes of the Pfalz). Wines from Idig were served at the royal table. The onset of the French Revolution (1792) changed most things in the Pfalz, including the fate of this vineyard. In the decades following secularization, Idig experienced a period of decline under ever-changing ownership, until it was acquired in 1865 by Franz Armand Buhl (1837-1896), whose first-class Idig wines helped restore the site’s image.
Franz Armand Buhl took over his parent’s wine estate in Deidesheim in 1862/1863, and created a prestigious estate of international renown. He also was a highly respected politician, particularly known as an advocate of social benefits and active on behalf of German wine-growers. For this reason, King Ludwig II of Bavaria conferred him with the title “Reichsrat” of the Bavarian crown. His son, Franz Eberhard (1867-1921), carried on the tradition of producing great, top-quality wines and was a founder and president of the reorganized German Wine-growers’ Association in 1913. Like his father, he also received the Bavarian title of “Reichsrat,” which he incorporated into the estate’s name: Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl.
In the course of property transfers after the death of Franz Eberhard and his wife (there were no more Buhl heirs), Idig was more or less “forgotten” until the early 1990s, when the Christmann family (of Gimmeldingen) purchased choice parcels of the original site – and “put Idig on the map” with recognition and awards by leading German and international wine critics/publications for its top Idig Riesling and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) wines. Their Idig wines have numbered among the top ten dry Rieslings in Gault Millau (six of the past 10 vintages) and received the highest rating worldwide for a dry Riesling in Wine Spectator. Weingut A. Christmann has 4 ha of holdings in the original portion of the site, 85% planted with Riesling and 15% with Spätburgunder.
Since the German wine law of 1971, when vineyard boundaries were redrawn, the site has been about 18 ha in size – considerably more than the original, medieval site of 7.5 ha.
Some 75% of the site is sloping, and the rest – specifically, the core parcels – quite steep by Pfälzer standards. In terms of microclimate, Idig is south-facing, protected from cold winds by forested slopes to the west, and shaped like a basin, thereby resulting in high temperatures – natural factors, all of which help grapes achieve a high degree of ripeness year after year.
Loam and clayish sand predominate, but the soil of the original parcels is a relatively rare Tertiary marl mixture of limestone and clay underpinned by limestones. According to Steffen Christmann: “The soil is reflected in the wines’ distinctive salty, mineral tone that lends them elegance and a silky texture; ensures that their acidity is well integrated, i.e. even dry wines are never ‘sour’; and enhances their longevity.”
All in all, about half the site is planted with Riesling. Other varieties include: Spätburgunder, Silvaner, Saint Laurent (red varieties), and Ortega.
Idig – a name to look for. As Steffen Christmann says: “Even today, Idig wines would appeal to the electoral princes’ “Mundschenken” – the royal keepers of the vineyards/ cellars and official “cupbearers.”
Tips for Tourists:
Neustadt an der Weinstraße is one of the largest wine-growing communities of Germany, with ten districts – including Königsbach.
In Neustadt proper, don’t miss the delightful “Elwedritschen” Brunnen (fountain), featuring the “spitting” fabled creatures (half-bird/half-human). Look for the “one who got away” – near the market square – site of the Baroque town hall, the Gothic church Stiftskirche (with the world’s largest cast-iron bell, weighing more than 17 tons), and nearby, the Renaissance courtyard Kuby’scher Hof, the home of Haus des Weines (House of Wine), where you can sample some 30 of the 100 Neustadt wines on sale.
The Otto Dill Museum features works of the late (1884–1957) impressionist painter (next door is an excellent restaurant – Brezel). Railroad fans won’t want to miss the Eisenbahn Museum behind the main train station.
Should your travels bring you this way in autumn: enjoy the Deutsche Weinlesefest (German Wine Harvest Festival) in early October, which culminates with the coronoation of the German Wine Queen and a huge, colorful parade the next day.
The tourist information office has town maps as well as brochures outling great hiking & cycling tours in the vineyards and the Pfälzer Wald (Palatinate Forest), one of Germany’s largest pine and chestnut forests.
Where to wine and dine in Neustadt and its districts:
- Altstadtkeller bei Jürgen:
Kunigundenstraße 2. Cozy indoors, beautiful outdoor terrace. Typical regional/seasonal specialties and a nice selection of wines. Closed on Sunday evening and Monday. www.altstadtkeller-neustadt.de
- Weinstube Eselsburg.
Kurpfalzstraße 62, Neustadt/Mussbach. Typical wine pub named after the district’s best-known vineyard, Eselshaut. Artworks by proprietor Peter Wiedemann and his late father line the walls. Idyllic courtyard. Regional/seasonal specialties. Closed on Mondays, Sundays and Holidays. No lunch. www.eselsburg.de
- Rebstöckel Gästehaus & Vinothek:
Kreuzstraße 11, Neustadt/Diedesfeld. Especially Flammkuchen (tarte flambée) and other fine foods. Regional wines from Diedesfeld and from all over the Pfalz. Five holiday apartments. Vinothek closed on Sundays and Mondays. www.rebstoeckel.eu
- Weinstube Kommerzienrat:
Leblocher Straße 34, Neutstadt/Gimmeldingen. The Vinothek offers regional/seasonal specialities and a superb selection of 250 Palatine wines. Cozy indoors, small courtyard for dining "al fresco". Restaurant closed on Thursday. No lunch. Addiotionally, four well-appointed holiday apartments (Kurpfalzstraße 161). weinstube-kommerzienrat.de
- Weingut Christmann:
Peter Koch Straße 43, Neustadt/Gimmeldingen. Opening hours of the Vinothek: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-noon + 1 p.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. www.weingut-christmann.de