The southern Pfalz is not as famous for wine as the Mittel-Haardt to the north, but the sunny climate and warmer temperatures here allow many varieties to be more successful than they are further north. This includes Gewürztraminer and Scheurebe, which need a warm environment to thrive, in addition to an important red wine production that is starting to push Germany in the forefront of Pinot Noir winegrowing.
The Schneider family has excelled in the St. Martin area for over a century. In the beginning they sold many of their wines to bigger firms for blending, but there are a number of individual sites (Einzellagen) that afford a clear expression of the grape variety. St. Martin, Edenkoben and Maikammer are traditional wine names in the area, and in addition to being tasty, they are almost always exceptional value. Particularly in recent vintages, these wines cost a fraction of those from the Mittel-Haart, yet offer the same kind of consistency and quality.
I first visited this region forty years ago, and I was quickly captivated by the wines, overshadowed by a monument in German history: the Hambacher Schloss. The castle was constructed on a hillside in the Haardt, and in 1832 played a role in the history of German democracy. Today it is only a shell, but the view from the Schloss is fantastic and you can stay at a nearby hotel to enjoy a meal and an overnight stay with the view. This is the origin of the “Altes Schlösschen” (old castle) label. You can see the Schloss brooding on the hillside as you walk among the vines in St. Martin.
Two brothers, Markus and Ralf Schneider, have taken over the winemaking from their family and are ably meeting the new demand for barrique-aged Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and every other noble variety that is suited to the terroir in St. Martin. Markus is the winemaker, and Ralf handles sales and marketing. Their parents, who developed the estate for many years, are justifiably proud of them.