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Villa Weilberg with Wine Press: Wine Making like the Romans
Underneath a red roof, a true treasure of viticulture is hidden in the middle of the vineyards on the edge of the city of Bad Dürkheim: a two thousand year old wine press from Roman times. The wine press with its building is the only one of that kind between Southern Palatinate and the Mosel.
It was found in the course of a land clearing project in 1981, rearranging the vineyards around the little community of Ungstein. What the diggers unearthed was nothing less than a sensational discovery: The wine press near Ungstein finally proved that it was truly the Romans who cultivated grapevines on the soft slopes of the Palatinate region.
The huge Roman estate, discovered right above the wine press building, was a true sensational discovery for archeologists and wine experts: the enormous three levelled villa stemming from the 1st century after Christ was built by a rich Roman from Worms. The villa's front had a length of 70 metres and was 15 metres wide, in addition, on each side wings were added. It was the first Roman mansion to be found in the Palatinate region and it clearly demonstrated that the Romans indeed ran professional farms in this area. The farm owned about 75 000 square meters of land where crops were cultivated – among them grapevines.
The grapes were pressed in three flat basins in the annex. The function of the basins, however, was only discovered when a grapevine knife was found along with a sickel, a hatchet used in vineyards and several grape seeds steming from ancient grape varieties, all found within and near the basins. Scientific research showed the grapes to stem from wild grapevines which carried early varieties of Riesling, Traminer and Pinot grapes - the ultimate prove that once the Romans pressed the grapes with their feet in these basins.
The grapes were first filled into the basins on the outer side and there trod upon by workers with their bare feet. The juice then ran into the middle basin that was situated a little deeper from where it was filled into barrels. An average of 200 000 liters was produced here each year, so experts say. On October 25 in 1991, after a pause of approximately 1500 years, the antique place of wine pressing was revived to its old task – and proved its worth right away: In the 200 years old basins, recently renovated, grapes were trod upon anew, and grape juice was made into wine once again. Even viticulture blooms anew: A vineyard from Roman times now carries new grapes even labeled with an official number. Roman life can be experienced again every June, when at the end of the month the Wine Feast at the Roman Wine Press is celebrated in the Wine Estate of Weilberg.