Photos courtesy German National Tourist Office
Wine festivals in August and September are spread throughout Germany’s 13 wine-producing regions. There is no better way to get to know Germany and its people than whiling away a few hours (or days) at local wine festivals. There is little doubt you will end up in discussion with the people at the next table or with the owner about the harvest or quality of the grapes, this year’s weather and local goings-on. And, before you know it, you have made some nice acquaintances, learned some German, soaked up the atmosphere and tried some wines that you might never find outside Germany.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Romans identified the mineral-rich terrain in Germany and laid the foundations of the vineyards that today cover more than 245,000 acres. Winding rivers, steep hillsides and medieval castle ruins characterize the various regions and their wine towns.
At the tip of the southern Black Forest in Germany’s southernmost wine region of Baden, Freiburg offers a taste of the academic pace of life in one of Germany’s oldest university towns. A direct high-speed rail connection from Frankfurt to Basel is available, as well as the local Black Forest Bahn, which offers views of the Black Forest hills and villages. A typical day is characterized by spending time at the open air market with all of the products from the local farmers and craftspeople, and then enjoying a glass of wine in the Weinhaus Alte Wache with a view of the marketplace activities. The Landmann Winery is particularly notable for its organic wines and the local wine festival from September 2 to September 9 is a particularly festive time. In November Freiburg hosts the Plaza Culinaria, a culinary trade fair with many local products from Freiburg’s partner cities.
Nestled between two of Germany’s most famous wine regions, where the Moselle and the Rhine come together, Koblenz stars as the host to the National Garden Show. In honor of the show, Koblenz opened a new winery at the Fortress Ehrenbreitstein, which boasts not only wines from the region, but also offers a history of the 2,000 years of wine-making in the Rhineland Pfalz. Koblenz has long been a stop for wine lovers. The well-known brand of Deinhard offers tastings of sparkling wine in the middle of the old city and the Weinbar Gerhards wine cellar and bar can be found nearby.
Deep in the Rhineland but still only a half hour from Frankfurt, Mainz is known as the Great Wine Capital, as it is the only German city belonging to this worldwide network. It’s easy to while away a few afternoon hours in Mainz’s wine market at the cathedral square. On Saturdays, local farmers bring in an endless stream of regional and seasonal foods and wines that you can try as well as buy in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
One particularly sweet time is August 25-28 and September 1-4, when the Mainz Wine Festival takes place. You can wend your way from stand to stand trying different wines, enjoy music and peruse the crafts for sale. Two tips: The new Hofgut Laubenheimer Hoehe winery, along with the Wine Institute created the Riesling Lounge, where rieslings from each of Germany’s 13 wine-producing regions are offered. An especially enjoyable stop is the Zum Beichtstuhl wine bar.
In the middle of Germany’s oldest wine territory, close to the steeps banks of the Moselle River and famous for its Roman gate and walls, Trier is where the Romans first planted their vines in Germany. The oldest winery is the Vereinigte Hospitien, where you can still see the wall of the original Roman storehouse. The wine producer Bischoefliche Weingueter can be found underground in the center of Trier; most tourists don’t realize as they walk through the pedestrian zone in the central city that a famous wine cellar lies beneath them. The Bar Weinsinnig is where you can get a sense of the region’s great variety, as the list of wines offered changes daily.
In the spa town of Wiesbaden, the Rheingau Wine Week in August kicks off a celebration smack in the middle of town on the Castle Square. Known for its ornate and elaborate casino, beautiful spa buildings and hotels, elegant streets and antique galleries, Wiesbaden is a prime starting point to explore the Rheingau. The State Winery of Hessen in Eberbach, a former Cistercian monastery, is one such example, and it is also worthwhile to take the tour and a tasting at Henkel, the famous producer of sparkling wine.
On the other side of Frankfurt is the baroque city of Wuerzburg in the heart of the Franconian wine region, where wine is bottled only in the famous bulbous bottles, called Bocksbeutel. The wines of Franconia are outstanding and one place to enjoy them is in Wuerzburg’s Residenz (castle). The wine cellar recently won an architectural prize for its renovation.
August 31 – September 9, 2011
Rheingau Wine Festival, Frankfurt
More than 600 wines and sparkling wines from the Rheingau region will be tasted at 30 vintner stands. These range from the finest wines to light and zesty summer wines, with wines from alternative grape varieties being offered alongside the dominant Rheingau riesling. www.frankfurt-tourismus.de
September 1 – 5, 2011
Middle Moselle Wine Festival, Bernkastel Kues
The “Middle Mosel Wine Festival” enjoys legendary fame. The fireworks, the winemakers’ procession, the artisan market and all of the happenings on the wine road and at the locales in Old Town as well as the large amusement park are the attractions featured at the Moselle region’s largest wine festival. More than 30 wine booths present famous riesling wines. www.bernkastel.de
September 2 -12, 2011
Vintners’ Festival, Bingen in Rhinehessen near Frankfurt
There is something special about the wine in Bingen. Here the so-called ice wine was invented in the suburb of Dromersheim. It is no coincidence that the festival lasts 11 days, because so much time is needed to taste all the wines offered. www.bingen.de
September 24 – October 3, 2011
Red Wine Festival, Ingelheim, close to Mainz and Frankfurt
There is virtually no other wine festival in the Rhine Hessen region which takes place in such an attractive setting, surrounded by vineyards, as the Ingelheim Red Wine Festival. Every year on the last weekend in September this popular wine festival is opened with the ceremonial crowning of the Red Wine Queen. www.ingelheim.de