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11 Cultural Truths Behind German Wine

Germany Travel
by Joe Baur Jul 8, 2015

1. Because who doesn’t like “macht fröhlich”?

I asked an older gentleman working at the Niederwald Chairlift in Assmanhausen about his preference for German wine over beer. He patted the back of his head while he thought for moment and smiled.

“Bier trinken macht aggressiv und Wein trinken macht fröhlich!”

Basically he saw beer drinking as a more aggressive pastime or something you do after a bad day. Wine, however, is about having fun and being “merry.” And as a man who splits his time between his native Bavarian home and Rudesheim, I’m inclined to trust his judgement.

2. There’s not an ugly sight in Rüdesheim along the Rhine.

The scenery of German wine country is postcard perfect. The picturesque villages, the vineyards, the perfectly green hillsides, and of course the tranquil Rhine itself — all of it is absurdly Instagrammable. Anke Haub, born and raised in the region and now working for Rüdesheim Tourism, described living there as “like being on holiday all the time.”

3. Not many other wine regions go back to the 1200s.

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate about German wine than Ulrich Allendorf. That’s because his family has been in the wine business in the region since the 1200s — not a typo — and Allendorf headquarters remain in nearby Oestrich-Winkel.

4. “You drink to remember.”

Ulrich offered this as his own reason for reaching for a bottle of German wine rather than the typical pint. Granted there are exceptions to the rule, Ulrich admitted, but in general beer drinking is something you do to forget. But wine? A good bottle of wine is for special occasions that are to be remembered for the rest of your life.

That of course begs the question — why German wine then?

5. Germany is the undisputed king of Riesling.

Allendorf can trace its history back to the 1200s, but Riesling has been in the region for at least 2,000 years when the Romans brought Germany’s now famous grape varietal to the area. Though Ulrich suggested that the number might actually be 4,000 years, since the grapes are genetically the same as Mesopotamia.

Too much history for you? Just drink the damn wine then, and enjoy.

6. You can see the grape go from soil to customer.

Ulrich calls out how he sees the winemaking process in California versus Germany. “We go from the soil to the end, they go from the end to the soil.”

By that he suggested that a new entrepreneur in California winemaking (winetrepreneur?) has to start by begging the banks for a loan. But because they’ve been doing what they do in Germany for thousands of years, Ulrich argued they have a “more authentic” process that starts from the grape.

7. Frankfurt is a short train ride away.</h2.

Drinking wine in Germany doesn’t have to mean being out in the sticks the whole time. One of the most powerful cities in the world is just a 60-minute train ride away — Frankfurt, home to some of the most renowned banking institutions (205 to be exact) in the industry just a short walk away from Bahnhofsviertel’s infamous red light district. Totally a coincidence, I’m sure.

Because Frankfurt is catering to an international business clientele, it’s also developed a culinary scene to match the palette of their visitors. While the menus vary, one thing remains fairly consistent — German wines are featured heavily.

8. And it’s not nearly as touristy as Munich.

You can cover the entire city by foot easily over an afternoon of walking and avoid mobs of clicking cameras without even trying. In Frankfurt, you can easily slip into a Chinese-run café decorated like a traditional German home and blend right in with the global crowd.

9. Frankfurt is also the home to a drink that tastes “like the angels peed in it.”

If the idea of Apfelwein shot your snobby nose to the air, imagining glorified apple juice, you’re sorely mistaken. This is a regional specialty that comes with the same passion as winemaking when you’re drinking with Frank Winkler of Lorsbacher Thal in the cobblestone-covered Brückenviertel neighborhood just south of downtown over the Main River. A typical Apfelwein ranges from four to seven percent alcohol with the cheapest bottle running at just a euro. But spend 10 euro and you can get a bit more alcohol and a bottle of booze that I would happily put up against a bottle of wine. Or as Frank put it, something that tastes “like the angels peed in it.”

10. Yet it remains undiscovered compared to German beer.

All of your traveling buddies want to go to Munich and get sloshed at Oktoberfest. Maybe they already have. Either way, you know what you’re getting and what to expect out of Bavaria. Wine along the Rhine is something different that your friends probably have never tried.

Besides, just drinking beer in Germany is a cliché. You’re not a cliché, right?

11. You can end the trip like a true Frankfurter with a shot of Mispelchen.

A pickled mispel fruit is put into a small glass of calvados, an apple brandy of about 40 percent alcohol. Suffice it to say this drink finally answers the question, “Can an apple put you on your ass?”

Yes. Yes, it can.

This trip was sponsored by the German National Tourist Board and by Rüdesheim Tourist AG.

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