Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Monday, October 31, 2016

germany's wine tavern tradition...plus some golf

I often search for English vocabulary that convey the same meaning as what can be easily expressed in German. In German there are so many specific words which you need a sentence for in English to describe.


The situation where I most often find myself failing to find the correct wording, is when it comes to Germany's unique and wonderful wine tradition. There are similarities across Europe, but nowhere in North America have I seen something equivalent – and possibly that’s why I find the vocabulary lacking.


Words like, ‚schlemmen‘, ‚Genuss‘, ‚Strausswirtschaft‘ have no fair English translation. Words like 'feast', 'enjoy' or 'wine tavern' convey much different images than what in fact you will find in Rheinhessen, Germany. You see, in Germany’s largest wine region most wineries are family-owned and operated.  Okay, that’s not surprising, and definitely not only a German-thing.


But, what I think is unique, is the Straußwirtschaft. These are the small taverns which the family-run vineyard opens two or three times a year, often only a few nights a week, serving simple German fare to go along with their own wines. They open only when they are not busy with harvest or with bottling, basically whenever it suits the family business. And, the townfolk just have to wait...and eagerly wait they do.

Weingut Röder in Mettenheim

These places are cozy! They have such a wonderful, intimate, casual atmosphere that it’s a treat to be there…and we’ve been to quite a few. Often these wineries host interesting, low-key events to get people involved in their wines and their operation - the best way to sell wine is to let people taste it!


This past weekend, we joined some friends for Weingut Golf...mini-golfing through the winery while wine-tasting! 

Weingut Böhm

I'm not a golfer at all, and as the wine started to settle in, let's just say that I became increasingly uninterested in trying to keep my strokes down. I'm much happier behind a camera, than behind a golf ball.


One highlight, or rather an interesting moment was when Stefan Böhm opened the tap of his newest Riesling tank and let us taste the fermenting wine, just harvested a few weeks ago. To avoid having to drink more of this non-wine I peppered him with questions about the process. Along with a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo, which I could not follow in my current state of mind, he mentioned that he goes to his tanks and tastes the wines every week to check in on them and monitor their progress.


On the following hole, we were treated to a glass of the current bottled Riesling from 2015 and it was delish!


Rheinhessen really is a beautiful area, full of rolling vineyards, endless bike paths and quaint small towns. It is made up of 26,300 hectares of vines - now that is what I call devotion to wine!


Many towns, including Bingen am Rhein, were once hubs of wine activity, with trains running through all-day, picking up wine and transporting it throughout Germany and Europe. Nowadays, the transportation methods have changed, and many of the larger wine-making companies have moved to bigger centres. But the wine families remain...


In a Straußwirtschaft or Weingut (family-run winery restaurant) you can really enjoy and savour (geniessen) time spent with friends, indulging in tasty wines from vineyards right around the corner, and taking pleasure in feasting (schlemmen) on straightforward, homemade German food.

Weingut Annenhof - Büdesheim

One thing that I love about the European mentality (or tradition) of dining, is that, firstly, people eat together at the same table. In most of these restaurants the tables are long and heavy and wooden, and strangers sit where there is room. People say 'hi' to fellow diners when they enter the locale, and they say 'good-bye' (Tchuss!) when they leave. This I’ve experienced across Germany, in France, Austria, Italy, Spain and Romania. I have never, ever experienced either of these things in Canada or the US, unless people already know each other.
 

The third and fourth major dining differences that I’ve noticed are, that the owner is almost always on-site, making him/herself visible and greeting guests at some point during the evening. And, that no matter how popular or booked-solid a place is, in Europe they don’t feel the need to super-size. Restaurants stay quaint and intimate and full – that’s just the way it is. No need to make everything huge and impersonal, where nobody knows your name.

Weingut Neus in Ingelheim

Now, back to the small pub-like, family-run wine restaurants. These have all of the above-mentioned lovely qualities, plus more. I think, because the families plant, grow, care-for, harvest and then create their grapes and wines, making them essentially farmers, they have  a wonderful down-to-earth, uncomplicated air about them. These are not pretentious oenologists, who take half an hour to describe a wine list to you.

Weinzeit in der Vinothek in Bingen

The moment the weather turns warmer, the wine tasting and drinking, the 'schlemming' and 'geniessen' takes place outdoors and long into the evenings. 


And sometimes you stumble upon these Weingüter located in a spectacular location, savouring its place in the world, nestled along the banks of the Rhine River.


Thank you to the many, many families who work hard all year round, to grow, cultivate, harvest and produce that which most of us like to sip. Dankeschön! 

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