What is Federweisser? All you Need to Know About this VERY Young Wine
When people think about traveling to Germany in the Fall, they often think Oktoberfest. BUT, the country has so much more to offer besides this well-known attractions! For example, Federweisser. What is Federweisser? It’s an alcoholic drink only available during the months of September and October. This is a real autumnal tradition for many Germans, particularly in the wine-growing regions of the country, this beverage really is enough to base a short trip around.
photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons by Dot Nielsen
What is Federweisser?
Federweisser, which literally means ‘feather white’, is basically alcoholic grape juice, or very young wine. Having crushed the grapes (red or white), the winemaker then adds yeast to the grape juice. The sugar in the grape juice quickly starts to ferment in the presence of the yeast, creating a bubbly, alcoholic liquid. As soon as the Federweisser has an alcoholic content of four percent, winemakers can sell it – and sell it they do. From supermarkets to festivals, this refreshing drink is widely available across the country and is very popular.
For the tourist who is anxious to enjoy the full Federweisser experience, it is probably best to head to a wine-growing region such as the Rheingau or the Moselle Valley. Many towns and cities in these areas have an annual Federweisserfest – a festival lasting a weekend, few days or even a week that is based around this autumnal drink. Local winemakers sell their Federweisser (both the red and white varieties, and often their other wines, too) from stands that stretch along a street or fill a town square. Customers can wander from stand to stand sampling the different drinks on offer.
Fair warning…..Anyone wanting to try Federweisser from numerous different winemakers should probably stick to a 0.1-litre glass, as opposed to the more generous 0.2 that is usually also available – Federweisser is so sweet, refreshing and easy to drink that you can easily lose count of how many glasses you’ve had. Of course… it tastes best in a Green Stemmed Wine Glass.
Eat Zwiebelkuchen While Drinking your Federweisser
Federweisser and Zwiebelkuchen photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons by Hardo Mueller
Thankfully, however, the Germans have thought ahead and worked out the optimal culinary accompaniment to Federweisser – Zwiebelkuchen, or onion cake. This savory snack is essentially a very oniony quiche, or pie. Sometimes with bacon, or spices such as cumin or caraway seed added. (I actually prefer Flammkuchen myself…. but that’s another story) The combination of a glass of sweet alcohol and a slice of savory onion cake is a fantastic and, as previously mentioned, also very good idea (to suck up that sweet alcohol). For the full experience, it really is worth trying both together. (Although, overindulging in both can still lead to a massive headache…and stomach ache…. pace yourself).
Try this delicious Recipe for Zwiebelkuchen from AllTastesGerman.com
The atmosphere at a festival like this is really quite special. Musical entertainment is usually provided, so you can enjoy your Federweisser and onion cake whilst listening to a live band or musician – assuming you can hear the music over the hubbub of voices and conversations. Often very busy during evenings and at weekends, these festivals attract both locals and tourists alike, all keen to relax and enjoy some good wine. It really is a fascinating snapshot of the German wine culture and indeed German culture in general.
A fun way to get the full Federweisser experience is to book a Rhine Cruise during the season... whether a day trip, or a few days, the ships will stop at different towns and Federweisser festivals along the way. You can also drink on the ship while nibbling on some Zwiebelkuchen as the vineyards flow by.
Check this site for Federweisser cruises—http://www.federweissenfest.de/
Or take an early Fall Tour with included Wine Tasting from one of these Companies
Rhine Valley Half Day Trip from Frankfurt: Rhine River Cruise, Wine Tasting, and Dinner
Bringing Federweisser Home
Having spent a few hours perusing the various stands, it’s fair to assume that visitors might want to take a bottle or two home with them… maybe to share the experience with friends or family. Sadly, this is not as straightforward as it might seem. Since Federweisser is still fermenting, it is also still producing gas. That is what gives it its delicious, bubbly taste. It also means, though, that winemakers cannot fully seal the bottle. Some loosely place a cap on the top, others punch a hole into a screw top – either way, the bottle is not completely sealed and must, therefore, be transported carefully and stored upright. Unfortunately for the tourist with a plane to catch, this rules out taking a bottle home to share with wine-loving family or friends. It is no longer possible to carry a bottle of wine onto a plane, it must go in checked luggage. And even in a special wine sleeve, there is sure to be spillage… or quite possibly it will burst under pressure.
Yet on the flip side, having to enjoy the drink in Germany somehow makes the whole experience extra special – and it’s a great reason to do it all again another year!
Video of Federweisser production in Germany
Watch how Weingut Mohr makes Federweisser…. Apparently it’s quite good for you, loaded with vitamin B6.
Making Federweisser at Home
Making Federweisser at home seems like an interesting experiment, but I don’t know that you will have the same experience as you would if you were sitting at a Festival along the Rhine… but if you like making a mess in the kitchen, give it a try.
You just need White Grape Juice, Sugar and Wine Yeast.
DISCLAIMER! Do not attempt this is you are under 21. And no, I haven’t tried it… I prefer to drink my Federweisser in Germany….
Step by Step Instructions –> How to Make Federweisser at Home
This video shows how it’s done with cranberry juice…
Final Federweisser Thoughts
For anyone interested in seeing a different side of Germany than the usual beer halls, and to get a (delicious!) taste of the German wine culture, consider a trip to a Federweisser festival next September or October. It really is a quite unique experience.
For more online topics about wines, please visit Sokolin Wines.