Thursday, August 15, 2013

Impressions from the Apple Wine Festival 2013 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Picture: Apple Wine Festival 2013 in Frankfurt am Main.

More than any other city in Germany, Frankfurt’s panorama is defined by its famous high-rise skyline. As the Main metropolis is one of the leading financial centres in Europe, many banks have built some extraordinary skyscrapers in the city centre. This is also where the highest office building on the continent, the almost 260 m high Commerzbank Tower (picture above) stands. The Rothschild Empire has its origins in Frankfurt (See:(German) Winemakers in the World: The German Roots of the Baron Philippe de Rothschild Empire). Frankfurt is also a cultural center - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was borne in Frankfurt. In the picture above, you can see the Gutenberg Monument - Gutenberg was borne in the Frankfurt area and introduced printing to Europe.

I grew up with apple wine in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Although there are 3 beer breweries in Frankfurt and the world renowned Rheingau and Rheinhessen wine regions just 30 minutes away from Frankfurt by S-Bahn or car, I would say that Frankfurt am Main is a city of cider.

Most of the apple wine is consumed at a traditional apple wine tavern (Apfelweinwirtschaft). Frankfurt has a large number of traditional apple wine taverns, where you sit on communal benches, eat hearty local food and drink sour and tart German apple wine. Typically, there is only one apple wine – the house apple wine – available, in some cases made on the premise.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Louie Hoelzinger (Apple Wine Tavern "Desche Otto") and  a Noell Bembel (4-er bembel, for 4 glasses)

In August, Frankfurt celebrates its popular beverage with an Apple Wine Festival right in the center of the city on the Rossmarkt. Rossmarkt means Horse Market - was the site of horse trading. Typical Frankfurt folklore and dialect poetry provide amusement for both the young and the old, while Hessian cult bands get their audiences singing and dancing on the square. Apple wines from different producers are available for tasting at the festival’s booths. I appreciated in particular the special variety apple wines of Kelterei Noell (from Griesheim, a district of Frankfurt) and the "Hausschoppen" (house apple wine) of the apple wine tavern Buchscheer in Sachsenhausen, also a district of Frankfurt.

Pictures: Apple Wine Festival 2013 in Frankfurt am Main - Please note the Gutenberg Monument. Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (1395 – 1468) was a German

Cider in the World and Apple Wine in Frankfurt am Main

Apple wine is a German variant of (hard) cider. Cider is made and consumed all over the world. The French cidre is produced in Normandy and Brittany. It comes as cidre doux, cidre demi-sec and cidre brut, but most French cidre is sweet. Typically, French ciders are sparkling. Higher quality French cider is sold in champagne-style bottles (cidre bouché). German cider has a tart, sour taste. In the UK, cider is available in sweet, medium and dry varieties. In the US during colonial times, apple cider was the main beverage, but after prohibition the word cider came to mean unfiltered apple juice. Alcoholic cider is called hard cider in the US. German apple wine typically has an alcohol content of 4%–9% and a tart, sour taste. Traditionally, it is not bubbly.

Pictures: Apple Wine Festival 2013 in Frankfurt am Main

Cider was already known to the ancient Greeks and Romans. In the 11th century it was introduced into Spain and was used there as a medicine for scurvy. It was introduced into England in 1066 when William the Great brought some from France into England.

Apple wine did not gain popularity in Hessen until the 16th century. By the mid-19th century, 12 large commercial apple-wineries existing in Frankfurt, along with hundreds of small or private apple-wineries. Today, over 60 large and small commercial apple-wineries exist in Hessen, producing 1,040 million gallons (40 million liters) annually.

Picture: Dirk Schneider - Board Member of the "Foerderverein Deutsches Apfelwein Museum e.V." The sole objective of the association is the establishment of an Apple Wine Museum in Frankfurt, preferably in the center of the city.

Apple Wine Taverns

In Frankfurt, much of the apple wine is consumed at the wooden, communal tables in the local apple wine taverns with hearty local food, like Green Sauce (made from 7 herbs and yogurt accompanied by boiled eggs and boiled potatoes), Rippchen mit Kraut und Brot (grilled pork, sauerkraut and bread). It is served in a Geripptes, a glass with a lozenge cut that refracts light. A filled Geripptes is called a Schoppen. If you drink more than a glass or are in a group, you typically order a Bembel (a specific Apfelwein jug). The different sizes of a Bembel are designated after their contents in glasses from 4-er to 10-er Bembel.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Louie Hoelzinger of the Apple Wine Tavern "Desche Otto"

See also:
Mainlust “Desche Otto” – an Ultra Traditional Apple Wine Tavern, with an Innovative Twist, off the Beaten Track in Schwanheim, Frankfurt am Main, Germany 

The traditional apple wine tavern is as distinctive a Frankfurt institution as the Bierkeller is of Munich or the Weinstube of Mainz. Many of the best-known establishments are concentrated in Sachsenhausen, but others are dotted all over the city. They are strongly traditional. They offer hearty local cuisine, usually at moderate prices.

Overall, the various apple wine taverns do not differ that much one from another. However, while most of the apple wine taverns pour an apple wine bought from an apple wine producer, there are a few taverns that still make the apple wine they serve on the premise. Zur Buchscheer in Frankfurt Sachsenhausen is one of the apple wine taverns in Frankfurt, where the apple wine you drink is also produced on the premise. Then there are some apple wine taverns, where you meet more tourists and foreigners. These are very good apple wine taverns, which try to be open-minded to foreigners and tourists, while preserving the traditions of a typical apple wine tavern. A prime example is Adolf Wagner in the Schweizer Strasse in Sachsenhausen. Others are less accommodative to foreigners and more rigid in terms of how the place is being run. A prime example is Zu den 3 Steubern, also in Sachsenhausen, an apple wine tavern as traditional as can be, serving its home-made apple wine.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Robert Theobald of "Zur Buchscheer"

See also:
Apple Wine Tavern Zur Buchscheer in Frankfurt am Main, Germany – The Traditional Way: Apple Wine Made on the Premises

And see:
Schiller's Favorite Apple Wine Taverns in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Making Apple Wine (Cider)

Just as wine making begins in the vineyard, cider making begins in the orchard. Tree ripened fruit, picked at maximum flavor and sweetness is the best starting point for cider. But there is one big difference between cider and wine: Apples must be ground before pressing. The entire apple is ground to a pulp called pommace. The pulp is almost always pressed immediately. The next step is the fermentation. Generally, there is less sugar to ferment in apples than in grapes. Therefore, cider tends to have lower alcohol content than wine.

Pictures: Alexander Noell and his mother Maria Noell of Apfelweinkelterei Noell with Christian G.E. Schiller - Kelterei Noell belongs to the small group of apple wine producers that have started to make specific variety apple wines. I tasted with Maria Noell a range of interesting specific variety apple wines.

In the cellar, cider makers have as many options for managing fermentation as winemakers — chaptalisation, wild yeast, temperature control, adding sterilized juice, malolactic fermentation, stopping fermentation before dryness to achieve a naturally sweetened cider, to name a few issues.

Like wine made from grapes, the flavor of cider can vary from dry to sweet. Like sparkling and still wine, both sparkling and still ciders are made. Sometimes the cider is cloudy with sediment and sometimes completely clear. The color can range from light yellow through orange to brown. The variations in clarity and color are mostly due to filtering between pressing and fermentation. In terms of alcohol content, cider can vary from 2% to 8.5%. Generally, apples grown for consumption are suitable for cider making, although there are also special cider apples.

Pictures: Apple Wine and the Commerzbank Tower, the Highest Highrise Office Building in Europe

For sparkling cider, basically the same methods are available as for sparkling wine. Higher quality ciders can be made the same way as Champagne is produced. A few producers in Quebec, inspired ice wine, have developed cidre de glace - ice cider. Calvados from Normandy is distilled from cider. Cider may also be used to make vinegar.

Pictures: "Die Claudia und de Louie" - Claudia Olinski and Louie Hoelzinger, Partners in Life and Business ("Desche Otto") and Music

A few years ago, a number of artisan apple wine producers started to produce vintage apple wines and special variety apple wines. While the choice of apple wine in an apple wine tavern is as basic as it can get (the house apple wine), the apple wine portfolios of the artisan apple wine producers resemble very much those of the Rheingau or Rheinhessen wine makers a few miles away: There is a variety of different apple wines, with the vintage, apple variety, alcohol level, and other information indicated. One of the leaders of this new generation of artisan apple wine producers is Andreas Schneider.

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