Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Best Apple Wine/ Hard Cider: Frankfurt-Tipp 2015, Germany

Picture: Christian Schiller and Robert Theobald of Zur Buchscheer

Frankfurt am Main is definitely the apple wine capital of Germany and some say of the whole world. Apple wine is a German variant of hard cider, which is made all over the world, in some regions sparkling, in others sweet. In Frankfurt, you are typically served a tart, dry apple wine with around 6 percent alcohol, in one of the many apple wine taverns.

Best of Apfelwein 2015

Frankfurt-Tipp, a popular online portal for the greater Frankfurt am Main area, organized an Apfelwein contest: Readers were invited to name their favorite Apfelwein producer. Here are the winners.

#1 Obsthof Schneider, Frankfurt/Nieder-Erlenbach
#2 Zur Buchscheer, Frankfurt-Sachsenhausen
#3 Kelterei Possmann, Frankfurt-Rödelheim

Interestingly, the 3 top producers all represent different Apfelwein market segments. Obsthof Schneider is a small, artisanal producers of ultra-premium Apfelwein. Zur Buchscheer is one of the few hard cider taverns in Frankfurt that still make the cider they serve on the premises. Finally, Possmann is a large mass producers of Apfelwein, with a long history.

Making Apple Wine (Hard Cider)

Just as wine making begins in the vineyard, hard ider making begins in the orchard. Tree ripened fruit, picked at maximum flavor and sweetness is the best starting point for hard cider. But there is one big difference between hard 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.

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

Like wine made from grapes, the flavor of hard cider can vary from dry to sweet. Like sparkling and still wine, both sparkling and still hard ciders are made. Sometimes the hard 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, hard cider can vary from 2% to 8.5%. Generally, apples grown for consumption are suitable for hard cider making, although there are also special hard cider apples.

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

Hard Cider in the World

Apple wine is a German variant of hard cider, which is made 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 hard cider has a tart, sour taste. In the UK, hard cider is available in sweet, medium and dry varieties. In the US during colonial times, apple hard cider was the main beverage, but after prohibition the word hard 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.

Hard 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.

The Premium Apple Wines of Andreas Schneider

A few years ago, a number of apple wine producers ventured into the art of apple wine making by starting 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.

Picture: Christian Schiller and Andreas Schneider

It all started in 1965, when his parents Albert and Waltraud Schneider founded the Obsthof am Steinberg in Nieder-Erlenbach at the outskirts of Frankfurt am Main. Andreas took over from his parents in 1993 and began to convert to organic farming. Since 1996, he has been certified by ABCERT AG, Esslingen. In 1999, he opened his apple wine tavern and garden. On Andreas’ 13 hectares of land, not only apples are planted, but 14 different fruits, mainly of course apples.

Pictures: Christian Schiller at Obsthof Schneider with Andreas Schneider

Andreas Schneider currently sells several non-vintage, uncomplicated apple wines (Apfelweine ab Fass) directly from the barrel for Euro 2 per liter. He also offers a dozen or so still vintage apple wines (Jahrgangsapfelweine) in the Euro 4 to 12 per 0.75 liter range. In terms of remaining sweetness, they come as trocken, fast trocken and halbtrocken. Most of them are in the 7% to 8% alcohol range. The top wines are 2 sparkling apple wines (Apfelschaumweine), both made in the traditional champagne method and both brut.

See also:
The Premium Apple Wines of Andreas Schneider - Obsthof am Steinberg - in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Apple Wine Tavern Zur Buchscheer

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: At Zur Buchscheer, with Otto Schiller

The apple wine tavern (Apfelweinwirtschaft) 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 Sachsenhausen belongs to the small group of apple wine taverns that make their own apple wine and pour it in their apple wine tavern. 100 years back, this was the rule. Today, it has unfortunately become the exception in Frankfurt am Main.

Zur Buchscheer in Sachsenhausen was founded in 1876 by Adam Theobald. Now in the fifth generation, it is owned and managed by Robert Theobald and Christian Theobald. The name Zur Buchscheer goes back to the 16./17. Century and signifies an area in the forest where the peasants would take their pigs and the sheppards their sheep so that the animals could find nutritious food like nuts.

Then as today, the apple wine served at Zur Buchscheer is made on the premises. When you go to the Zur Buchscheer in the September/October period, you can observe it yourself. A couple of years ago, Robert Theobald took a group of apple wine lovers, which included me, through the process of making apple wine at Zur Buchscheer: “For our hard cider, we use carefully selected orchards of the Wetterau, the Taunus, the Odenwald, the Spessart as well as from the surrounding area. For the fermentation, we do not need cultured yeasts, as the yeast that sits on the apples is sufficient to get the fermentation going. In addition, the hard cider is clarified only by the tannins and acids of the apple orchard. We do not need to filter our apple wine, which would take aromas away.”

The food served is 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). Robert Theobald: “In our kitchen, the meals are always freshly prepared. So, our mashed potatoes as well as baked potatoes made from fresh potatoes and seasoned with "good" butter."

Pictures: Making Apple Wine at Zur Buchscheer

Here are a few items from the Zur Buchscheer menu.

Rippchen Rib – boiled or grilled - with „Sauerkraut“ and bread € 7,50
Schlachtplatte Butcher’s Platter – boiled – with “Sauerkraut” and bread € 7,50
„Gref – Völsing’s“ Rindswurst Beef sausage – boiled with „Sauerkraut“ and bread € 4,20
Gegrilltes Schäufelchen Grilled cut of shoulder of pork with “Sauerkraut” and bread; by weight: between € 9,00 and € 16,20
Frankfurter Grüne Soße The famous Frankfurt cream-sauce speciality with seven green herbs! “Grüne Soße” served with 4 boiled egg halves and boiled potatoes € 8,00

Picture: Frankfurter Grüne Soße

Homemade sausages from the “Vogelsberg” (an area north – east from Frankfurt) - all served with bread an butter
Portion of “Preßkopf” (a terrine of pork) € 4,50
Portion of “Leberwurst” (a liver sausage) € 4,00
Portion of “Blutwurst” (a black pudding sausage) € 4,00
Handkäse mit Musik - a must for everyone visiting Frankfurt – very tasty
A Frankfurt cheese speciality with “Musik” (oil, vinegar and onions) € 2,60

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

Kelterei Possmann

Kelterei Possmann was founded in 1881 by Philipp Possmann and, now in its fourth generation, has been family owned and operated ever since.

Picture: Apple Wine Possmann and Frau Rauscher at Apfelwein Weltweit 2014 in Frankfurt

Philipp Possmann was known throughout nineteenth century Frankfurt Main for his homemade apple wine—a tart, pale yellow drink he made in the basement of his restaurant and served to eager customers. Due to popular demand, Mr. Possmann embarked on a more wide-scale production and distribution of his wine. Since then, what began as a small one-man-business has survived through the setbacks of two World Wars to develop into Germany’s market leader for apple wine. Today, Possmann employs over 100 people and sells nearly 20 million liters through Germany and the world.

In terms of quantity, the most important apple wine producer in Frankfurt is Possmann. Heil from the Taunus region has gained considerable market shares in recent years. In addition, Rapps and Hoehl are two large apple wine producers in Hessen; their apple wine is very popular in Frankfurt.

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  1. I lived in Frankfurt for 3 years and this post makes me miss home.
    However, I have to ask you to please not encourage people to eat handkase mit musik! Do you want them to hate you???

  2. I love Hankäs mit Musik and eat it regularly when I am in the Frankfurt area.