An apple a day is a great philosophy to abide by in Germany
By Derek Gagnon
Grab your bembel, and your geripptes and help yourself to a nice helping of stöffche at the Apple Wine Festival.
If this all sounds German to you, that’s because we’re talking about the Apple Wine Festival in Frankfurt, Germany. The 2016 incarnation of the event runs from Aug. 12 to 21, taking place in the Hauptwache plaza.
Frankfurt is said to be the capital of apple wine, an alcoholic beverage with a tart, sour taste. German apple wine typically has an alcohol content of between four and nine per cent.
Germany may be a country known for its beer, but in the region of Hesse, it’s apple wine that gets people buzzing each summer.
Every year in August, locals and visitors alike take part in Frankfurt’s Apple Wine Festival. The festival celebrates Frankfurt’s centuries’ old tradition of making some of the finest apple wine/cider that the world knows, and the beverage itself dates back to the time of Charlemagne 1,200 years ago. The rise of apple wine in the Frankfurt area came from a change in climate during the 16th century. As a result of this change, grapes would no longer ripen, forcing people to seek an alternative.
Apple wine was that alternative, with production soon rivalling that of beer in the region.
Frankfurt is located in the state of Hesse, where two thirds of Germany’s apples are produced. Therefore, it was only logical that apple wine would flourish. There are several varieties served, with Pur (pure), Sauergespritzt (mixed with mineral water), and Süßgespritzt (mixed with lemonade) options available, though many purists will scoff at you if you go for the Süßgespritzt. Be warned!
What goes with apple wine?
One of the main dishes served with or in complement of apple wine is handkäse mit musik. It’s a sour milk cheese marinated with vinegar and onion. Frankfurt ‘green sauce’ is also a traditional accompaniment, comprised of seven local herbs (parsley, chives, chervil, borage, sorrel, garden cress, and salad burnet). The dish is served cold, accompanied by rye bread, peeled boiled potatoes, grilled pork, sauerkraut or schnitzel.
How apple wine is made
Obviously, the first step to making apple wine is going to be getting apples from an orchard. If you don’t happen to have an orchard, apples such as Granny Smith and Bramley are amongst the most commonly used varieties for making apple wine.The apples are ground into a pulp, called pommace, before being pressed. The grinding is what distinguishes wine from cider. Next comes the fermentation process. Due to the lower sugar content in apples, as compared to grapes, apple wine has a lower alcoholic content than grape wine.
At this point, apple wine makers add their own unique touches that cause the variations in colour, taste and opacity.
Currently, there are more than 60 commercial apple wineries in Hessen, which produce 40 million litres every year.
Taverns to visit
If you aren’t in Frankfurt during the Apple Wine Festival, there are still many opportunities to taste the drink at the many apple wine taverns located in the city. Sachsen-hausen is the district most associated with apple wine, with a number of taverns in the area. While some taverns sell from mass production distributors, locations like ZurBuchs cheer, Apfelwein Solzer and Zu den 3 Steubern are just a few of the places in Frankfurt that make their own apple wine in-house.
A festival would not be complete if it was just food and drink (though it sounds like it would be a good time in Frankfurt). Festival goers can expect to experience Frankfurt folklore and dialect poetry, entertaining folks of all ages.
Hessian cult bands perform, which tend to get the crowds moving to the music. Lounge music hangs in the air and provides a soothing accompaniment as visitors roam from booth to booth.
Terms you will need to know
Stöffche – Local Frankfurt term for apple wine. Apple wine is also known as Apfelwein, Ebbelwoi, Äppler, Apfelmost, Viez, and saurer Most.
Bembel – A potbellied stoneware/ceramic jug used for serving apple wine. The different sizes of a bembel are designated after their contents in glasses from 4-er to 10-er bembel.
Geripptes – A 0.25 litre ribbed glass used for serving apple wine.
Schoppen – A geripptes filled with apple wine.