Eselshaut Wine Festival inside the oldest winery of the Palatinate

Wine donkey from the village Mußbach
Wine donkey from the village Mußbach

The Eselshautfest is one of the most popular wine festivals in the Palatinate. Its name refers to a historic wine site located in the village of Mußbach nearby to the town of Neustadt. The site belongs to the wine territory of the Gimmeldinger Wine Spider. The name Eselshaut means “donkey skin”. Unfortunately, there are no reports that allow conclusions about the name’s origin. Regardless of this mystery, the wine donkey has become an essential element of the opening ceremony. During the opening procession the local wine princess is riding on a donkey which also carries a barrel of wine. The serving of this wine marks the opening of the nine-day wine festival.

Weinbiet Wine Cooperative
Weinbiet Wine Cooperative

The festival is hosted by several wineries. Those are the wine cooperative Weinbiet and the wineries Steigelmann, Lingenfelder, Völcker, Schäfer and Hellmer. The most important among them is the wine cooperative Weinbiet. This wine cooperative consists of 80 winemakers from the villages of Mußbach, Gimmeldingen and Haardt. Together all 80 winemakers represent 320 hectares of high quality vineyards. Since 2011, the cooperative is listed among the top 100 wineries in Germany. This week, the cooperative was recognized for its 2014 Riesling Spätlese from the wine site Mußbacher Eselshaut at the competition “Best of Riesling”, organized by the German Ministry of Agriculture.

200-year-old wine pressing machine
200 year old wine pressing machine

The wine festival is strongly linked to the village’s history. There are written records that in 7th century a winery and a farm were operated by Benedictine monks in today’s center of the village. In the 13th century Hospitaller monks took over the estate. With more than 500 hectares of land and under the protection of the Counts of Palatinate the estate reached its economical peak in the 16th century. It is also during this time when the tradition of an annual summer festival started. The Counts invited his ministerial officials to an opulent dinner with following amusement. During this period the estate became popular under the name Herrenhof [in English: Master’s court] which refers to the priests as masters. Today, the estate is owned by the German state and is used for various cultural events and as a museum. The estate’s vineyards continue to produce great wines and are sold under the name Staatsweingut and Johannitergut [in English: State Winery and Hospitaller Estate]. Each wine festival ends with a church service commemorating the monk’s role in the village’s history.

Storck Tower inside of Herrenhof
Storck Tower inside of Herrenhof

The different architectural styles illustrates the estate’s history. Predominate styles are baroque and renaissance. For instance, the main house is built with typical baroque elements. Whereas the stork tower and entrance gate represent the renaissance area. Many of these buildings were rebuilt for several times, until they appear with today’s design. Surrounded by high walls the spacious estate creates a unique atmosphere and, therefore, makes it the ideal spot for a wine festival.