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.

Niederkirchen: More than 1300 years of wine tradition

Niederkirchen Wine Festival on a Saturday evening
Niederkirchen Wine Festival on a Saturday evening

The Niederkirchen Wine Festival looks back on a 40 year tradition. Located in the east from the glorious Wine Route, wine has always played an important role. The wine festival is a great opportunity for locals to illustrate their dedication to wine. According to them, conviviality, love of live and liveliness are the village’s virtues. Aren’t those the right words for a good toast?

The first documented mention of the village of Niederkirchen dates back to 699 AD. All the villages Niederkirchen, Forst, Meckenheim and Ruppertsberg belong to the municipality of Deidesheim. Niederkirchen and Deidesheim share a particular common history. At the beginning both villages belonged together. However, in the 13th century there was a separation. As a result the village was named Lower Deidesheim before it changed into today’s name Niederkirchen. Finally, in the 19th century a reunification took place when Niederkirchen joined the municipality of Deidesheim.

Saumagen Burger with Sauerkraut
Saumagen Burger with Sauerkraut

Besides their common history, most of the villages’ vineyards are part of the same wine territory. This territory is called Deidesheimer Hofstück [in English: Deidesheim Court Lot]. Since the early Middle Ages local farmers cultivate vines there. Illustrious name of vineyards sites, such as Monastery Garden, Chateau Hill, Forster Monster or Ruppertsberg Rider Path testify the village’s long wine tradition.

Main entrance of the Weinmacher wine cooperative
Main entrance of the Weinmacher wine cooperative

The center of wine cultivation is the village’s wine cooperative, named Die Weinmacher [in English: The wine makers]. This 110 year-old cooperative offers wines from top sites. In 2011, it was nominated by the German wine magazine “Weinwirtschaft” as the best wine cooperative in the Palatinate. Two things stand out when visiting the cooperative: First, the wine tasting salon, and, second, the cooperative’s success in marketing their brands. The newly renovated wine salon is centered by a large, rectangle, wooden bar that invites wine lovers for a wine tasting. The menu’s highlight is a dry 2013 Riesling from the site Rupperstberg Rider Path. A light sweetness of an old vine provokes a real explosion in the taster’s mouth. In 2013, the wine magazine Mundus Vini ennobled this wine with a gold medal, confirming the wine cooperative’s role among the top wineries. Marketing is also mastered at this cooperative. The newly created brand line “Unerhoert” [in English: Outrageous] celebrate a great success in Germany, and the internationally promoted brand “Blue Fish” has been listed among the top imported wine brands in the USA.

Black, red, gold Wine Festival

Symbolic March to the Hambach Chateau by Locals
Symbolic March to the Hambach Chateau by Locals

Liberty in the wine glass. For its fourth time the Black, Red, Gold Wine Festival takes places in the village of Hambach, nearby to the town of Neustadt. A group of local wineries revived an old wine festival by uniting old traditions with national history.

The name Black, Red, Gold refers to the German national colors. In 1832, more than 30,000 citizens from the Palatinate and neighboring regions met to peacefully demonstrate for democratic rights. The march from the village of Hambach to the Hambach Chateau became a symbol for democratic movements. One of the flag, carried by members of a free paramilitary regiment, was later used as pattern for the national German flag.

The festival’s heart is along the street which directly leads to the Hambach Chateau. When walking uphill each visitor passes the four wineries: Müller, Naegle, Schäffer and Kaiserstuhl. All those wineries are family-run since more than 100 years. The oldest winemaker family is Neagle-Bonnet who cultivates wine since 1796. It is followed by the Müller family and the Schäffer family who are in the business since 1828 and 1843. The winery Kaiserstuhl, run by the Nickel family, is an exception as its name does not refer to the family but to a specific wine site, where the winery has many vineyards.

Winery Naegele
Winery Naegele

All wineries offer wines cultivated in top locations – some of them at 200 meters (656 ft) above the sea level. Wine sites in Hambach are: Kaiserstuhl, Kirchberg [in English: Church’s Hill], Römerbrunnen [Roman Well], Feuer [Fire] and Schlossberg [Chateau Hill]. The village of Hambach is also well-known for its many sweet chestnut trees, growing at the Chateau Hill. Locals from Hambach are very proud of its home town, but the good thing is, that they like to share this pride by organizing lovely wine festivals.

Castle and Wine Festival in Wachenheim

There is a long tradition for the Wine festival in the town of Wachenheim usually taking place in mid-June. During two weekends the village attracts more than ten thousands of locals and visitors from the Palatinate. Wineries open their gates or serve their wines with local dishes at the village’s main square. A top destination is the Wachtenburg castle. It towers over the village and rewards the steep hike with an astonishing view over the Rhine Valley.

Wachtenburg Castle nearby to the town of Wachenheim
Wachtenburg Castle nearby to the town of Wachenheim

The small town of Wachenheim is located between the town of Deidesheim and the town of Bad Dürkheim at the edge of the Palatinate Forest. The castle, which is a ruin today, was built in the 12th century, but already destroyed in the 15th century. After being owned by the Count of Sickingen, it was sold to the famous wine-family Bürklin who finally donated the castle to the town of Wachenheim in 1984.

Wine plays a major role in this small town. It is part of its historic identity as well as its today’s economy. Wine tales date back to the Middle Ages. One of them is about a wine-drinking competition. When the region’s count asked the local farmers to bring him the 10th part of their harvest, they suggested a wine-drinking competition. As they won the competition, they were allowed to keep the 10th part of their harvest.

White sparkling wine from the Riesling vine
White sparkling wine from the Riesling vine

There are three major wineries in Wachenheim: The Sparkling Wine Castle [in German: Schloss Wachenheim], the Wachtenburg Wine Cooperative and the winery Dr. Bürklin-Wolf. The Sparkling Wine Castle is one of the top three producers of sparkling wine in Germany. It produces about 220 million bottles per year which represent 10 percent of the world-wide sparkling wine production. Its brands, such as Faber or Schloss Wachenheim, are available in most supermarkets in Germany and many stores abroad.

The Wachtenburg Wine Cooperative consists of 58 wine-growers. According to the German wine magazine “Weinwirtschaft”, this cooperative is among the top five in the Palatinate. The cooperative convinced the jury with a wide range of wines including red wines, such as Pinot Noir and Merlot, or blended red wines.

Statue at the entrance of the winery Dr. Bürklin-Wolf
Statue at the entrance of the winery Dr. Bürklin-Wolf

The winery Dr. Bürklin-Wolf is a top address for premium white wines from prestigious vineyards located in Wachenheim and the surrounding villages Forst, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg. With about 85 hectares of vineyards, it is the biggest winery in the Palatinate. The winery’s rise began when the Congressman Albert Bürklin married Louise Wolf from Wachenheim in 1875. From that moment on the estate has become not only a center for high-quality wine cultivation but also for cultural events.