The tradition of the Heckenwirtschaften in Franconia dates back to the Middle Ages. Winemaking families still offer tastings in their homes. Mathias Rippstein adds a new twist to that tradition. We paid him a visit
Wine maker Mathias Rippstein
Franconia’s Heckenwirtschaften are cosy places: winemakers open their doors and invite guests into their homes. At these convivial gatherings they enjoy regional dishes, lively conversation and a fine glass or two of wine made by the host.
A reinterpretation of the Heckenwirtschaft
The traditional “Heckenwirtschaft”, or hedgerow tavern, has been in existence for several centuries. It began life as a kind of domestic inn. After the harvest, the winemakers used to open their doors in order to sell the fresh wine directly. With it they served simple home cooking – not so Mathias Rippstein, who operates a winery in the Franconian town of Sand am Main. He is reinterpreting the Franconian custom by offering modern dishes and giving the tradition a modern feel – yet without losing sight of its origins.
Preserving traditions yet bringing them up to date was the approach taken by Mathias Rippstein’s parents in days gone by. “An original Heckenwirtschaft has a maximum of 40 seats. But what do you do if 39 of them are occupied and a couple arrives at the door? It doesn’t make sense to invite one in and ask the other one to wait outside,” he explains. The family therefore acquired a restaurant licence and increased the seating to 70.
"From the art critic, the sommelier, to the painter who creates the wine"
In this way they turned their Heckenwirtschaft into a “Heckenstube”. And that’s not all: Mathias Rippstein has also changed the menu. With a glass of wine he serves not only typical regional dishes such as Franconian Flammkuchen (tarte flambée), but also more unusual foods, such as carpaccio of white Presssack (brawn) in a balsamic and pumpkin seed oil dressing or marinated wild boar ham with raspberry and walnut oil. This development reveals his culinary past.
Although his family have been growing vines here since the 1920s, Mathias Rippstein trained in the hotel trade and spent many years working in international cuisine. This was where he discovered his passion for fine wine. After the death of his father and brother in 1997, the trained sommelier returned home. He took on the family business, expanded the winery and raised the quality. “I went from being an art critic, or sommelier, to being the painter, who makes the wine”, he says with enthusiasm.
A a toast to conviviality in franconia
To this day the Heckenwirtschaften in Franconia serve as a social meeting place and have a major social and cultural significance. Mathias Rippstein reveals the secret behind the ongoing success of this tradition: “The Heckenwirtschaft doesn’t recognise status, everything happens on equal terms. Everyone is on a par. It’s all about being together.” Over a glass of wine and regional home cooking, people enjoy the Bavarian attitude to life – and in so doing continue a centuries-old custom.
More about the Rippstein Winery at weingut-rippstein.de (in German only)
... from Mathias
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