Along the River Main and on the slopes of the Steigerwald hill region, Franconia’s winemakers create some wonderful wines. Tastings are often hosted in stylish wine shops known as Vinotheken. We took a closer look at three exciting places in Volkach, Sommerach and Sand am Main. Text: Anja Keul | Photos: Angelika Jakob
Franconian Wine Region
In total, the Franconian wine region covers around 6,000 hectares of vineyards. They grow a lot of Silvaner, a classic Franconian grape, which produces great wines from the best locations such as the Würzburger Stein or the Sommeracher Katzenkopf.
However, many winemakers have been experimenting with international varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as the changing climate combined with the Francoian terroir opens up new possibilities.
The distinctive shape of the green Bocksbeutel was redesigned in 2016 to appear slimmer and more angular, and usually only holds wines of the higher quality levels. They are as different as the people who make them - some of which we visited on your behalf.
Volkach: The Power Women
The small town of Volkach only has around 10,000 inhabitants but is still the epicentre of wine tourism. With lots of half-timbered houses and pastel-coloured façades, Volkach makes the perfect backdrop for its local wines.
The town boasts 13 wine shops - and Martha Gehring knows them all. As a tour guide for the “Franconian Wine Experience”, she tours the wine region with groups on an almost daily basis, visiting destinations such as the multi-award winning “Weingut Max Müller I” or the “Fahr Away” wine shop, which is highly popular with the local youth.
A wine shop with vintage look
The name “Fahr Away” is a play on words, as the winemaking Braun family come from a district called Fahr. On their 15 hectares of vineyard they have long been growing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz. “These new varieties are both a thrill and a challenge for Thomas,” explains his wife Heike Braun.
"The new grape varieties are a thrill and a challenge"
In 2016 they opened their wine shop on Volkach’s low-traffic main road and furnished it with comfortable leather armchairs and old wooden display cases. They provide tapas-style snacks and Heike Braun tends to serve the wine in 100ml glasses.
Their Vinothek is connected to a small hotel and a shop selling regional products. There you can also buy the plum brandy made by the Gehring family, who as well as growing grapes, naturally, have also specialised in high quality fruit spirits.
Sommerach: The Cellar Master
Barthel, Bäuerlein, Döring, Dusolo, Dilling, Then… along with the “Winzer Sommerach” logo you will often find a long list of names on their Bocksbeutel or Bordeaux bottles. This is because a total of 90 families supply the grapes for the Sommerach wines.
Founded out of necessity in 1901, the Sommerach winemaking cooperative is the oldest in Franconia. Using an ingenious system, cellar master Stefan Gerhard coordinates the harvest in the local vineyards, most of which are lovingly tended as a sideline business, in order to get exactly the wines he hopes for.
Cooperative with open-air bar
He became the first Cellar Master of the cooperative at the age of just 34. Like the winegrowers, Gerhard sets great store by regional grape varieties: “We don’t leap on the back of every trend but instead follow our own style.”
Year after year, they produce around 50 wines of all quality levels. After all, with the Sommeracher Katzenkopf they have one of Franconia’s best winegrowing sites on their doorstep.
The wines are beautifully presented in the large, bright wine shop, which is connected to the Sommerach “wine kingdom” with an open-air bar, snug, leafy arbours and a sunny inner courtyard. One floor below, in two vaulted cellars dating back to the turn of the last century, the best wines of the Sommeracher Winzer mature in wooden casks.
Sand am Main: The Sekt Rebel
Mathias Rippstein has a vision: he wants to create the perfect Sekt glass. It needs to be immensely delicate and bulbous to allow the bouquet and the fine perlage to develop. A Hungarian manufacturing company, which had previously supplied him with wine glasses, was able to meet his demands and those of his sparkling wine or Sekt, which is made from Silvaner grapes and matured in a cool gallery using traditional bottle fermentation. “Our Franconian Sekt has genuine Champagne quality,” says Rippstein, “but it still has an image problem”.
Sommelier turned winemaker
In his “first life”, Mathias was a multi-award winning sommelier, including in Munich’s prestigious “Tantris” restaurant and on cruise ships. He returned to Sand am Main in 1996
and has been shaking up the “Weingut A. & E. Rippstein” ever since. “I’ve moved from art critic to painter,” says the wine enthusiast, who intends to convert his eight hectares of vineyard in the Steigerwald and Haßberg hill regions completely to organic viticulture.
He lives with his wife and two daughters on the first floor of a minimalist cuboid building on the edge of the town. The stylish ground floor is used for group tastings - when time allows, as Mathias is usually out and about in the vineyards.