Franconia’s winemakers produce outstanding wines. They are best tasted in rustic Heckenwirtschaften or stylish wine shops. Let us introduce you to three winemakers and their architectural delights in Retzbach, Frickenhausen and Nordheim am Main. Text: Anja Keul | Photos: Angelika Jakob
Deep down in the valley, the River Main twists and turns so much it gives the impression of having drunk too much young wine. Neatly arranged in serried ranks, vineyards line up along its banks on gentle slopes and steep hummocks such as the Escherndorfer Lump. Some of the best views are to be had from the panoramic terrace of the Vogelsburg above the Volkacher Mainschleife, as you tuck into fine Franconian cuisine.
Given that this is hardly light fare, you may want to follow your meal with a walk through the vineyards to the nearby “terroir f” viewing platform. This designation is used across the entire region to signify Franconia’s “magical wine locations”.
The culinary open-air season in the Franconian wine region lasts from the asparagus harvest in spring to the grape harvest in autumn, with plenty of summer wine festivals in between.
The Heckenwirtschaften in every winemaking village buzz with life from April to October: on flower-bedecked terraces and in vine-shaded courtyards, these “hedgerow taverns” serve light snacks and good Franconian wine - predominantly dry white wines, which Franconia is famous for, but also red wines, which have been growing in popularity: Blauer Spätburgunder, Domina, Schwarzriesling and Blauer Portugieser.
Some estates have modern wine shops, or Vinotheks, where visitors can experience the variety of Franconia’s wines. And although most wine in Franconian restaurants is sold in 250ml glasses, many places will also serve 100ml measures so you can try several different wines.
Retzbach: The Newcomer
“What, you don’t know the Rotling?” Christine Pröstler can hardly believe it, as this light, quaffable summer wine is as much a part of any festival in the Franconian wine region as grilled Bratwurst sausages.
“Rotling is made from white and red grapes"
The young winemaker explains: “Rotling is made from white and red grapes, which must be harvested and pressed on the same day.” How much white, how much red? “Winemaker’s secret,” laughs the mother of three young sons, revealing only that she uses the Franconian grape varieties Müller-Thurgau and Domina.
Her favourite vine is the Weißburgunder, which thrives best on the sparse, mineral shell limestone soil on Retzbach’s Benediktusberg, but she also enjoys working with international varieties.
From sideline to vineyard
Christine Pröstler has been making her own wine since 2012, and soon afterwards was awarded the title “Young Winemaker of the Year 2013/2014”. It was her father Johannes who laid the foundations of the “Weingut Christine Pröstler”, which now covers eight acres of vineyard.
He is also in charge of looking after the vines. For decades he cultivated the vineyards as a sideline enterprise. His daughter used to earn her pocket money there before training as a winemaker and starting to make her own wines at the age of 28.
Now she makes wines of all different quality levels. Her creations can be tasted in the light and airy Vinothek - and you may wish to pick up a couple of bottles of juicy Rotling too.
Frickenhausen: The Style Team
The medieval wine village of Frickenhausen lies directly on the River Main, and despite having no more than 1,000 inhabitants it is quite an impressive sight: beautifully restored half-timbered houses, five imposing towers and the former Residence of the prince-bishops.
“Frickenhausen used to be the garden suburb of Würzburg,” says Michaela Meintzinger, “and it remains a popular destination to this day”. The former Residence has been owned by the Meintzinger family since 1790. In the early 1980s they made the move from a mixed agricultural operation to making wine and running a hotel.
In the former stables and four other buildings, they established a cosy boutique hotel with 32 rooms and an airy breakfast room. On the cobbled square in front of reception, the trailers still rumble past at grape harvest time, delivering the fruit from some 38 hectares of vineyard to the wine press hall.
The centrepiece of the “Winery and Hotel Meintzinger” is the “Weinzimmer” or Wine Room, featuring casually elegant designer furniture. At wine tastings, Michaela simply sets out the bottles on the massive wooden table for guests to help themselves.
In the dining room next door they serve equally uncomplicated snacks and appetisers. Just around the corner is the cellar where Jochen Meintzinger creates his wines, ranging from a basic Gutswein to more premium products - in the only private vaulted cellar in all Franconia.
Nordheim am Main: The Organic Pioneer
“Aromas of kiwi, lychee, paprika. Ha! Or asparagus wine. What’s all that about?” Manfred Rothe soon gets worked up when it comes to trendy flavours and pretentious marketing.
“Our wine has to taste good all the year round. Honest, solid, expressive!” Yet anyone who thinks they are dealing with an old-fashioned winemaker is sorely mistaken. For 35 years, Rothe has been using organic farming methods on his ten hectares of vineyards in prime locations on the Sommeracher Katzenkopf and the Nordheimer Vögelein and is also involved in growing other orchard fruits.
Orange wine from amphora
His passion includes the ancient tradition of making wine in giant amphora, as has been done in Georgia for more than 7,000 years. “In 2013 I attended a conference and learned about Qvevri wine. I was blown away!” says an enthusiastic Rothe.
Since then he has two amphora in his cellar, each holding 1,200 litres of wine. They have to be walled in to prevent them from collapsing. The so-called Qvevri are filled with Silvaner grapes, complete with skins and pips, sealed with clay, and the contents left to ferment for around nine months.
This produces an unfiltered “orange wine”. He creates another orange-coloured natural wine in a wooden cask. You can try his exciting wines accompanied by small delicacies in the wine shop attached to the “Weingut Rothe”, complete with pretty terrace, situated in the middle of the wine village of Nordheim.