… are Heckenwirtschaften? And why are some called Häckerwirtschaften? Or just Häcker? And what is the best food to eat with young wine? These questions can only be answered by a wine expert and wine writer from Franconia. Here are his insider tips.
Regional wines always taste best with the local cuisine. And Franconia is no exception. The best way to prove that is by taking a short tour. For example, from Sand am Main to Klingenberg. Here you can visit a number of Heckenwirtschaften, whose culinary offerings harmonise perfectly with the wines they produce.
Sand am Main: „Zum klanna Basso“
A good place to start is with Sven Ullrich in Sand am Main. He has less than a hectare of vines, making it one of the smallest wineries, but a visit to his Heckenwirtschaft, named “Zum Klanna Basso” after his father’s nickname, is a real pleasure.
There he serves home-made speciality sausages such as red and white Presssack (brawn) and warm baguettes in three different styles, as well as a hugely popular “Winzerburger” that comes with rocket, a special herb marinade and potato wedges.
This is only available here, as Sven Ullrich is keen to establish his own culinary style - an approach common to all the Heckenwirtschaften profiled here. Naturally, you will find platters of cold meats and cheeses here and elsewhere, but every Heckenwirtschaft with a sense of pride in its cuisine will either bake its own bread, produce its own cheeses and cold meats, or source its products as far as possible from small village butchers or local dairies and bakeries. As a result, the food is every bit as individual as the wines, which in Ullrich’s case include an Orange Wine made from Müller-Thurgau grapes.
“Our wine paradise should not just be a winery“
Untereisenheim: Weingut Hirn
The next stop on this gourmet tour can be recognised by the building, based on designs by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It houses a Vinothek (wine shop) and a Heckenwirtschaft.
“Our wine paradise should not just be a winery; instead we also offer open-air theatre performances, musical wine tastings, art exhibitions and readings”, explains Jonas Hirn.
Hungry customers will also find what they desire, perhaps in the form of the “Kleinen Schlemmerei”, a dish of goat’s cheese au gratin with thyme and honey, served with ciabatta. The “Quittenburger” is also extremely popular, consisting of a classic burger in BBQ style with fresh vegetables and cheese, pepped up with a local quince chutney.
“A great accompaniment is the Weißburgunder Erste Lage (Premier Cru), but the Silvaner Großes Gewächs (Grand Cru) is also popular, because according to research in the Fürstlich Castell´schen Archives, the market at Eisenheim can claim the first documented reference to the Silvaner grape,” explains Jonas Hirn. On summer days, however, guests are more likely to order an organic Rotling or a Spätburgunder.
Volkach: Markus Schneiders „Weinkabinett“
Before the next culinary stop, you may choose to stretch your legs on one of two walking trails: the Bildstockwanderweg at Untereisenheim and the Silvanererlebniswanderweg at Obereisenheim.
The trails lead through the Mainaue region, through what feels like virgin forest and the Eisenheim vineyards up to the Franconian Trockenplatte, or dry plateau. From here you can enjoy distant views of the Main valley upstream to Schweinfurt and downstream to Volkach.
"Many customers want the recipe but they won’t get it”
In Volkach, Markus Schneider offers various delicacies in his 100 square metre “Weinkabinett”. You could start with the Franconian cheese trio of Franconian Gerupfter, Kochkäse and Emmental with home-made plum chutney.
If you don’t fancy Franconian Bratwurst sausages with Riesling sauerkraut and crusty bread, another option is the fried Blutwurst sausage with potato fries and sautéed onion rings or home-made warm Kochkäse. “My wife makes the cheese herself. Many customers want the recipe but they won’t get it,” says the winemaker.
They are equally in the dark about the plum chutney, which for the past year has topped the “Winzerburger” made from beef with goat’s camembert, bacon and red onions. In return, the guests sometimes keep him guessing in terms of their wine choices. “There are days when it’s all red wine, then only Silvaner, then back to only fruity wines,” says Markus Schneider.
He recommends that visitors enjoy the beautiful scenery and experience nature by taking a canoe, boat or raft along the meandering river landscape known as the Volkach Mainschleife. Alternatively he sends them to the Vogelsburg, which offers a great view of the Main valley.
Sommerach: Weingut Freihof
Time for the next stop in Sommerach, in the south of the Mainschleife on the romantic wine island. In the Weingut Freihof, the Krams serve home-made spreads - including vegan ones - with Rießenbrot, an 8-pound loaf from the local bakery.
Other popular menu items include the Scheurebe cream soup with cinnamon and croutons, roast ribs with red wine sauce and roasted onions, and Bratwurst sausages braised in a wine vinegar and onion stock - a hearty dish known in Franconia as Blaue Zipfel.
The recipe for the sausages is a closely guarded secret which the house butcher will not reveal, however hard pressed. “You can only get them here,” explains Manuela Kram. They are not for sale, unlike the wines such as the new “Wild Grape”, a white Cuvée made from Silvaner and Traminer. Like all premium wines, this one is available in a 100 ml glass or by the bottle.
The nearby Baggersee lake or a detour along the grape experience trail both offer a chance to recover before the next station.
Hüttenheim: Weingut Hillabrand
Then it’s time to head for Hüttenheim. Here Markus and Carolin Hillabrand, Franconian wine rebels, offer their guests “Zwetschgenbames” with bread.
Far from being sweet, this plum-based delicacy is a slow-smoked, raw beef ham, which could also be described as Franconian carpaccio.
The undisputed favourites of their guests are the Bratwurst salad with tomatoes, lettuce and a mustard and herb dressing, and the salmon trout two-ways, in the form of marinated fish and a salmon trout crème. These are washed down by the Hillabrands’ liquid specialities, primarily the Scheurebe and Silvaner wines.
Which is it: Hecken oder Häcker?
All those calories can be walked off on the challenging hike between Tannenberg and Bullenheimer Berg, with magical views of the Franconian wine region. Ancient paths lead past the Jewish cemetery, the Seinsheimer Steinbruch quarry, a viewing turret and the ruins of the Kunigunda Chapel.
However and whenever you choose to go, a trip around Franconia’s Heckenwirtschaften or Häckerwirtschaften offers a very special set of experiences. So, which is it, I hear you ask? Hecken or Häcker? The difference is purely regional. Around Würzburg people say Heckenwirtschaft, in a couple of other places it is Häckerwirtschaft.
- More information about „Zum klanna Basso“ (only in German)
- More information about Weingut Hirn (only in German)
- More information about „Weinkabinett“ (only in German)
- More information about Weingut Freihof (only in German)
- More information about Weingut Hillabrand (only in German)
- More information about the wine region Franconia
- Teil II about Heckenwirtschaften