Tradition. Hundreds of years of winemaking. The Aldinger family has owned Weingut Gerhard Aldinger since 1492; Ernst Dautel’s weingut ancestors began making wine in 1510. Staatsweingut Weinsberg is part of Germany’s oldest wine college. Wherever you look in Württemberg, you’re surrounded by winemaking history.
Innovation. The State Teaching and Research Institute for Wine and Fruit, LWVO Weinsberg, introduces new grape crossings. A group of young wine producers forms the “Junges Schwaben” (“Young Swabians”) to synergize their unique ideas and winemaking experience.
This juxtaposition of tradition and innovation is what Württemberg wines are all about. You’ll find all types of wines in Württemberg, from classic rieslings to bold blends. Let’s take a closer look at this diverse wine region.
Württemberg and Its Wines
Most of the Württemberg wine region lies between Heilbronn and Stuttgart along the Neckar, Rems and Enz Rivers. The vineyards south and east of Fellbach and near the university town of Tübingen are also part of the Württemberg wine region. Württemberg’s climate is mild due to the shelter offered by the region’s hills and mountains.
Württemberg’s soils are quite diverse; you’ll find limestone, loess, clay, marl and keuper here. Not surprisingly, then, the region’s vineyards contain an amazing array of grape varieties. Trollinger, the region’s top red variety, is the most widely planted variety (22 percent), but riesling is close behind at 18 percent. Schwarzriesling (pinot meunier), lemberger and spätburgunder are also popular. In all, 71 percent of Württemberg’s vineyards are planted in red grape varieties, leaving only 29 percent of vineyard acreage for the white grapes. According to the German Wine Institute (Deutsches Weininstitut), four out of five wine growers in Württemberg are members of cooperatives.
Most of the wines produced in Württemberg stay close to home, and with good reason. Württemberg’s wine drinkers consume twice the national per-capita average. Only about ten percent of Württemberg wines are exported.
Württemberg is known for its tradition of Besenwirtschaften, (“Broom Taverns”), temporary wine inns that are open for about four months each year. Look for signs that say “Besenwirtschaft,” or for a wreath or spray made of straw or birch. Here you’ll find crowds of locals enjoying local wine and traditional Swabian dishes. If you’ve never tried Maultaschen – often translated to “Swabian ravioli,” but more like a cross between meat-filled ravioli and wonton soup – you are in for a treat. Other local specialties include spätzle – homemade noodles, topped with sauce or melted cheese and breadcrumbs – and Gaisburger Marsch, a kind of stew made with spätzle. You can find lists of Besenwirtschaften for the entire wine region, a second region-wide listing and specific listings for the Rems River valley online.
Perhaps the best-known temporary wine and food event in Württemberg is the Stuttgarter Weindorf (“Stuttgart Wine Village”), which begins at the end of August and lasts for 12 days. This event is extremely popular. An entire section of downtown Stuttgart is transformed into a village of tents, taverns and wine bars. Over one million people visit the Stuttgarter Weindorf each year. Check with the Stuttgart Tourist Office for dates, because they vary slightly from year to year, and plan to arrive early. Taverns and restaurants fill up fast, and you will have a hard time finding an empty seat once the locals get off work.
Of course, you can enjoy Württemberg wines at any time of year, and visiting a winery is a great way to improve your German wine knowledge. Württemberg winemakers, like those in the rest of Germany, prefer to be called in advance if you’re planning to visit their wineries.
If you’re in the Weinsberg area, don’t miss the Staatsweingut Weinsberg. Their new sales and tasting room has won architectural awards. It’s open Monday through Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. (Website in German only)
Would you like to wander along a vineyard path? Head over to Weingut Kuhnle in Weinstadt-Strümpfelbach. The owners have constructed a path through their vineyard, and over the years they have installed 20 bronze sculptures along the walkway. The winery is open Tuesdays through Fridays and Saturday mornings, but it’s best to call ahead to arrange your visit and vineyard walk.
If you’d prefer a guided vineyard tour, visit Weingut Kusterer in Esslingen. The tour starts in Esslingen and leads you through the vineyards, where you’ll learn about the cultivation and harvesting processes. You can also see the family’s 700-year-old wine cellar, the last of its kind in Esslingen. The winery also offers tours of Esslingen’s historic buildings and churches.
Wherever you go in Württemberg, be sure to sample not only rieslings but also the trollingers and lembergers that the locals love. Order a big plate of spätzle, raise your glass and enjoy a relaxing meal. Then you’ll know why Württembergers flock to wine festivals and broom taverns – they appreciate wine, good food and excellent company. You will, too.