3 Sept 2010

Probably the Largest Wine Bar...

IN the shadow of the Marktkirche’s steeple, August’s Rheingau festival turns Wiesbaden’s square into the world’s largest wine bar. Residents and tourists abandon the city’s 15 spas to flock for their fill of great grape vitamins. Now in its 36th year, its ever increasing popularity means a minimum of 200,000 corks are popped over 10 days. Alas, even I couldn’t cover all 118 stands during my four hour visit.
With fellow epicurean Felicity Cloake, I savoured numerous renditions of the celebrated ‘09 vintage as well as a bargain classic. Meanwhile, a soft, salty Bretzel the size of a steering wheel kept us steady.
Memorably, the late harvested nectar from producer, Weingut Abteihof emitted distinct wafts of Vicks VapoRub, candlewax and incense, with a clean, sprightly palate and long, lean finish. Although this may sound so floral you’ll mistake me for a florist, older rieslings like this can positively evoke a drop of petrol slowly spreading a granite rockpool. Because still wine isn’t taxed in Germany (unlike sparkling, first taxed at the turn of the century to fund the navy) and because the producer was proud to show his product in its 25th year, the generous pour cost just €3.50.
Rather than plastic, keeping wastage down, festival goers pay a small deposit for a good quality glass (the same with plates). With the Rheingau wine district beginning downriver, the ample wine line-up also represented local sourcing.
Surprisingly, nearby bars brimmed, where drinking continued to jaunty piano.
Despite a 15,000 strong flock to the alcohol festival’s inaugural evening, all seemed remarkably orderly...