Culture, Europe, Germany
Comments 17

Rüdesheim Wine Festival: Sneak a Peek Into Germany’s Wine Culture.

I had an unshakable image of Germany in my head – drinking freshly brewed craft beer at an open-air beer garden, hearing locals cheer “prost” with every chug and watching women dance in traditional dirndls. But two weeks ago, when I arrived in the Rhine Valley, an hour from Frankfurt, that image was shattered.

The Rhine River flowed gently amid hills covered in steep vineyards, Rudesheim’s cobble-stoned streets brimmed with wine stalls, wine gardens tucked away under vines replaced beer gardens, and my first drink was not a Radler (like on every other trip to Germany) but a Riesling from a small family-run winery!

Rudesheim wine festival, Rheingau festival

A moment on solitude on the hike above the Rhine river.

I found myself in Rudesheim as part of the Must Love Festivals project, which has bloggers traveling across the world to showcase quirky traditional festivals! Here’s why the Rüdesheim Wine Festival is a great introduction to Germany’s lesser-known wine culture:

Hiking meets wine-tasting in the vineyards

Rudesheimer weinfest, wine festival, #notjustbeer, #joingermantradition

The vineyards of Rudesheim.

My withdrawal symptoms of Georgia gradually dissipated on the first afternoon, when the festivities began with a hike through the vineyards of Rudesheim! Barring me and two other English-speakers, the forty odd people were all locals from the Rheingau region and other parts of Germany, and along the seven kilometre hike, wine growers from Rudesheim greeted us and offered us their finest wines to taste. A surprising yet intimate way to bond with this wine region and get into festive mode.

Also read: #NotJustBeer: Why I’m Going Back to Germany 

The “wander shoe” party!

Rudesheim wine festival, germany festivals 2015

Wander shoe party!

I’m no party animal and would go to great lengths to avoid a party where I don’t know anyone (yeah, the introvert), but this one was dedicated to “wandering shoes” – how cool is that? It was a party the townies threw for the hikers upon our return, complete with a mini parade on stage, a lot of dancing and a lot more wine.

Also read: First Time to Germany? Practical Tips to Plan Your Travels

81 years of wine tradition

#joingermantradition, rudesheim wine festival, wine festivals 2015

Wine in the vineyards.

Considering the number of people who made it to (or have even heard about) the Rudesheim Wine Festival, I thought it was a pretty recent affair – but I was wrong. For 81 years, Rudesheim has proudly celebrated its love affair with the Riesling, and I heard that dwellers of the Rheingau region await it all year long. These days, there are wine festivals through summer and autumn in every village along the Rhine and the Moselle, but Rudesheim Weinfest is one of the oldest and most traditional. That is reason enough to put on your party hat and coincide your Germany trip with this festive weekend in mid-August.

Also read: A Time Traveller’s Guide to Southwest Germany

Rubbing shoulders with the “Wine Queens”

rheingau wine queens, rheingau festival, rhine festivals, rudesheim wine festival

The Wine Queens of Rheingau.

In the olden days, wine queen was the figurative title bestowed upon the daughters of wine merchants. The tradition has evolved since, and today, each wine-growing village in the Rheingau region has a wine queen – the ambassador of the village’s wineries and a warehouse of wine knowledge. Wine Queens from all across the Rheingau meet annually at the Rudesheim Wine Festival, and watching these ladies parade around town in a special train, I felt like I was  transported to another era.

Also read: Retracing the Journey of Europe’s Forgotten Refugees

A (different) taste of German culture

Germany wine festivals, German culture, #notjustbeer, #joingermantradition

Getting my Riesling on!

On the last night of the wine festival, after all the tourists (from other parts of Germany and the cruise ships that dock daily at Rudesheim) had left, I walked in on a fascinating gathering of locals in the town square; they sang songs about Rudesheim and the River Rhine, drank wine late into the night, gorged on freshly baked flamkuchens, and danced uninhibitedly. I think that also forever changed the image of German people for me!

Also read: Incredible Ways to Experience the World of German Wines (including sleeping in a wine barrel!)

***

There are wine festivals across the Rheingau region through summer and fall. If you’re going this year, catch one of these:

  • The Rhine in Flames: Weekends in September. Spectacular ship fleets and fireworks along the Rhine, celebrated in many villages along the Middle Rhine valley.
  • Mainzer Weinmarkt: September 3-6. A fun gathering of wine growers at Mainz.
  • Boppard Wine Festival: September 25-28, October 2-4. A wine harvest festival in the picturesque old town of Boppard by the Rhine.
  • Check out more wine festivals in Germany here.

Have you experienced a traditional festival in a different country?

Note: I travelled to Rudesheim as part of Must Love Festivals, and was hosted by German National Tourist Board and Expedia. Opinions here are always my own.

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17 Comments

  1. Great! Would love to taste this side of Germany someday. To be honest, Germany was never on my bucket-list, but after following your experiences I think it should be an interesting country.

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    • I’m glad to hear Germany’s on your travel list now, Renuka! From being skeptical about including it in my first Euro trip itinerary to visiting it thrice in a single year – Germany and I have come a long way 🙂 I hope you get to experience it soon.

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  2. saaremartha says

    Living in Estonia for the past 18 years, I’ve had the good fortune to travel frequently to Germany. I always find the people welcoming and helpful and the cities full of charm and unusual delights.

    I am not especially a beer drinker, but REALLY love good German wines, so a trip to a German Wine Festival is definitely going onto my bucket list.

    Will now look at your posts about Georgia. It is another place – and wine producing region – that greatly interests me.

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    • Lucky you! You’re one of the first non-German people to say you love German wines, most people have no idea Germany makes such great wines 🙂 I’m sure you’ll love a wine festival there, the camaraderie with which the local wine growers come together and welcome you is something else.

      Hope you enjoyed my Georgia posts too – surprising in very different ways!

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  3. Of all the alcohol I happily ply myself with, beer’s the only one I could never bring myself to like. Until my recent (and first) visit to Germany where I finally surrendered to the ocean of beer around me. Funnily, another reason for taking up beer in Germany was that I really didn’t enjoy the wine I was served at the couple of places I ordered it… from your post, clearly I went to all the wrong places for wine!

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    • Aww, that’s too bad. To tell you the truth, I’m still developing my wine palette and prefer sweeter Rieslings. But as I discovered, most Germans (and wine connoisseurs) prefer drier wines. So if you ask for recommendations, you might be served the driest wines which take some getting used to. Next time, ask for a late harvest or a sweeter wine, sure you’ll love it!

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  4. chaitalipatel2000 says

    Such a fun festival! You really are making me want to head to Germany right now…

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  5. Pingback: Rudesheim Wine Festival, Germany – Expedia Blog

  6. Pingback: German Wine Festivals in 2015 – The Door into Promised Lands

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