Every August, locals from the Rheingau region and German travellers everywhere descend on the small town of Rudesheim am Rhein, along the gorgeous River Rhine, to revel in the Rudesheim Wine Festival, dating back 80 years! It’s not as wild or big as the Oktoberfest for beer lovers, but symbolizes the love and passion of local wine makers and affords you a sneak peek at Germany’s lesser-known wine culture.
Here’s how to make the most of the festivities:
Once upon a time, daughters of wine merchants in the Rheingau region were figuratively crowned as wine queens; today, the tradition has evolved into an election where local wineries elect a wine queen as the wine icon of the village. Witness the excitement on the first night of Rudesheim Wine Festival, and if you get a chance to speak to the contestants, ask away all your wine-related questions! On the last day of the festival, catch the newly elected wine queens parade around town in the special city train and dance into the wee hours of the night.
What’s cooler than hiking in the lush, steep vineyards with a panoramic view of the Rhine River below? Tasting wine from local wine makers on your way! Join the guided vineyard hike on the second day of Rudesheim Wine Festival and bond with the region in a way few get a chance to.
Normally, visitors to Rudesheim must travel across the Rheingau to sample wines from small neighborhood wineries as well as the country’s oldest and most popular ones. But at the Rudesheim Wine Festival, the wines and their stories come to you. Frequent the wine stalls in Rudesheim’s main square and taste your Rieslings along with the tales hidden in their soothing taste.
Most visitors leave Rudesheim over the weekend, leaving only the locals to revel in the last night of the festival. Stay if you can, for this is the closest you can get to witnessing a little talked about aspect of the German culture – the locals sing songs about Rudesheim and the Rhine, dance uninhibitedly into the night, feast on freshly baked local delicacies and cheer the wine queens and wine makers on stage. It’s an intimate way to experience life in a small German village.
Take your love for wine a little further and spend the night in a wine barrel at Hotel Lindenwirt! When these oak barrels could no longer be used for wine production, someone had the bright idea of converting them into hotel rooms. Twin beds line the walls of the barrel, and an extension behind hosts a living room and a spacious bathroom. Imagine waking up and peeking out of your barrel home as the town wakes up!
When you need a break from the bustle of the main square, slip into one of Rudesheim’s side streets, and find yourself warmly welcomed at a small family-run winery like Philip’s or Jakob Christ. If it’s not a busy time of day, you could make your way into the family cellar, taste homegrown Rieslings, and have a local delicacy customized to your tastes. Don’t be surprised if the group of locals sitting next to you break into song during their meal!
Up on a hill overlooking Rudesheim and its vineyards, St Hildegard is the oldest and only nunnery of Germany that has produced wine since the Middle Ages. Walk along their vineyards, marvel at their church, and drop by the shop to taste Rieslings as you chat with the nuns about their simple and austere way of life.
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