Wine history spanning more than a millennium
Franken is a wine growing region located in Bavaria. The region has a long winemaking culture even though Bavaria is famous for its beers. The region has over 6000 hectares of vineyards and 90% of the vines are of white varieties. Unlike other German wine regions, Riesling is not the dominating grape variety. Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau are more commonly cultivated here. Franken is also the only region along with some villages in northern Baden that are allowed to use Bocksbeutal, a distinctive ellipsoidal bottle. The people of Franken are passionate about their wine culture and most of wine produced here is consumed locally.
Places – top 3 to visit if you are in Franken
1. Nuremberg – an elegant combination of old and new
The city of Nuremberg is famous for its Franconian charm. Nuremberg is the perfect mix of historical heritage and modern times and has become famous as an international destination for the hosting of conventions. Views of the city are most impressive from the Imperial Castle which is alongside Fürth and its over 2000 monuments. Fürth has more statues than any other city in the state of Bavaria. Another area of Nuremberg to visit is Erlangen which is known for its beautiful architecture and which is also home to a prestigious university. The town of Schwabach is famous for gold leafing and when visiting here you will find gilding wherever you turn – on the towers of the city hall, the city church, and on the fronts of old buildings. Despite the wealth of history there is also much natural beauty along the Rednitz, Regnitz (with Regnitz cycling track), and Pegnitz rivers, in the expansive Imperial Forest, as well as in numerous city parks.
2. Ansbach – Margaves, Bach and Kaspar Hauser
Ansbach is most well known for its history of being the former royal seat. The city has decided to make use of its history in modern marketing and hosts activities such as art exhibitions on the Sculpture Mile where modern art is set against historical buildings and spaces. Ansbach is located in the middle of Romantic Franconia and the town impresses with its historical townscape and extraordinary buildings. The Margravial Residence is a must see for its orangery and amazing royal garden. What was once the seat of the Margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach still gives one the feeling of a proud capital city and a royal epicentre of the 18th century. The Church Saint Gumbertus, was where the royal court worshipped and since 2007, the sounds of the restored Wiegleb organ can be heard throughout its halls. Below the church, in the royal crypt, is the final resting place of several dukes and duchesses. Top highlights to see and do in Ansbach include the Margravial Residence and Fayence- and Porcelain Collection; the Orangery at the Margravial Royal Garden; the Margravial Museum with Kaspar Hauser Collection; the Rococo Festival and the Bach Festival.
3. Eichstatt – A charming Baroque experience
Eichstatt is a small town in the heart of the Altmühltal Valley Nature Park and is the perfect example of Baroque architecture. The history of the town is that the princes and bishops of previous times gave architects free reign to build the structures they desired. These buildings are now home to students, visitors and local residents. The residential palace and its cherub fountain elegantly fit in with the adjacent curved wing of the former residence of the prince-bishops. The town square at Eichstatt is considered to be one of the most beautiful squares in the whole of Europe, and fans of religious art will find big churches and small chapels in this Episcopal city. The Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt has meant that many young students have come to live in the town and can be seen enjoying their afternoons on the riverbanks or in local cafes. The motto of Eichastatt is: Discover something new and admire the old.
Food and Drink – top 3 to try in Franken
Keep calm and eat German food
Franconian Cuisine is an umbrella term for all dishes, which originate from the region of Franconia. The type of cuisine is very similar to Bavarian and Swabian cuisine and is sometimes even considered to be a subset of Bavarian foods. The most famous types of Franconian foods are Nürnberger Lebkuchen, Bratwurst or the wines of Franconia. Franconia is also well known for its beers and is famous for having the highest density of breweries in the world.
1. Lebkuchen – The taste of a German Christmas
Lebkuchen is a traditional German baked Christmas cookie, which is somewhat similar to gingerbread. Lebkuchen can be either spicy or sweet and also comes in a variety of shapes. The ingredients can often include honey, aniseed, coriander, cloves, ginger, cardamon and all spice. Often nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts are also added to the recipe. One of the most interesting forms of Lebkuchen is the ‘Witches House’ which was made popular by the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. Lebkuchen is sometimes presented in beautifully decorated tins, chests, and boxes, which have become collector’s items.
2. Bratwurst – The quintessential German sausage
Bratwurst is a delicious fresh link sausage that originally came from Germany. Nomally Bratwurst is made with pork and veal, with extra flavour added through the addition of ginger, nutmeg, coriander, or caraway. Very traditional German Bratwurst recipes require the addition of cream and eggs in preparing the sausage but these recipes can differ vastly depending on the different region of Germany the sausage is made in.
3. Sauerkraut – Fermented German cabbage
Sauerkraut is made of thinly sliced cabbage that is fermented using lactic acid bacteria. This dish can be kept on the shelf for extended periods of time because of its fermented nature and has a very particular sour flavour to it. The flavour is produced when the lactic acid ferments with the natural sugars found in the leaves of the cabbage. Sauerkraut can also differ in flavour depending on where in Germany it is being eaten and the Bavarian Sauerkraut tends to be much milder and sweeter than regular German sauerkraut.
Germany’s fairy tale wine country
Franken is the most easterly of the wine regions based on the Rhine River and produces earthy, dry white wines that are quite different from the German norm and generally go well with food. These wines tend to be more expensive than other German wines because of local demand. Because this wine region is so far east, the winters can be very harsh which means that frost can affect the size of the harvest each year. Most of the vineyards are planted on hilly slopes.
1. Wine highlights
Franken wines are easily recognised because of the green flask shaped bottles that they are found in. These bottles are known in Germany as Bocksbeutel. This unusual shape also makes the wine bottles impossible to store on a wine rack. Silvaner is the Franken vine with the longest history and which like Riesling, has begun to change with the changing climate of the last decade to become more ripe and concentrated. Rieslaner, which is produced locally by crossing Silvaner with Riesling, is well known in the area for making excellent late harvest wines. Check out Winery Fischer and Juliusspital winery, two amazing wineries in the region which produces Rieslaner grape varieties in thier vineyard. Franconian wines are often described as being the more masculine version of German wines because of their full body and also because they are less aromatic, dry, firm and earthy in flavour. The personality of the Franken wines is influences by the climate of the area, which is characterized by cold winters, high annual rainfall, early frost and long autumn months. Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Bacchus are the most important white varieties of the region. The western part of this wine region is where red grapes grow extremely well, particularly between Aschaffenburg and Miltenberg. The finest Franken wines are traditionally bottled in a Bocksbeutel, which makes them immediately recognizable no matter where in the world they are sold.
2. Grape varieties
Pinot Meunier (Schwarzreisling)
3. Style of wines
Franken is known for white wines, and around 80 percent of the vineyards are planted with white grape varieties. Müller-Thurgau is a hybrid that’s a cross of Riesling and a lesser known varietal called the Madeleine Royal which is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in Germany. This varietal is most commonly used in making the extremely sweet Liebfraumilch. Franken wines are generally dry, earthy and spicy and they are significantly drier than other German wines. What makes a dry wine classified as such is a residual sugar level of no more than 9 grams per liter. Franken dry wines generally have less than 4 grams per liter. The ripeness (readiness for drinking) of Franken wines varies. Simple estate wines and Kabinett wines should be enjoyed shortly after bottling. Dry Spatlese wines, sweet wines and high quality red wines should not be opened until one or two years after bottling and have a shelf life of up to ten years. The best Franken wines can be found in the distinct Bocksbeutel, a squat green or brown flagon with a round body and short neck, which makes it instantly recognizable. The Franconian wine experiences are quite unique and an amazing adventure.
Nature – top 3 to visit in Franken
Where culture and nature meet
Endless flowing natural landscapes, towns that look like they are from story books, beautiful historical cities, health spas and resorts make Franconia an area that is perfect for every single type of tourist. This region is famous for its natural beauty and the variety of attractions on offer. Visitors to the area are left in awe at the changing landscapes from fascinating scenery to excellent man made holiday destinations, all in the middle of the country side.
1. Schwarzachschlucht – A gorge filled with adventure
The Schwarzach Gorge is a 2.2 km long river valley resembling a gorge in the Middle Franconian district of Nurnberger. This gorge is named after the Schwarzach river and is situated on the southern border of the Lorenzer Reichswald. The river represents the border between the district of Nürnberger Land in the north and the district of Roth. The entire gorge is a 41 hectare nature reserve which was established in 1936, mainly because of its wealth of unusual moss growth. The gorge is a popular hiking area with hiking trails and a geological nature trail with information boards which lead through the gorge on the north bank of the river. There is a former rock path on the south bank, which is closed today due to the risk of falling. In addition, some abandoned quarries can be found there. Water sports are not possible on the river.
2. Walderlebniszentrum Tennenlohe – Experience the forest
The Walderlebniszentrum Tennenlohe is an office of the Bavarian Forest Administration with the goal to educate all people on the forest area through the Forest Experience Centre. The Centre sees itself as a source of information to all visitors on topics such as sustainability, environmental degradation, renewable raw materials and carbon balance. The Centre wants to awaken people’s joy and passion for nature and inspire visitors to take action against environmental abuse.
3. Heidelstein – Visit the Bavarian mountains
The Heidelstein is a mountain, 925.7 m above sea level in the mountains of the High Rhön Mountain Range. Its actual summit is in Bavaria and sometimes its main peak is also called Schwabenhimmel. On the Heidelstein visitors can find the Heidelstein Transmitter and a memorial of the Rhön Club. For those visiting the north-western slopes, this is where you can find the source of the River Ulster and the Rotes Moor Cross Country Skiing Centre.