It’s no secret that my husband and I love drinking wine. So naturally, going to a wine fest was high up on our bucket list. Now, we’ve been to a few wine and beer fests in Atlanta, but German wine festivals completely blow those out of the water. We didn’t really know what to expect, but whatever those expectations were…they were not what we got.
What to Expect at a German Wine Festival
Pint Glasses, Not Tastings
If you follow my Instagram stories, you would have seen our shock when we ordered two glasses of wine and were presented with two pint glasses of wine instead. I don’t care how much you love wine, your body and mind are not prepared to drink a pint glass of any wine. In order to prevent yourself from dying within a few hours, make sure to order it the German way: order a schorle. For example, “ein Rieslingschorle.” Theoretically that would be 50% wine and 50% sparkling water, but in reality it was still 75% wine, and 25% sparkling water. But water is water – stay hydrated, my friends.
*A word about Riesling: In the US, Riesling is always super sweet and really not great. I actually never really drank Riesling back in the US. However, Riesling is the main grape grown in our area of Germany and the good Rieslings don’t make their way to the US. Riesling trocken (dry riesling) is actually really good! Definitely try it when you are here!
County Fairs x100
When you try to imagine a German wine fest, think about your favorite county or state fair…times one hundred. There are rides, ferris wheels, carnival games, and stands serving food and drinks. They are kid friendly, but the kids start to trickle out as it gets later.
Instead of hot dogs and fried oreos, think delicious wurst (sausages) with really good mustard. One of my favorite things we ate is the fisch sandwich, which is salmon cooked over an open flame, served in a bun with some amazing sauce. It was SO good. We also had dampfnudeln, which is a steamed bun that you dip in icing. Sounds interesting, but tastes way better than I can describe. Just try it – you won’t be disappointed.
Inside the tents, similar to Oktoberfests, you can have more of a sit down meal – think chicken, spatzle, cheese plates.
These tents are similar to Oktoberfest tents but not as crazy. You don’t have to reserve a table ahead of time, but at the bigger festivals you definitely can. There is always music, and at the bigger crazier tents there is still a lot of dancing on benches. At the smaller festivals, there is less dancing and more chill drinking. Either way, they were a ton of fun!
Wine Fests We’ve Attended
Bad Durkheim Wurstfest
Bad Durkheim is the largest wine fest in Germany, and lasts nine days. It is the Oktoberfest of wine, if you will. I’d recommend taking a train to the festival so you don’t have to worry about anyone driving.
At the festival, there are small traditional wine stalls, which are basically rows and rows of stands and wooden benches, with wineries set up to serve their wine by the half liter. For the less rowdy, there is also the Weindorf, the upscale “wine village” where you can sit at a table and order wine by the glass. Here you can order flammkuchen or a salad or a sandwich. It is way less crowded.
Then, to get the Oktoberfest feel, there are a few big wine halls, or tents with live music and dancing. In the main tent, all of the tables in the center are reserved, but the tables to the side of the stage are first come first serve. There were plenty of open seats, so I wouldn’t recommend worrying about a reservation unless you have a big group. If a table is reserved, there will be a piece of paper taped to the end of the table with their name on it. Otherwise, you can sit there. Waiters come around and you can order (beer and food) from them. In the wine hall, you can expect live music, dancing on tables, and new friends.
Neustadt Wine Fest
We went to the Neustadt wine festival on a whim, the day before we went to Stuttgart’s Oktoberfest. The Neustadt wineFESTival is known for its exclusive selection of wines. There is an open air wooden bench area, where you can buy wine by the pint or the bottle at the surrounding wine stands. It is located in the center of the rides and food stands, so it’s perfect for people watching.
My favorite part of the Neustadt fest is the mirror palace, which is a more intimate tent, with small tables. Here you can order wine by the glass or by the bottle. It was cozy, there was live music, and the wine was really really good.
At both German wine fests we went to, there were a handful of people dressed in lederhosen and drindles, but most people were in normal attire. Unless you’re going with a big group of friends all dressed in traditional German clothes, I’d recommend just dressing in your cutest fall outfit.
The wine fests we went to are free to enter, but make sure to go to the ATM before hand. Everywhere is cash-only. Drinks are super cheap, but you usually have to pay a deposit for the glasses. Don’t worry, you’ll get your money back once you return the pint glass or wine glass. Also, don’t forget, like everywhere in Europe it costs 50 cents to use the bathroom! And lastly, if you don’t like wine – there are beer stands too!