You may have already noticed them popping up in supermarkets. They’re the only bottles of wine kept in the refrigerated section, sometimes beside dairy products like cheese and yogurt. The bottles are also shaped differently from traditional wine bottles – wider and slightly shorter.
If you have seen them, it wouldn’t be surprising because the young, fermented wine – called Federweißer – is now being produced across Germany’s wine regions. And if you’re curious to know how it tastes, you need to act quickly because the growing season normally only lasts from early September to the end of October.
Typically in Germany Federweißer is made from white grapes of the Bacchus or Ortega variety, but in some regions red grapes are used. Young wines made from red grapes are called Federroter instead.
Federweißer, which contains four to five percent alcohol, is made of freshly pressed, fermented grape juice. Sweeter than classic white wine, it’s often described as tasting like grape juice mixed with champagne.
Its appearance is also reminiscent of swirling feathers, which is how it got its name (since Feder translates to feather in English). Yeast is also added during the fermentation process, meaning the young wine isn’t as transparent as traditional white wine but rather, slightly cloudy in appearance.
Because of the beverage’s lightness and sweetness, a well-known culinary tradition in Germany has been to serve it with Zwiebelkuchen (onion tart). Enjoying it paired with other savoury foods like tarte flambée or with roasted chestnuts is less common.
Currently in German wine regions near the Mosel and Rhine river areas, the onion tart and fermented wine duo is a common sight to see.
One festival in particular that’s well-known for its Federweißer variety is the Fest des Federweißen (Festival of the Federweiße) close to the French border in Landau in der Pfalz. Established in 1953, the historic festival will be held this year from October 12th to 15th and feature a diverse program including live musical performances.
You'll also be able to satisfy onion tart and fermented wine cravings at the Zwiebelmarkt (Onion Market) festival in Weimar, Thuringia, which takes place from October 13th to 15th.
The Zwiebelmarkt (Onion Market) festival in Weimar. Photo: DPA.
But if you live elsewhere in the country, don’t fret. It’s pretty common to find the duo served in cafés and German restaurants across the Bundesrepublik.
Alternatively you could always buy a bottle of Federweißer at your nearest grocery store and try your hand at making Zwiebelkuchen yourself.
If you opt for this, remember that the wine should be enjoyed within a couple of days because of how quickly it ferments and thus changes in flavour. Also, due to high levels of carbonation contained in Federweißer, bottles are not airtight and need to be kept upright when transported.