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TRADITIONS

Here’s a German culinary treat you can only enjoy over the next two months

With the leaves starting to change colour and autumn fast approaching, now's the time to take advantage of the short Federweißer (fermented young wine) season in Germany, traditionally paired with Zweibelkuchen (onion tart).

Here's a German culinary treat you can only enjoy over the next two months
A classic combination: Federweißer and Zwiebelkuchen. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

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.

 

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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.

READ ALSO: 5 things you really should know about wine in Germany

ASPARAGUS

Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus

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