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Apfelwein: 5 things you never knew about German apple wine

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Apfelwein: 5 things you never knew about German apple wine
Two glasses filled with apple wine and a "Bembel" (pitcher) stand on the table of a restaurant on the Römerberg in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Arne Dedert

As Germany's apple season starts up, there's one tasty concoction that takes the spotlight: apple wine. From its Roman heritage to its miriad of names, here are some surprising facts about the drink.


When you think about German alcoholic beverages, the first drink that probably comes to mind is beer. However, Apfelwein (apple wine) also enjoys a long and rich cultural heritage and is much more popular in certain regions than the hops-based drink. 

But in case you've never heard of it, here are five things to know.

It's got a loooooong history

Apfelwein's history goes all the way back to ancient Roman times when fermented apple beverages in various forms were popular throughout Europe.

But it was in the Middle Ages that the drink really took off, especially in the Rhine-Main region of Germany. As apple trees thrived in the area, it made perfect sense for locals to ferment the surplus apples into a tasty, tangy beverage.

A glass of apple wine is filled with a pitcher (Bembel) in the traditional pub "Gemaltes Haus" in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

At that time, grapes for "true" wine were scarce and, therefore, very expensive. For the less well-to-do drinker, the best alternative was apple wine. The drink eventually got taken up by the more wealthy bourgeoisie, who popularised apple wine as a drink for the masses. By the mid-17th century, apple wine had become so widespread that it was necessary to bring in rules to regulate how it was made.

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Penalties for adulterating apple wine, for example, were severe: tampering with the formula by adding raisins or sugar beets carried punishments of either imprisonment or flogging.

It has a lot of different names

Apple wine is known by various names across different regions. In Lower Franconia, the southern and central parts of Hessen, as well as its prominent hub Frankfurt, it goes by the names Äppler, Äbbelwoi (or Ebbelwoi) Schoppe, or Stöffsche.


Along the Moselle, in the Eifel, Hunsrück, Saar, and Luxembourg, it's referred to as Viez, a name dating back to Roman times. Derived from the Latin word "vice," meaning "second" or "substitute," it hints at apple wine being consumed as a replacement for genuine grape wine.

In Upper German regions, apple wine is called Most, while in Switzerland, it's known as sour Most or sour Saft.

It’s (relatively) good for you

There are numerous studies that point to the benefits of the apple in its fermented form and apple wine - when enjoyed in moderation -  is reputed to improve blood flow and stimulate digestion. When consumed hot with cinnamon and sugar, it can help with colds and flu-like infections and a glass in the evening can enhance healthy sleep.

READ ALSO: 5 ways to fight colds and flu like a true German

Calorie-conscious consumers will be pleased to know that apple wine, has on average no more than 36 calories per 100 millilitres. White wine, in comparison, contains 79 calories in the same amount. Compared to other types of wine, apple wine is also relatively low in alcohol content - between 5 and 7 percent. 

It's eco-friendly

When made in the traditional way, apple wine is a very environmentally friendly product. The apples used are unsprayed and untreated and grow and ripen in local orchards.

Apples ripen on the grounds of MainÄppelHaus Lohrberg in the north of Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Using surplus or "ugly" apples that might not meet the cosmetic standards of fresh fruit markets, apple wine production also contributes to reducing food waste.

It's the basis for many celebrations

While Oktoberfest is very much the celebration of beer, Apfelwein is celebrated in a number of festivals throughout the state of Hessen. 

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The most famous of these is the Frankfurt Apple Wine Festival, which takes place in the summertime (usually in August) on Frankfurt's Roßmarkt in the city centre and attracts thousands of visitors each year. 


But the Hessian cities of Darmstadt and Wiesbaden and many towns, including Langen, Kronberg, and Bensheim also have their own apple wine festivals, while Mainz hosts an annual Apple Wine and Cheese Market.


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