In Germany, fall brings crisp air and even crisper wine. Called federweisser, this fizzy white wine is the product of the season’s first grapes, whose juice is lightly fermented with yeast until the resulting carbon dioxide creates a pleasant effervescence. In September and October, federweisser is sold on roadsides from wood barrels and plastic jugs across Germany’s wine regions, but it’s particularly good in the vineyards along the Mosel and Rhine rivers.
Federweisser translates to “feather white,” so called because of its cloudy, light color. While it’s normally made with white grapes, a similar wine, called federroter, is made with red. The young wine is ready when its alcohol content reaches four percent, at which point it’s bottled, sold, and enjoyed, often at federweisser festivals, and often alongside zwiebelkuchen, a savory onion tart. Zwiebelkuchen can either be baked like a pie, with a crust of yeasted dough and a custardy, bacon-flecked caramelized onion center, or like a pizza, with a bready bottom and bacon, cheese, and caramelized onions on top.
Before the invention of refrigerated trucks, it was virtually impossible to find federweisser outside of the towns where it was produced, because the drink’s rapid fermentation meant it would lose its signature flavor before arriving at its destination. Nowadays, you can find the refreshing fall special across the country. However, since the wine continues fermenting even after bottling, vintners package it with holes on top to let gas escape and prevent the boozy brew from becoming an accidental Molotov cocktail. Because of this, federweisser remains difficult to export. Rather than risking spilled wine, why not try a glass of federweisser right at its source on the side of the Rhine, crisp bubbles on your tongue and shoulders warmed by the autumn sunshine?
Where to Try It
Fest des FederweissenAuf dem Rathausplatz, Rathausplatz, Landau in der Pfalz, Germany
At this annual fall federweissen festival, you can sample the fizzy wine at its source.