Autumn is on the way and what better way to swing into the season than with a visit to the Stuttgarter Weindorf. The Stuttgarter Weindorf is a popular wine festival that has been held in the city of Stuttgart for the last 38 years. The festival features up to 500 wines from Baden-Württemberg including red, white, rosé and sparkling wines. You can sample local wines to your heart’s content and try Swabian culinary specialties such as Maultaschen, Flammkuchen and local Bratwurst at the 28 Weinlauben (or open-air restaurants) at the festival. Somehow the Stuttgarter Weindorf escaped my notice last September. I only learned about the annual festival a few months ago and resolved to make it a must-visit event this year.
Despite our jet lagged haze following our recent return from Canada, we made our way to the festival last night with memories of the delicious wines from our recent Weinwanderung as motivation. We took the U-bahn to the Schlossplatz station and walked to the festival starting in Schillerplatz. I was immediately overwhelmed with the number of people milling about. Granted, we did go on a warm Friday evening on the last weekend of the festival, but I was still surprised with the huge turnout. We had a hard time navigating around all the groups of people sipping wine, chatting and making their way from one Weinlaube to the next.
Our plan of attack was to cruise around the various stalls to see what was on offer, but S spotted a stall serving whole roasted ox in a bun. I think the glistening ox on the rotating spit, the smell of roasting meat, the proximity of the stall to the entrance of the crowded festival and his rumbling stomach pangs are what sold him on purchasing an oxwich on first glance.
We made our way through the crowd and found a stall serving Flammkuchen which I have never had but have always wanted to try. Unfortunately it was not meant to be. First, we waited in the wrong lineup. Tip #1: Make sure you’re in the right line for the food item you want. Each stall has little signs all the way around showing what’s on offer, but it can be confusing to see where the line starts for each food item. We were redirected to another line then told the wait would be at least 20 minutes for the next Flammkuchen. Meanwhile, I approached a couple at a communal Weinlaube table to ask if some seats were available. The answer I got was a resounding “No way Jose!” in heavy Swabian dialect so I backed away slowly.
We decided to abandon our efforts and head to another stall.With eagle eyes S spotted two empty seats at another Weinlaube and the people sitting at the rest of the table were happy to have us join them. Tip #2: At festivals in Germany (and beer gardens, for that matter), communal tables are quite the norm. Feel free to ask the people at a partially empty table if you can join them. Most likely, they will say yes. From there on, you’re welcome to go about your meal without having to interact with the people you’re sitting with (though you can if you want to!). I mean to say that it’s not considered rude to ignore your table mates for the rest of the meal since they are likely dining and chatting with their own group of friends. It is, however, good form to say hello and goodbye to your table mates regardless of whether or not you’ve chatted throughout your respective meals.
After perusing the menu, I decided to switch gears and order Maultaschen (large meat-filled pasta pillows, similar to ravioli) with chanterelle sauce. We also ordered a 0,1 L glass of wine each, a Riesling Kabinett for me and a Blanc de Noirs for S. Normally I’m not a big fan of white wine but this Riesling was delicious and crisp with citrus notes.
When it came time to pay, we had a hard time pinning down our server. We decided to pay with a Konto (debit) card because we didn’t have much cash between the two of us. We did check with our server before ordering that we could use our card, though when we asked for the card machine, she grumbled and said her boss doesn’t like customers to pay with a card for small amounts. Tip #3: For festivals with many stalls, bring cash! It’s much less hassle and greatly preferred to using a Konto or credit card. Many stalls will only take cash. Moreover, the public toilets at festivals often cost 50 cents and they certainly won’t take a card!
Time for a little dessert! We scoped out our sweet options as we strolled from Schillerplatz to Marktplatz where the festival continued. We briefly considered getting Kaiserschmarrn (a shredded pancake with applesauce and powdered sugar) or a Dampfnudel (literally ‘steam noodle’ but actually a giant dumpling served with cherries and vanilla sauce), but in the end we decided to get a strawberry Nutella crêpe and a cherries and cream waffle to share. We waited in the crêpe line thinking we could order both a waffle and a crêpe at the same time, but there were actually two separate lines, one for crêpes, one for waffles. (See Tip #1). Fortunately the staff member behind the counter let us order a waffle at the same time from her waffle colleague manning the waffle iron right next to her.
I much preferred the crêpe to the waffle, mainly because I still have the memory of my sister’s amazing homemade waffles that she made us in Vancouver in my mind. Also, not much can beat the combination of Nutella and strawberries, am I right?With full bellies, we slowly made our way home. All in all, we stayed at the festival for about three hours, but you could definitely stay for longer. The festival runs from August 27 – September 7, 2014 so there is still time to go! Next year we may try to go on a weekday afternoon to avoid the crowds, but it’s such a popular festival it’s bound to be busy anytime you go.
Have you been to a wine festival in Germany? Can you recommend a must-try German wine for a wine newbie like me?