Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wine and onions, like love and marriage

Federweisser and zwiebelkuchen served by Karlheinz Weis Weingut and Brennerei in Zell
I've learned two new words that go hand-in-hand with the grape harvest in Zell an der Mosel - federweisser and zwiebelkuchen.  Of course, both of these are connected with eating and drinking and so are dear to my heart. Your only chance to sample these two together is during the grape harvest in October.

Federweisser is also known as new wine. It is cloudy, slightly fizzy, has a full-bodied grape taste and is very 'more-ish'.  In the first stage of the wine-making process, the freshly picked grapes are pressed and then yeast is added to the grape juice to start the fermentation process (when the sugar in the grapes (fructose) turns into alcohol).  As soon as alcohol levels reach 4%, the juice can be drunk as new wine (or federweisser).

Federweisser translates as 'white feathers'. This is because the fizzy bubbles in the glass look like white feathers dancing in the wine. It tastes as delightful as it sounds.

Because federweisser is constantly evolving into wine (in the storage tanks as more of the fructose converts to alcohol) this refreshing drop is only available for a few days. Once alcohol levels in the tank reach 10%, the next stage of the wine making process happens to convert this fizzing juice into clear wine.

Most wineries (known as weingut) sell federweisser at their cellar door and many also sell the traditional accompaniment - zwiebelkuchen (a spicy onion cake). This is made of onions (of course), bacon, egg and sour cream, plus a secret ingredient or two. This mix is poured into a pastry base (like a pizza crust) and then cooked.

Karlheinz Weis Weingut
In the interests of good research I tried several different versions of zwiebelkuchen to find the best in town. Karlheinz Weis Weingut and Brennerei (Distillery) serves my top favourite spicy onion cake. Located at the sunny corner of 46 Brandenburg and Oberstrasse it is a pleasant spot to while away an autumn afternoon and is less than 100 metres walk from our apartment at My Europe Base.

Their steep vinyard (like most in Zell) is immediatly behind their winery. They use a little trolley on a monorail to bring the picked grapes down from the slopes.
The little trolley that climbs the steep vinyard

Tipping the picked grapes in the trailer

Herr Karlheinz Weis

The vineyard has been in the family for four generations and Herr Karlheinz Weis has been awarded several silver and bronze medals for his wine. The charming Frau Christiane Weis manages the tasting area and shop, which is was the old farm house (around 100 years old). Christiane speaks some English and she also gave me some great suggestions on what to see and do in the Zell area.

I am working on getting a recipe for zwiebelkucken and will share it with you when I do.  However, there's no rush. TH would only expect me to cook it for him and I am too busy trying all of the other exciting activities in Zell. Right now, our regular fix of zwiebelkuchen is only 1 minute walk away so I don't have to cook it myself.

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