Fall is my favorite season. I just love everything about it- the crisp feel of the air, pumpkins, back to school routines, rainy walks in the woods or on beaches, excuses to linger in cafes or museums on a Sunday, the beautiful leaves falling from the sky, the filtered and soft feeling of morning sunlight, the anticipation and early days of ski season, first snowfall, scarves, hot mugs of apple cider, hot chocolate, lattes, and Glühwein, and also Federweißer.
Federweißer is something I discovered my very first fall in Germany. At that time, I was living in the Rheinland, which is one of Germany's most prolific wine regions. A few friends and I organized a weekend trip exploring one of the most picturesque sections of the Rhine River, from Koblenz to Rüdesheim. We planned it all to coincide with Rüdesheim's Federweißerfest (the festival celebrating the harvest and first wine), which also happened to take place during prime foliage viewing time on the Rhine. It's one of my most poignant and perfect memories of that first year in Germany. The weekend was full of walks through vineyards and colorful fall forests, hillsides dotted with castles, good friends, and of course many glasses of that crisp, bubbly, fall wine called Federweißer.
It is a wine made from fermented, freshly pressed grape juice - so it's a precursor to wine actually, often considered a "young wine", and is only available right after the grape harvest in the fall. It's sweet, and crisp, and so fizzy that it's known for it's volatile properties. Bottles come with warnings not to lay them on their side, and I've heard tales of bottles exploding in the back of cars from jostling car rides through the countryside. Because Federweißer is made by adding yeast to grapes to start fermentation, it's a living, changing beverage, and every bottle tastes different, depending upon when it is consumed. Federweißer is sold once 4% alcohol content is reached, but the fermentation process continues, and once the sugar breaks down fully, it reaches nearer to 10% alcohol.
Yesterday I bought a bottle of Federweißer at the grocery store (friends, that means you need to come over and help me consume it quick- we've only got a few days because of the rapid fermentation process). Buying it at the grocery store is a bit of a modern luxury, because the fermentation causes challenges to transportation (exploding bottles!), and what that means is that historically Federweißer was only available in wine-growing regions. It is, of course, still best consumed at the fall festivals right near the vineyards, and it's a great excuse to make a weekend trip. Besides the Rheinland in Germany, you can also find it in Franconia (northern Bavaria) and to the south in Switzerland and South Tyrol.