*Culinary Press Trip “Route du Äppler” in cooperation with Gourmet Connection and Hessentourismus*
Let me take you on my Culinary Press Trip “Road Trip along German apple wine route “Route du Äppler” as plenty has happened in the Hessian apple wine scene. I would like to give you an idea of a fruity and fresh taste experience by sharing some facts about the “Äppler”, the German apple wine. The apple wine route passes over 250 km through the state of Hessen, starting in the south at the “Kelterei Krämer” and ending in the north at the “Brennerei Döhne” where about 12 local producers produce the delicious apple wine also called Stöffche. Join me on the part of the “Route du Äppler” around the region of Odenwald and Taunus outside of Frankfurt.
The journey leads along beautiful meadow orchards and picturesque Hessian timber-framed houses. From Frankfurt to the Odenwald to Beerfurth, Reichelsheim, Michelstadt and ends in Oberursel in Taunus. The weather is on our side, too, and we are enjoying truly summer-like temperatures this spring. “The good things are so close” sometimes, you don’t even have to travel far away to have a break and recharge your batteries. For a break from everyday life, I can recommend the Odenwald and Taunus from the bottom of my heart!
APPLE WINE TAVERN ADOLF WAGNER IN FRANKFURT
What would Frankfurt be without its rustic, social and cozy Apple Wine taverns? One of these authentic taverns is Apfelweinwirtschaft Wagner in “Dribbdebach,” i.e., south of the Main River in the beautiful district of Sachsenhausen. Since 1931, people have been meeting in this rustic apple wine tavern, which is still an establishment in Sachsenhausen. Shoulder to shoulder, friends, colleagues, business people and tourists sit on old wooden benches at Schoppe petze (which is Hessian and means drinking apple wine) and enjoying delicious Hessian specialties. Many years ago, I used to stop in here regularly on Thursday evenings, as you quickly converse with your table neighbors here. I met many interesting people at Wagner and had fun evenings in Frankfurt.
ÄPPLER A MUST-TRY DRINK FROM HESSEN IN GERMANY
I am glad our journey on the “Route du Äppler” starts here in Wagner. It was finally time to stop at a apple wine tavern, sit together and enjoy the Äppler with great people. Lindenthalerin, Held am Herd, Salzig süß lecker and Sonntags ist Kaffeezeit are already drinking apple wine in the charming patio. Susanne Drexler, Marie Heiser and Lisa Tomaszewski from Gourmet Connection, who organized everything, welcomed me warmly.
The chilled apple wine, also called Schoppe or Stöffsche, is served in the stylish and traditional Bembel*, a blue glazed stone jug, which bears the number 10 and indicates its volume, meaning that ten glasses fit into the Bembel. Immediately, they pour the chilled Ebbelwoi into the Gerippte*, the classic apple wine glass with the typical diamond pattern. On the table is the “Deckelsche*, a beermat that protects the apple wine from dirt and insects; now I’ve introduced you to the “Frankfurt Trio.” In the past, it was a cult among traditional apple wine lovers to bring along their own Deckelsche, which consisted of a small and large decorated wooden disc*.
It’s hot and the cool and fresh apple wine runs down my throat, quenching my thirst after just a few small gulps and is satisfying in the heat. But note, the apple wine wants to be drunk calmly and relaxed and needs an excellent base to line your stomach. So it starts immediately with tasting the whole range of Frankfurt specialties. One after another, our table is loaded with goodies. Including savory “Musigger” as they call the “Handkäs with Musigg” in Frankfurt. Handkäse, is known in other regions as Harzer or Mainzer and is made from sour milk curd.
Musigg is a vinaigrette made of oil, vinegar, salt, and many finely diced onions. Spread some butter on a piece of farmhouse bread and enjoy it with a “musigger”, for me in any case with Kümmel (caraway). The next dish is the Frankfotter Grie Soß (Green Sauce) with eggs and fried potatoes, my absolute favorite dish of the Hessian cuisine; so light and fresh. I have all seven herbs (borage, chervil, cress, parsley, pimpernel, sorrel and chives), which are part of the Green Sauce, even in my herbal spiral in the garden.
ORIGINAL FRANKFURT PLATTER
Without a break, the waitress continues, placing a fully loaded “Frankfurter Platte” on the table, which is now almost bending through. We try the shank with its crispy crust, the crispy golden-brown shovel, ladders fresh from the oven, spicy bratwurst, and grilled ribs and enjoy them with sauerkraut, fried and mashed potatoes. It was a lot, but I haven’t eaten such incredibly delicious goodies for a long while! Ultimately, we enjoy a delightful espresso initially presented in the small Gerippte. Should you ever travel to Frankfurt, I recommend a pub crawl through Frankfurt*.
APPLE WINE IS CULT
Apple wine is the national drink around Frankfurt and Darmstadt, and people here are mighty proud of it. By the way, the apple wine culture is part of the immaterial cultural heritage. In Hessen, apple wine is lovingly called Ebbelwei, Ebbelwoi, Stöffsche, Schoppe, Abbelwoi or Äppler. You are truly loved when you bear so many different nicknames as the Hessian national drink. It was known as the poor man’s drink for a long time, but that is changing. Apple Wine is currently achieving cult status and is becoming a modern and regional drink. There is no such thing as the unique Äppler; every pub has its particular version of apple wine as it is usually a cuvée and is mixed together from many different types of apples from the meadow orchards. Did you know that the term “Schoppen” comes from Arabic? It means handshake and points to the ancient custom of signing a contract with a handshake and a drink in common.
APPLE WINE PRESS HOUSE KRÄMER
We head on to Beerfurth in Odenwald to the Kelterei Krämer, a family business in its third generation. Karsten Schwinn and Mrs. Braun welcome us with an excellent sparkling apple wine* from “BEMBLE WITH CARE” before we enter the sacred rooms and have the opportunity to learn some background information. The Kelterei Krämer also produces different types of apple wine, e.g. the full-bodied “naturtrüber Schoppen” or the more tart “klarer Schoppen*. In addition, a refreshing “non-alcoholic apple wine” is available as a thirst quencher. For the cold winter evenings, the “heißer Apfelwein” is heated and is exactly the right thing to warm you from the inside. In the product range is also a “direct apple juice” with a natural taste, various fruit juices and nectars. For several years the press house is also very successful with the products of “BEMBEL WITH CARE.”
FROM THE TREE INTO THE BEMBEL
Autumn is the time when the harvesting and pressing season begins. The juicy, fully ripe apples are harvested from the meadow orchards and then pressed into delicious Äppler in the wine press. Since they need more apples than they grow themselves, they also buy different old apple sorts from the meadow orchards from farmers nearby. In this way, Kelterei Krämer supports the cultivation of the meadow orchards around Odenwald. The more sorts, the tastier the product. Farmers line up in front of the hall with their trailers loaded with juicy apples. Private persons with small quantities are welcome and can hand in their apples. Nothing smells as good as the scent of the old apple sorts; I imagine how this diffuses the atmosphere.
THE TRANSFORMATION FROM APPLE TO ÄPPLER
The apples are weighed on the truck weighbridge; then, they pass directly into a basin where they are floated and washed. They flow to a conveyor belt, where the rotten apples are sorted out by hand. The rinsed fruits find their way through an elevator and are crushed at the end. The juicy apples flow onto the cider presses, from which the freshly pressed apple wine runs out. When the apples are pressed, the pomace remains, collected by nearby farmers and used as fodder for animals. A part is processed to compost or also used to make fruit distillates.
The production is then continued in the chilled halls where the fresh, aromatic juice is led into stainless steel tanks to age in the traditional way to become a delicious “Stöffche.” The fermentation process begins here with some added yeast. We are told that the shorter the apple wine rests on the yeast, the milder the taste of the Äppler and the longer it rests on the yeast, the more intense.
IT ALL BEGINS WITH THE APPLE BLOSSOM
A short walk through the idyllic landscape up to the marvelous orchards is enjoyable. And there we are, right in the middle, among the apple trees sprinkled across the meadows. Especially now in spring they are enchanting us with their white and pink blossoms. An exceptional fragrance of apple blossoms is in the air, not only attracting us, also all the bees. Nature is still untouched in this area. Mrs. Braun tells us that the meadow orchards are threatened with extinction, so replanting them is even more important. For this reason, she is particularly passionate about preserving and supporting traditional apples, even though their cultivation and harvesting are much more time-consuming than the conventional method.
Only the old apple varieties of the meadow orchards, such as the Goldparmäne, Winterrambour, Bohnapfel and many more, give the apple wine its strong and fruity taste. If you plant a 3-year-old apple tree, you can harvest your first own apples after only two years. Older, high and slow-growing types, such as the Boskoop, need about seven years before you can gather for the first time. Mrs. Braun has collected a lot of information about apple trees and orchards; you can find them here in German. By the way, here I have a couple of apple recipes for you. Try my autumn salad with apple, feta and caramelized pistachios or my spicy carrot-apple-ginger soup and rustic autumnal apple tart with goat cheese frosting.
STRENGTHENING WITH LOCAL PRODUCTS
We walk back to the wine-press house, passing the construction place where a new facility is being built in the direct neighborhood and will enlarge the company. We are pampered with local products from the region. We are served Kochkäse a cooked cheese with fresh farmhouse bread, butter, and for me, of course, again with caraway seeds. In addition, we try the fruity and aromatic juices and of course, the delicious apple wine traditionally from the Bembel.
BEMBEL WITH CARE
The Krämer family has been working to free apple wine from the dust and introduce it beyond Germany’s borders. They have succeeded with new products in modern design and packaging. With “BEMBEL WITH CARE” they have brought the apple wine to the can. The cans have many advantages, as they are light, compact and easier to handle. Even in Mallorca, you can now reach for BEMBEL WITH CARE in cans. In addition to the classics Pure* and Sour*, there are various flavors with fruit juices such as cherry* or quince* and a blend with cola*. Young people accept the new design and the taste, and I like the Apple Cider Gold with Quince flavor.
THE TASTE EXPERIENCE OF APPLE WINE
The real Stöffche connoisseur usually drinks Apfelwein pur. But that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so several blends of the Hessian national drink are available. If you order a G’spritzen (Sauergespritzten), you get a refreshing mixture of apple wine and mineral water (in the ratio of 1/3 to 2/3). If you have to drive, you should order the Batschnassen (1/4 to 3/4). If you choose a Halbe-Halbe, you will get apple wine and apple juice mixed in equal parts. Should you ask for a Süßgespritzten don’t be surprised if you’re served two glasses, one with apple wine and one with lemonade. This variation is a no-go among the homebrewers, and you should be the one to mix it yourself.
Another option is the Laternche, a beer mug full of Süßgespritzter with a full glass of cherry liqueur. When drinking, the glass shifts and mixes with the apple wine. Looks like a lantern (Laternchen), and after drinking, the (your) lights go out ;). A long-forgotten variant is “Herrschafts-Gespritzte,” which is currently experiencing its renaissance. At that time, the fine bourgeoisie “spritzed” its apple with sparkling wine instead of mineral water. By the way, the best drinking temperature for apple wine is 12 degrees Celsius.
MICHELSTADT IN ODENWALD
Michelstadt is small but oho. A historical small town, which is situated in the middle of Odenwald. It is worth strolling through the historic Michelstadt, where, by the way, the oldest town hall in Germany is located. Right next to the “Träumerei”, the Design-Hotel where we spend the night, is the “Michelstädter Rathausbräu,” the home brewery of the Schwarz family. It is like a journey back in time to stroll through the cobble-stoned narrow streets here. Around the Design-Hotel are picturesque half-timbered houses with pitched roofs and wooden beams with golden engravings.
And not to forget the fabulous Christmas market, this is where I love to bring my family members from Persia while visiting Germany. For me, the Christmas market is the most romantic in the area. With 100 nostalgic market stalls offering everything from handmade crafts to Christmas souvenirs. In the middle of the historic center of town is “Labsal“, a cooking school, gastronomy and dining experience by Chris Keylock. I met him at Ambiente in person, and we joked about our shared name. In addition, a confectioner world champion has his confectionery in Michelstadt. Café Siefert is one of the most renowned and highly decorated pastry shops in Germany and the home of pastry chef Bernd Siefert.
The Odenwald is one of the most charming low mountain regions in Germany: picturesque half-timbered architecture, deep forests, and romantic valleys, together with Odenwald hospitality and specialties. You can relax and have fun while hiking around Michelstadt in the ” fabled” Odenwald. There are beautiful hiking trails in the Geo-Naturpark Odenwald-Bergstraße, which I recommend hiking at different times of the year. Or you can visit the Glücksfabrik of Koziol in Erbach and look around the museum or go shopping in the outlet. You can read my post about my visit to the Glücksfabrik here in German. I also recommend going to the beautiful Mossautal and visiting the Hüttenthaler Molkerei. Try the homemade delicacies made from Odenwald cow’s and goat’s milk from local and sustainable production.
DESIGNHOTEL “DIE TRÄUMEREI” AND “TRÄUM WEITER”.
After visiting the Krämer wine press house, we drive up the winding road lined with meadow orchards to Michelstadt. In the middle of the old town, between the winding old town alleys and the fairy-tale half-timbered houses, you will find the small but fine romantic design hotels “Die Träumerei” and “Träum weiter...” by the sisters Jessica and Sandra Schwarz. Jessica Schwarz is known through movies and television and is a native of Michelstadt; her sister Sandra is a gastronome and takes care of the dreamy Design-Hotel. The façade of the half-timbered house is covered with Odenwald wooden shingles, and each of the stylishly furnished four rooms of the Träumerei is filled with love, heart, soul and style.
BEAUTIFUL DREAMS IN THE JADEMANSARDE
I am handed a cuddly green bunch of ostrich feathers with keys and informed that I would stay in the Jademansarde on the top floor. Via the beautiful staircase, I reach the second floor. I already get goosebumps when I open the room door; so gorgeous is the chamber. The attic is exposed, and the room feels airy and open with warm jade tones and quite homey. A trendy goose feather lamp hangs from the ceiling and can be dimmed to your mood. The wall that separates the modern bathroom with handmade tiles from Belgium in soft green tones, from the sleeping area is coated with an original bird wallpaper. A bedspread and pillows made of very soft pheasant feathers lie on the bed. A cozy basket chair on the other side of the room invites to relax. Unfortunately, there is no time for that, as we continue our journey after a short refreshment under the walk-in shower.
RESTAURANT TREUSCHS SCHWANEN
We head on to Reichelsheim to the Restaurant Treuschs Schwanen, which enjoys an outstanding reputation far beyond the Odenwald region. We walk up the hill to the restaurant, passing the church where the Trombone Band is practicing. Armin Treusch and his son Thomas have already prepared an excellent apple wine “Ebbelwoi” cuisine for us from local and seasonal ingredients. At the nicely set table in the rustically furnished Johanns-Stube, we toast to a delightful evening with a sparkling Treuschs ApfelSecco.
TREUSCH’S APPLE WINE MENU
Along with the creative dishes with a twist of apples, we have a special treat – an apple wine tasting. Seven mono-varietal Apple wines, which Mr. Treusch produces himself, will be served to match the new Ebbelwei Cuisine. The Treusch’s single-varietal apple wines will play the leading role this evening. Two different apple wines accompany each course. I most enjoyed Treusch’s Gold Parmäne with the pickled salmon trout crêpes with apple and leek salad. The Goldparmäne is fruity and mild; no wonder it is the queen among the old apple varieties. It was also served with Treusch’s Reicheslheimer Weinapfel.
We continue with the Himmel und Erd’Suppe (Heaven and Earth Soup) accompanied by Mr. Treusch’s Gewürzluike and Treuschs weiß. The Odenwald “Ebbelwoi-Hinkelsche” reached with an apple wine sauce is my absolute favorite among the main courses. Although I like wild and the Boar roast in apple cranberry sauce also tastes fantastic. The apple wines served are the tangy Treuschs Boskoop and Treuschs Rheinischer Bohnapfel.
The best things come at the end; a freshly baked apple-walnut strudel served with vanilla ice cream and apple punch sauce, along with an Apfel PommO XO. Each of the varietal apple wines had its unique flavor. It was an extraordinary culinary experience all around the apple and apple wine with local products from Odenwald. I am inspired how delicious Odenwald tastes. Many thanks to family Treusch for the warm hospitality.
APPLE WINE IN HAUTE CUISINE
Armin Treusch is a passionate apple winemaker and has produced over 25 varieties of his very characterful apple wines. From apple secco, dessert wines, and house distillates to apple vinegar he is pressing since 1996 in his manufacturer in the house cellar. He creates a tasty variety of homemade apple wines from pure types of old meadow orchards from the Odenwald, such as Bohnapfel, Goldparmäne, Gewürzluike, Boskoop, Graurenette, red Sternrenette, Wildapfel and many more. Besides, there is a Pomothek at the restaurant, where all these unique apple wines can be purchased.
BREAKFAST IN THE “DIE TRÄUMEREI”
After the delicious dinner at Treuschs restaurant, I gratefully cuddle up in the cozy bed at the Träumerei and feel good. At 7:30 in the morning, the bells of the Michelstadt church jingle softly and I look forward to having breakfast in the small, cozy café. I pass the reception desk, and on the wall behind it hangs a painted portrait of Jessica Schwarz. A few more steps, I am already in the cozy café with uncovered half-timbered elements that look very modern and fresh. The smell of coffee is in the air, and some of my blogger colleagues are already enjoying their coffee from the local coffee roaster.
There is a choice of savory and sweet breakfasts lovingly put together, including gluten-free, lactose-free or vegan; there is an option for everyone. Anyone who knows the Odenwald gastronomy knows that it is special. I decide on the power breakfast consisting of a fruity smoothie, Bircher muesli, herbal curd cheese and a delicious cappuccino. The “Bambi” Jessica Schwarz received in 2009 for her role as Romy is placed on the cake display cabinet between the homemade jam jars. We pack our bags and continue the journey to Taunus.
KELTEREI STEDEN & STRAUSSWIRTSCHAFT ALT ORSCHEL
The apple wine press manufactory Steden & Strausswirtschaft Alt Orschel is located at the marketplace of Oberursel in the Taunus, in the middle of the historical old town. The Yard entrance of the Steden apple wine press house is decorated with a typical spruce wreath with a Bembel in the middle. We all are amazed as we walk into the roofed Yard. The spacious yard, surrounded by the historic building in half-timbered style, is furnished initially and has a welcoming atmosphere with a unique flair. Across the Yard, clotheslines are stretched from house to house and hung with old white linen. Beer benches and tables are ready to entertain the guests and amuse them with legendary events with prominent artists. I can imagine the swaying, singing and laughing here when it gets crowded with guests who come to a stop in on weekends.
After a super casual welcome with a chilled apple sparkling wine, the open-hearted and hospitable brothers Florian and Valentin Steden tell us that a Strausswirtschaft (translated as an ostrich farm) has nothing to do with the bird. In the past, apple farmers pressed apple wine at home and either served it themselves or sold it to apple wine taverns. Those with a liquor license hung a spruce wreath with an apple in the middle on their door. The motto was “Where the wreath hangs; the apple wine is served.” Nowadays, a Bembel usually hangs in the middle of the wreath instead of an apple.
KELTEREI STEDEN & STRAUSSWIRTSCHAFT ALT ORSCHEL
The way to local specialties is often shorter than you think, e.g., Oberursel to the Kelterei Steden. The sympathetic brothers produce not only their delicious apple wine, apple secco and sour sparkling, but also aromatic apple juice and some fine distillates and other products which they sell in their farm shop. For the first time in my life, I have tried a mild but very fruity rosé apple wine and am blown away by the taste. This rosé is delicious and pleasant to drink, so I buy a small canister. The brothers can confirm that the apple wine trend is moving towards more mild flavors.
For the brothers the subject of regionalism and the preservation of nature is essential. Therefore they created around their orchards wild flower blooming strips, which are an absolute eye-catcher. In this way, the trees are protected from wanderers and dogs grabbing for the apples and even more, living space is created for certain species of flora and fauna. Nest boxes and perches for birds ensure a natural balance between beneficial insects and pests. More than 50 different apple sorts grow in their meadow orchards. They produce the apple wine in the old barn behind the Straußwirtschaft, which we visit together. They plan to build a wine and gastronomy facility in the middle of the orchard meadows. A huge colorful Hessian Charcuterie board crowns the end of our trip. Pampered and full of impressions, our shared journey ends here.
APPLE WINE MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL, SLIM AND SMART
It is said that the Hessians have apple wine in their blood and that Äbbelwoi flows through their veins. Did you know that apple wine has some health benefits for your body? In this case: The dose makes the poison. Apple wine stimulates digestion and improves the blood flow of the stomach. It keeps you slim, as it is deficient in calories. In the G`spritzte version, the cider contains almost no calories at all. The Äppler also includes a lot of vitamin C, strengthening our immune system. Due to the balanced ratio of potassium, calcium and magnesium, apple wine has an alkalic effect on the body. When drunk hot with cinnamon and sugar, it helps against colds and flu-like infections.
For people with diabetes, apple wine is not only an ideal thirst quencher but also ensures a balanced blood sugar level. The polyphenols in apple wine have a vessel widening effect and protect the heart/circulation system. So anyone suffering from high blood pressure should drink a glass of apple wine from time to time as it has a blood pressure-lowering effect. The fiber pectin prevents toxic substances from entering the blood and reduces cholesterol. It also helps slow the aging process, as it promotes blood flow to the brain and keeps the mind active. A glass of apple wine in the evening also encourages a night of healthy sleep.
DAY OF THE CIDER
On our trip, we learned how diverse and innovative apple wine is. What I like about apple wine is that it is responsible for preserving meadow orchards and doing something good for our environment. At the World Cider Day on June 3, you can celebrate your passion as an apple wine lover with many press houses in the region. And if you still haven’t had enough, look around from 03.06-12.06 at Cider World in Frankfurt. There are significant events and tastings around the apple wine and the cider.
At this point, I would like to thank Gourmet-Connection and Hessen-Tourismus for these special days. Thanks to the passionate and guest-friendly people who made the apple wine even tastier for us.
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