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06 Oct 2015

Federweißer, One of the Perks of Autumn

Vox Orbis / 06 Oct 2015 Fermentation

Photo: Federweißer is a traditional German wine available only during the Autumn months. Frank Steiner/Flickr

Languages: German (Deutsch)

Eva Nagel

As a German native who has been living in New Zealand for nearly a quarter of a century, there is very little in regard to traditional German food and drink that I miss—until October comes around again. October, a spring month in New Zealand, still makes me think of thanksgiving celebrations, and Federweißer.

Federweißer or Neuer Wein—literally “new wine”—is the product of freshly fermented grape must. Only available in the autumn months and only in the wine-growing regions of Southern Germany—and some parts of Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France—Federweißer is produced in small batches. In many villages, traditional grape presses are still used. The must is stored in large wooden barrels where it ferments rapidly, turning the sugars of the grapes into alcohol. Federweißer translates as “white feathers.” During fermentation, yeast particles contained in the must whirl up, giving it the appearance of tiny, white, dancing feathers.

Photo: Federweißer is made from freshly fermented grape must and usually contains anywhere from 4 to 11 percent alcohol by volume. Dot Neilsen/Flickr

Typically, the product is sold with an alcohol level of 4 percent. Filled into bottles, fermentation continues and alcohol levels of up to 11 percent can be reached. Due to the production of carbonic acid during fermentation, the bottles should not be sealed airtight. Most Germans prefer their Federweißer sweet and drink it when fermentation has just begun. At an alcohol level of about 5 percent, sweetness, alcohol and fruit acids are in good balance.

Photo: Federweißer is traditionally eaten with Zwiebelkuchen, a savory onion cake. Hardo Müller/Flickr

Federweißer is also enjoyed for its health benefits. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and is said to have detoxifying properties. The delightful and refreshing beverage is often served with Zwiebelkuchen, a traditional savory onion cake. Along with colorful thanksgiving celebrations and cozy wine festivals, which remain popular with country and city folk alike, Federweißer is undoubtedly one of the perks of autumn in Germany.

Eva Nagel for Vox Orbis, 2015