In Germany, Franconian wine is a relative “newcomer”. Winemaking started “just” 800 years ago. And it is here in Franken that the white grape varieties rule, with about 90% of the 6.000 ha of land under vine growing white grapes. HereFranken it is not Riesling (unlike the majority of German wine regions) that is the preferred grape of choice but Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau, more or less in equal measure.
Silvaner, “The King of Franken”, thrives due to the region’s limestone and keuper soils. Though in recent years the aromatic Müller-Thurgau has begun catching up to the Silvaner. One reason for this is Müller-Thurgau’s popularity among the “Junge Winzer” – an exciting new generation of young winemakers shaking up the status quo of German winemaking.
Colder climate and the birthplace of Eiswein
Franken is located in the eastern part of the Rhine, in the area between the south of Frankfurt and north of Nürnberg. Summers are nice and warm but winters are bracingly cold when compared to to Germany’s more western wine regions. Most vineyards are planted on hilly south-facing slopes to increase sun exposure. It is here that Autumn and the yearly first frosts hit the earliest.
Because of the early autumns, the late-ripening Riesling is not the first grape of choice. The shorter seasons are also the catalyst for the accidental discovery of Eisweins beginning.
Eiswein was come across – by chance – when winter came early in 1794. One morning towards the end of the harvest, producers in Franken discovered frozen grapes on the vines. They decided that despite this unlucky incident they would try and utilize these grapes.
As they pressed the frozen grapes most of the frozen water in the juice separated, together with the grape skins. As a result, the remaining juice was much more highly concentrated and had a much higher sugar content. And so, the most important first step in the making of the delicate sweet Eiswein was “invented”.
The 3 districts
The wine region is made up of three subregions/districts: Mainviereck District, Maindreieck District and Steigerwald District.
The Mainviereck district is located furthest to the west, and therefore the warmest part of Franken and where the majority of Frankens red wines are made. The special red sandstone soil suits and enhances Spätburgunder particularly well and this expression remains a testament Frankens great Spätburgunders.
The Maindreieck district is in the center of Franken. It has a varied landscape with some very steep slopes towards the Main river and its soil consists mostly of “Muschelkalk”, a special sedimentary limestone.
These soils provide great conditions for Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau. Some of the most famed vineyards from the Maindreieck district are located just north of Würzburg. You may have even heard “Steinwein”.
The Steigerwald District excels with its keuper soils of marl and plaster/gypsum. As a result, the wines from here are very mineral. Some of the best vineyards are located around the villages of Iphofen, Rödelsee and Castell. Here you will find very fine Riesling and Sylvaner wines, as well as good and aromatic Müller-Thurgaus.
Franken classifications and bottle shapes
As a wine lover you know never to be blinded by established appellations but to also go out and discover great winemaking that is challenging the established conventions.
In Franken they have made their own classification system that complements Germany’s general wine classification system:
“Modern Franconia” (Neues Franken) are easy-drinking everyday wines. These generally come in a Bordeaux shaped bottle – or in a clear Franken “Bocksbeutel” bottle. The Bocksbeutel bottle is the shorter fat-bellied bottle you may know. This type of bottle has over time made Franken wines stand out from others (outside of taste) – especially when attempting to fit them in the wine rack.
“Classic Franconia” (Klassisches Franken) are higher end wines, usually very food friendly and made from a variety of grapes from vineyards throughout Franken. Classic Franconia wines generally comes in Bocksbeutel bottles.
“Great Franconia” (Großes Franken) is the very best of wines Franken has to offer, most of these wines are on the Silvaner, Riesling and Burgundy varieties. Großes Franken are bottled either in Bocksbeutel bottles or Burgundy-shaped bottles.
Sylvaner, Eiswein, Bocksbeutel bottles. The magical landscape with castles, rivers, and vineyards.What are the most popular grape varieties in Franken?
Sylvaner, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling.What types of food works well with wines from Franken?
Sylvaner for salads, tapas, shellfish and grilled fish. Müller-Thurgau for freshwater fish, roasted pork and chicken.