Franken wine: Bavaria beyond the beer

How to toast Germany’s World Cup win? With German wine, of course. Though Bavaria is famous for beer, wine is king in north Bavaria’s Franconia region (Franken in German). The iconic photo of Franken’s biggest city, Wurzburg: the Marienberg fortress on a hilltop, nestled next to vineyards, viewed from its 12th-century bridge over the River Main, lined by saint and bishop statues. The bridge is, improbably, “our Facebook,” my guide said. Why? The bridge is the spot to flirt and sip from late April to October, bookended by restaurants, with a wine bar right on the bridge.

Wurzburg is the starting point for Germany’s most famous tourism route, the Romantic Road, which winds through storybook half-timbered medieval towns, like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, before it ends near Neuschwanstein, the castle whose design inspired the one in Disney World. For Franken wine – not Frankenstein – here are the top sipping spots in Wurzburg:


This magnificent 18th-century Baroque palace — where wine flows freely during its annual wine festival, and in its ornate Imperial Hall amid reddish marble and crystal chandeliers during the annual Mozart Festival and Italian Night — boasts something equally remarkable below: wine cellars, almost 15,000 square feet of them, dating back to 1128. Take a tasting tour of the candle-lit cellars, called the Staatlicher Hofkeller Wurzburg, to sample Franconia’s signature white wines: Silvaner, delicate and fruity, and Muller-Thurgau, mildly acid. Buy your favorites afterward at its ultra-modern wine shop across the street.


A handsome yellow Baroque building, with an exuberant white Baroque fountain of sea creatures amid grassy lawns, whose vineyards are the second-biggest wine estate in Germany, this winery produces over 1 million bottles a year. Admire richly-carved wine casks on a cellar tasting tour — especially the whimsical cask where folks hobble on crutches and canes in varying stages of decrepitude then, after sipping wine, joyfully toss them aside and dance with abandon. Enjoy local specialties like smoked trout in horseradish sauce, bratwurst cooked in wine stock or the many asparagus dishes in spring at its restaurant, which has an outdoor terrace. Juliusspital was – surprise – founded as a hospital for the poor, elderly and sick in 1576.


This restaurant offers excellent local specialties, like the “Franconian wedding dinner” — veal in horseradish cream with cranberries and noodles — in both a glass-roofed patio and cozy, traditional-looking rooms.

Weinhaus Zum Stachel

Find Germany’s oldest wine tavern, dating back to 1413, by looking for the outdoor sign of a bunch of gilded grapes that mark the quaint building and its charming courtyard, right off Marktplatz. In this main square, an annual wine festival, the Wurzburger Weindorf, is held beneath 40 tents in spring.

Burgerspital zum Heiligen Geist

This was established as a charitable foundation to care for the sick — like Juliusspital — but in the 14th century, and also hosts a good, moderately-priced restaurant and annual wine festival. Drink up: every bottle of wine sold by its vineyards benefits the elderly in its nursing homes and physical therapy clinics.

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