In Germany at this time of year, suddenly wine starts appearing on the fruit and veg stalls at the market and in the food chiller section of the supermarket, signs go up at vineyards and a new Kuchen appears in the bakery. The bottle looks like wine but it may be labelled as Neuer Sußer, Junger wein, Sauser, Bremser, Suser, Most or Federweisser (and there are more names too).
It is indeed wine, but not your average wine. This is young wine, more specifically the product of freshly fermented grape juice. A kind of sweet, post grape juice, not yet traditional wine, wine. As you can see it comes in all the usual wine colours, the white tends to be the most tart, but is still utterly sweet. In English you’d call it must, but I prefer Federweisser so for the purposes of this post I’ll stick with that.
Federweisser can vary in alcohol content, anything over 4% is ready to sell and you can find some up to 10%. Even when you buy it the wine can still be fermenting which is why you will always find the bottles standing up, the lids will be slightly loosened (and should be kept that and stored that way) to avoid them bursting. The wine can even continue to ferment and increase in alcohol content once you’ve bought it, though it does need to be quite fresh to do this. Have a listen at the lid, is it still fizzing? then it’s still fermenting, being stored in a fridge usually stops fermentation so if you want to try and increase the content leave it at room temperature. For the best taste though drink on the day of purchase or soon after, if the bottle has travelled far then it has most likely stopped fermenting anyway.
Earlier in the season, which runs from early September to late October (depending on the weather conditions) you will find Federweisser from Italy widely available (see above) and whilst this is decent stuff I was excited to try more local offerings. When in wine country and all that. It could also be as a reaction to biking through the vines and smelling the grapes just before they are ready to be picked, a smell like no other.
I picked these up from the market and supermarket respectively, our local vineyards aren’t quite ready yet but even these tasted better than the Italian offerings. Not that the Italian Federweisser is bad, these just tasted fresher. I also feel like I need to add that I am not a sweet wine drinker at all, this isn’t a Sekt or anything like that more of a lightly carbonated fruity juice. Almost like a grape squash (English people translation).
Now I mentioned Kuchen earlier and that might be a surprise considering how much I
despise don’t enjoy German cakes, but this is my kind of cake. The best accompaniment for any (and all) Federweisser is Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake). The savoury cake compliments the sweetness of the Federweisser and soaks up the alcohol and bubbles so well.
I love a good Zwiebelkuchen, but different regions have their own interpretations. Here it is more quiche like, round with pastry and an eggy onion filling but back in Franconia where I was first introduced to it’s loveliness it is cooked and served in rectangles with a bread crust and more onion than anything else on top. Beware vegetarians, as with most food in Germany it can contain meat, bacon bits might be present in your Zwiebelkuchen, always check first.
In true hausfrau style I checked pinterest for a Zweibelkuchen that looked like the one I used to eat. I used this recipe as a guide for my first time. Overall I was pleased with the result (yes that’s mine in the pictures) but in future I would halve the amount of creme fraîche and eggs, let the onions brown more, adding a little more salt to the dough and add some caraway seeds to the topping for a more authentic taste. This recipe also feeds way more than 6 people! Next time I’ll try and write down my own recipe.
A Flammkuchen also makes a good accompaniment, I love the simple creme fraîche, onions and bacon bits for a quick low fuss evening meal, buying the base from the supermarket is a good option ‘Tante Fanny’ *snigger* is the brand I usually buy.
Get out there and try yourself some Federweisser, I’m excited to try some more before the season is over.