Did you hear the klaxon? That’s the sound of a new season arriving and with it all the delicious seasonal food and drink Germany has to offer. The pumpkin spiced latte has nothing on the colourful Rote Bete (beetroot), creamy sauce coated Pfifferlinge (Chanterelle mushrooms), fresh Brombeeren (blackberries) picked from hedges and the wonderful sweet Federweißer (‘feather white’, new wine) that appears everywhere for a few short weeks and then disappears, until the next year.
Federweißer or Federroter, Neuer Susser, Junger wein, Bremser, Most (and yes there are more names too) is a wine which has begun, but not completed, the fermentation process, it has an alcohol content of 4-10% and will have a cloudy appearance (hence the name ‘feather white’) when agitated, as the yeast is still present and visible. The wine itself is a sweet slightly sparkling grape juice and available in white, red and pink, surprisingly refreshing and the perfect accompaniment to the traditional savoury Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake).
My first introduction to Federweißer came from the supermarket on September 1st 2011. A classic ‘Oooo that’s new’ impulse purchase located conveniently right inside the front doors. The stocks were low so I grabbed a pink bottle, secured the less than air tight lid, shopped and cycled home with my new buy proudly sticking out of my bike basket. Thankfully my husband could read the German label, so he loosened the lid and put the bottle upright. One of the fun parts of drinking a wine that is still fermenting is that gas is being continually produced, don’t tighten the lid unless you want a sticky exploding situation on your hands.
If you live in, or passing through, a wine producing area you will get to enjoy the ‘made in the garage, bought at the side of the road from a nice old lady in a two litre plastic jug’ kind of Federweißer. If not your local Getränkemarkt (drinks market) or supermarket will have at least a couple for you to try. To up the alcohol content of the wine by encouraging the fermentation process, leave the bottle unrefrigerated and listen for the gas hiss to stop, this works best on fresh bottles. Leave it for a couple of days maximum, then cool and enjoy. You’ll also find new wine available in other countries such as Hungary, France, Luxembourg, Romania and Italy but under different names of course.
Even if you generally steer away from sweeter wines, as I do, Federweißer is a worth making an exception for, especially when accompanied by one of my favourite German cakes, Zwiebelkuchen. The recipe for this is also particularly regional, some are more like a traditional quiche others are slabs of tray baked bread dough topped with sautéed onions and crème fraîche. Whilst it may sound like a good vegetarian alternative, most do contain Speck (bacon bits) so watch out. The sweetness of the wine combined with the savoury onion covered bread is a perfect way to enjoy the last of the summer evenings before it’s time for winter and Glühwein (mulled wine).