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It was a steady climb up a gravel road through the vineyards. A seemingly endless sea of green vines rolled in hilly waves. At the top of a small hill was a cluster of tall trees, and, here, a long table was beautifully dressed with platters heaped high with meats, cheeses and hearty breads.
The real highlight of this gorgeous afternoon, though, was the endless flow of crisp white wines, squeezed from the vines surrounding us. We were in the heart of Germany’s Franconian wine country.
About an hour and a half southeast of Frankfurt, the Main River flows through a particularly verdant part of Germany: Franconian wine country. And one of the best places to experience the bounty of the wine country’s vines is in the medieval village of Iphofen. A quick train ride from Nuremberg in northern Bavaria, the quaint village charms visitors with its baroque town hall, turreted walls, gabled houses and surrounding vineyards.
Iphofen has approximately 716 acres under cultivation for wine production. The ancestral tradition of wine making and production has turned the town into a premier destination for wine tourism in Germany.
The two leading grape varietals in this part of Germany are riesling and silvaner, and the majority of the wines come in distinctly shaped, rounded bottles, known as Franken “Bocksbeutel” bottles. This style of bottle dates back to the 16th century and may only be used for winemaking in this region.
One of the leading wine families in Iphofen is the Wirsching family, who have been producing wine since 1630. Weingut Hans Wirsching is one of the largest privately owned wineries in all of Germany.
An introduction to Iphofen should begin with a guided tour with Ruth Holfelder. An expert guide of both Iphofen’s history and wine, Holfelder takes guests on private or group tours to the historical sites of Iphofen, as well as through the wines produced nearby. The tour also includes a visit to a historical vineyard, which demonstrates what the vineyards looked like from the Middle Ages through the 20th century, as well as stops to the open-air museum called Kirchenburgmuseum, the town hall, the old city and more. All tours are customizable and, as a special treat, can include an elegant lunch overlooking the vineyards, complete with wine.
A highlight of the town’s wine country is Vinothek Iphofen, a 6,500-square-foot space spanning four levels in a heritage-protected building. Vinothek shows off products from 20 Iphofen winemakers and estates, including sparkling wines, distillates and Trester, a local grappa.
Wine events abound throughout the year in Iphofen, as well. Alternating every other year is the Iphofen Wine Friendships, an epicurean association where international winemakers and restaurant owners come together. Franconia Gourmet Fair is another event that shows off the products of the region. The Iphofen Wine Festival, or Marktpltaz Winzerfest, occurs every year during the second weekend in July, too.
Beyond the wine scene, Iphofen is known for several other hidden gems, such as the historic town center with its winding, cobblestone streets. The main town church, St. Veit, is surrounded by a preserved town wall with its many gates, towers and turrets. During the spring and fall, Iphofen-Knauf Museum and several art galleries host rotating exhibitions. The Knauf Museum has permanent collections that span four continents and five centuries.
Iphofen Knauf Museumwww.knauf-museum.de
Weingut Hans Wirschingwww.wirsching.de