Federweisser – try Germany’s traditional WineONade

What is ‘Fey-Daar-Wai-Sar’ I hear you ask? The German Federweisser is best described as a teenaging wine: It is a cloudy, sometimes fizzy, light, and hard to control young wine – only seasonably available in September and October.

Not a lemonade, not a cider, but as good: Federweisser! (picture curtesy Deutsches Weininstitut)

In fact it is a wine just fermenting, growing up, so to say. It is a very regional thing sometimes also called Neuer Wein, Most, Roter Rauscher (if made from red grapes) – depending on the region you are currently in. Unlike the Beaujolais Nouveau, this new wine is still fermenting and unfiltered, so it is very unlikely you’ll find it outside of Germany. Read on to learn why.

Federweisser is made out of white grape varieties that ripen early like Bacchus, Ortega and Siegerrebe – similar to wines for Sangria or Mulled Wine don’t expect base material that would make great wines the traditional way. 

So Federweisser is grape juice as it begins to ferment. Since fermentation is sugar being converted to alcohol, this means a drink rather high in sugar and low in alcohol. It has 4% alcohol when it goes to market, but – be cautious! – it can reach normal wine alcohol level towards the end of its shelf life. Since it is unfiltered, you Federweisser keeps cloudy, and sediment will start settling at the bottom of the bottle.

Has this been appetising to you? It should. Federweisser tastes slightly sweet and almost sparkling. Since it keeps working in the bottle, you are a in for a little bit of lottery as far as sugar and alcohol level are concerned. In its best versions you’ll taste a refreshing, grape-y sparkling juice, with a nice balance of acidity and sweetness. Think of a cider, but made from grapes. In some cases it is even close to dry. 

As mentioned earlier, this wine is still working away, and it is never fully sealed such as to ensure that the CO2 (a side product of fermentation) can vent of. Means Federweisser is stored upright. And, as a means to keep it fresh and fermentation slow, it needs to be stored cooled. 

It’s unlikely you’ll get to taste much Federsweisser outside of German wine making regions, due to its limited shelf life, its unruly character and challenges in transportation. So on your next trip to Germany in September or Oktober look out for it at roadside stalls of winemakers, at market stands in town centers (in my wine city, Mainz, it is sold with a warm piece of Onion-Quiche – my favorite stops during my Mainz & the Wine walking tour) or in refrigerated shelves in supermarkets. 

Inexpensive grapes, low tech production and no maturation time – Federweisser is an inexpensive product and very affordable to have.  Since it’s fresh and fun to drink it goes down like lemonade, and temptations are high to overdose. Don’t. Same as with Sangria and Mulled Wine, you are best advised to hold back. For obvious reasons.