Worldwide Apple Wine Fair
It’s wind down phase after an intense 48 hours at the Apfelwein Weltweit Messe, or Worldwide Apple Wine Fair, in Frankfurt. Perhaps little known but in this region of Germany apple wine predominates in place of the normally ubiquitous lagers and weiss beers.
The preference for apple wine is what makes this festival so unique – the majority of the visitors opposite you are connoisseurs trooping around the halls with wine glass in hand requesting just a drop in their glass. Thereafter, the ciders are inspected, sniffed, sluiced around the mouth, appreciated (or not as the case may be!) and then spat into the “crachoirs”. This is not a drinking festival like the swilling activities of its near neighbour, the Munich Oktoberfest but rather a restrained affair for cider aficionados.
As a result, the organisers’ claim that Frankfurt is the centre of the cider world do not ring hollow when you see the substantial breadth of exhibitors. The representation was truly global, as far east as Japan and to the west Canada. South Africa hailed from the furthest south and the ice ciders of Sweden were the most northerly.
With such diversity comes a wide range of cider and apple wine making practices and some equally colourful characters, both makers and consumers.
Craig Long is a ball of energy. Originally a native of Los Angeles he moved a number of years ago to the Czech Republic to enable his Russian wife to be closer to her parents. Not one to sit on his hands he has taken to cider with all the zeal of the newly converted. With hectares recently planted with English cider apple varietals he has created two fantastic drinks, the first an excellent ice cider, a rich, aromatic, viscous liquid cider that belies it’s 16% ABV and very moreish. The second and more quaffable is the Smiling Dog classic cider in a distinctive blue 330ml bottle. If I was lagging as a result of the repetitive nature of product explanation to the punters, a quick trip to Craig’s stand sent me went away with my batteries re-charged.
Die Klassiker der Ebbelwei-Cuisine stehen auch im neuen Lorsbacher Thal auf der Karte, doch ein wenig anders und mit Pfiff. Wer sich durchprobieren möchte, bestellt drei, vier Hessen-Häppchen für 2,80 bis 5,20 Euro – bitte nicht „Tapas“ sagen, sonst kriegt Wirt Winkler Zustände –, die sonst auch als Hauptgerichte erhältlich sind. „Alles hausgemacht“, betont der Hausherr, der sich ein Netzwerk regionaler Lieferanten aufgebaut hat. „Keine Fertigprodukte, keine Fritteuse, keine Tricks“, beschreibt Winkler die Arbeit der Küche. Schnitzel werden in Butterschmalz gebacken und es werden säckeweise Kartoffeln für den hausgemachten Stampf, Kartoffelsalat und die krossen Bratkartoffeln angeliefert.
Not only did we meet new people, we also had the good fortune to re-kindle relationships from our first visit last year, Gianluca from Marley cider made in the Italian Alps, Leonard from the Dutch Beer (meaning bear) Cider, Martin from Kelterei Heil and this list goes on. Different countries, different ciders, different people but all with one aspect in common a passion for good cider.
After an exhausting day at the stand an impromptu custom seems to be grabbing some Frankfurter Schnitzel at the Lorsbacher Thal in the old town of Frankfurt. And ironically enough, this restaurant is owned by a man named Frank, a charming host with an exceptional restaurant. The Lorsbacher Thal still possesses the intact Apfelwein cellars which have been serving clients from its casks for well over 100 years. And in a new addition, one of the catacombs’ houses what must be one of the largest cellar collections of craft ciders in the world. Frank personally selects all of these ciders from makers he has met and he tells me he has just passed the 200 milestone.
Schnitzel consumed and stories swapped with other cider makers it’s time to wearily return to a welcoming bed for some well-earned rest. Despite the fatigue however, I come away energised about craft cider and some of the extraordinary individuals that are part of it. Roll on 2017
P.S. with special thanks to my German translator and assistant Alex Gibbins of
Hurstwood Cider, without whom my product explanations would have faltered at the