Heckenwirtschaft in Großheubach

Behind the hedge

The 'Heckenwirtschaften' in Franconia

Behind the hedge

The 'Heckenwirtschaften' in Franconia

Anyone entering a "Heckenwirtschaft" (a temporary pub that opens for a few weeks of the year) for the first time is likely to get a shock: It is probably completely full, even at lunchtime. And yet, "a good Heckenwirtschaft always has room", as the locals say. Sliding together and joining other people's tables is considered good form. If a few extra guests arrive, the landlord will find a way to make space. As a result, people are soon conversing with one another.

Heckenwirtschaften have a long tradition. Producers may serve their own wines there for a limited time, generally for two to four weeks. In the region of Spessart-Mainland, between Grossostheim in the north and Bürgstadt in the south – there are written records of this right dating back to the 16th century.

Winegrowers spend most of the year looking after their vineyards and wine.

In days gone by, the vintners even used to empty the bedroom, the garage or the attic space for the brief period that they served their wine. Over the years, most of these have acquired a full gastronomic licence. They could stay open the whole year round for their guests if they wanted. However, only the minority do this in practice. After all, they are first and foremost winegrowers, and they spend most of the year looking after their vineyards and wine.

Weingenuss in der Heckenwirtschaft

Wine tastes best after a walk through Franconia: a number of trails go through the terraces and hillside vineyards. They have always been used for the management of the vineyards and are now popular for excursions. A particularly popular trail is the Franconian Red Wine Hiking Trail, which goes along the Main for six days and 70 kilometres.

Fascinating scenery, short stages and plenty of places to stop for a drink or a bite to eat. – Walkers can be found on parts of the Red Wine Hiking Trail almost 365 days of the year.

It is quite common to stay a little longer.

The vintners in each village and town open their Heckenwirtschaften in turn so people can sample their wine. The annual "Weinkalender Churfranken" (Wine Calendar for the Spessart-Mainland region) provides information about which places are serving guests on which days and weeks of the year.

It is quite common to stay in the lovely courtyards, behind the vintner's hedgerow, a little longer. Heckenwirtschaften are characteristic of the Franconian wine region. It is a fact that the serving of wine was legalised by the authorities back in the 14th century. Back then, it was forbidden to sell homemade wine, so it took place in secrecy or "behind the hedge".

Bratwurst und Wein

All the well-known food and drink guides rhapsodise about the high quality of the wine from the region Spessart-Mainland. It is remarkable enough that, unlike in the other regions of Franconia, it is primarily red wine that is cultivated here. This is due to the rugged sandstone soils, which are mighty impressive from their looks alone. The true value of the Franconian soil lies within, however: The roots of the vines can penetrate the soil easily and take up the fine minerals, with the result that even Pinots noirs of the highest quality ripen.

The finest quality and totally down to earth.

Thus, a Heckenwirtschaft will stock both good wine by the glass and glasses of wines of the very best quality, which are lauded with entries in gourmet wine guides and praised in the Gault Millau. Despite this, many Heckenwirtschaften remain totally grounded.

Auf dem Rotwein Wanderweg