Eat, Drink and Be Merry with Federweisser!
In the Northern hemisphere September through October is harvest season for wine grapes. Evoking images of red, yellow, and brown leaves, bountiful tables overflowing, and gold moons the word harvest is synonymous with plenty. In wineries across Germany, it is also synonymous with Federweisser (Featherwhite), a particularly wonderful and playful version of young wine.
Also called new wine, Federweisser is wine must that is still in the fermentation process. Kind of like fizzy grape juice but with an alcohol content. Because it is still fermenting, even after bottling, it can’t be capped as it will explode with too much pressure build up. Because it must be drunk in a day or two after bottling, and because of the issue with explosions, traditionally Federweisser was only available in wine growing regions. With innovations in transportation and refrigeration it is now a bit easier for non-wine growing regions to get it (provided they are close to a wine-growing region).
If you can’t make it to Germany any time soon, you can make your own Federweisser at home.
Since Federweisser is such a perishable good, it is only available during harvest time (September through October, sometimes early November). When you see people entering wineries with empty bottles and leaving with them filled with a yellow, cloud filled liquid you know Fall has officially begun. Originally only tasted by vintners as a way of gauging the quality of that year’s vintage, it is now part of the festivities of Fall. Traditionally served with Zwiebelkuchen (a sort of onion tart/quiche) you can generally find it at most wineries and even some inns in Germany. While it tastes like a fizzy, tart apple juice it is the early stages of wine so it is alcoholic. The levels of alcohol range from 4% to 10% so it is not uncommon to see revelers a little worse for the wear at the end of the day, hence the reasoning behind serving Zwiebelkuchen. It soaks up some of the alcohol, in theory.
If you can’t make it to Germany any time soon, you can make your own Federweisser at home. You only need a handful of ingredients and some patience. If you are interested in trying, grab a bottle of your favorite fruit juice, visit your local homebrew store for some yeast, and wait 2 to 9 days depending on the level of alcohol you want. While it probably won’t produce the height of sophistication in wine that isn’t really what you are going for here. Be forewarned though, you may find you enjoy making Federweisser so much in your home you decide to start making your own wine. Who knows, you may find yourself owning a vineyard someday and offering Federweisser to your visitors each harvest!