If you had the pleasure of attending the Stuttgart Weindorf this year, you may be curious about Stuttgart’s wine tradition and history.
At the “Weinbaumuseum,” or wine-growing museum, located in a historic winery (“Kelter”) in downtown Uhlbach, visitors can learn all there is to know about wine, from growing to harvesting to bottling the “juice of the grape,” according to Andrea Gehrlach, the museum’s director and Stuttgart Marketing spokesperson.
“Wine growing is a fascinating craft that involves hands-on and machine work, and chemical processes to finally gain a tasty, but natural product,” Gehrlach said.
“We want to introduce visitors to the history of wine growing to highlight today’s rich wine culture in Stuttgart,” she added.
The museum’s “wine tour” starts with a global overview of wine-growing regions before focusing on Stuttgart’s vineyards. Americans will be happy to know that the displays are in German and English.
In Stuttgart, many legends revolve around wine. Some think that the Romans planted the first grapevines in Bad Cannstatt more than 2,000 years ago when settling along the Neckar River. Others believe that monks cultivated wine in the region. According to the Stuttgart website, www.stuttgart.de, all that’s known factually is that the St. Gallen Monastery owned vineyards in Bad Cannstatt in A.D. 700.
To this day wine growing influences the city in many ways, and the word “Wein,” or wine, is embedded in everyday life, according to Gehrlach. The museum shows that by displaying street signs that can be found throughout Stuttgart, such as “Alte Weinsteige,” “Neue Weinsteige,” or “Im Weingarten.”
The exhibition also educates visitors on the characteristics of Stuttgart’s wine areas. Climate, weather, location and soil are all important for good wine. As an example, Gehrlach said that the steep terraces covered in grapevines along the Neckar River are ideal for growing wine. Stone walls hold the terraces in place and store heat from the sun. The mild climate at the Neckar gives the wine its mineral component, she said.
Patrons can also learn about the ideal soil, how vines are planted and grapes are harvested. In the “Weinberghäusle,” a replica of a wine hut typically found in a vineyard, the tools and utensils needed for wine growing are on display.
An “Öchsle Waage,” a scale invented in 1836 by Ferdinand Öchsle, a mechanical engineer and inventor from Pforzheim, is on exhibit. The scale was used to measure the sugar content of the must, or young wine, which consists of freshly pressed grape juice. To this day, the must sugar content is measured in “Öchsle” units.
According to Gehrlach, a wine press from 1885 and five carved wine barrels are highlights of the exhibition. The former Stuttgart Town Hall, built between 1901-1905 and later destroyed during a World War II bombing in 1944, is depicted on one of the barrels.
Next to them is a historic “Küferwerkstatt,” or cooper’s shop, where wooden barrels were produced by hand. The steps to making a “barrique,” a barrel made of oak mainly used to store white and red wine between the fermentation processes and bottling, is showcased.
The basics of wine making are followed by an introduction on how locals have indulged in wine through history. A variety of wine glasses are displayed, as well as carvings and paintings from Eugen Häfele, a renowned Stuttgart painter and woodcarver.
In Stuttgart, people like to enjoy wine at wine restaurants and at “Besenwirtschaften,” small restaurants mainly owned by vintners with limited menus, according to Gehrlach. Besenwirtschaften are typically open between August and October, and can be spotted by a broom (“Besen”) hanging above the entrance door.
At the end of the tour, all Stuttgart wineries are represented. Their wines can be sampled at the museum’s “Vinothek,” or wine bar. The wine menu offers 20 regionally-produced wines and changes every month.