Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus, wine and local cuisine
Along the vast expanse of the Rhine, warm hospitality is found around every bend. The Upper Middle Rhine, with its geography, geology, and moderate climate possesses the ideal terroir for Riesling grapes, and many of the world’s best Rieslings (Rheingauer) come from there. The region inspired winemaking and the Romans excelled at it, followed by monks who preserved and improved on their methods, followed by aristocrats and their vast domaines, until the hills all up and down the river were decorated with castles, villas, monasteries, and terraced vineyards – which inspired poets and painters and countless Romanticists.
Lord Byron is thought to have ignited poetic interest in the Rhine with his odes to its ruined castles. Landscape painters like JMW Turner came to capture its rugged beauty and wildness. German Romantics who saw it as a timeless current of heritage and history resurrected its ancient legends and invented new ones. As poets observed, water draws people to itself, where they see reflections of themselves, but the river itself is elusive. Victor Hugo wrote of its shape-shifting nature: “The Rhine combines everything. The Rhine is as swift as the Rhône, wild as the Loire, winding as the Seine, royal as the Danube, and covered with fables and phantoms like a river in Asia.”
From the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, through the Middle Rhine Valley or along its many tributaries and steep-sided valleys, food and wine are a celebration. Most German winemakers owe their existence to the Rhine region, where the roots of terraced vineyards along the river’s banks are traced back to the days of the Romans. While each region produces distinctive styles, the predominant grape is the Riesling; there are also Gewürztraminer, lightly sparkling Sylvaner (in Alsace) and some Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay wines. The city of Heidelberg, on the Neckar River (a Rhine tributary) is known for many things, including its traditional German food and drink – take a look at a video from Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus, introducing you to the best – as well as a podcast on German sausage and a how-to for German potato salad: