Are you ready to discover a history-laden medieval wine region in Germany with lots of wine tasting opportunities, dining on regional food and lovely accommodation?
This past summer, walking through small historic wine towns with narrow cobblestone streets lined by beautifully preserved half-timbered houses, visiting the local wineries and enjoying traditional local food certainly reminded me what makes a visit to Germany’s wine country so special.
If you are planning a trip to a German wine region but don’t know yet which one to visit, today I have a fantastic one for you to discover.
Boasting numerous excellent wineries located across many beautiful little historic wine towns that are likewise home to awesome small hotels and a fantastic culinary offer, Franconia (Franken) wine region in northwest Bavaria is a real gem.
A Quick Introduction to Franconia Wine Region
Only a short one-hour drive southeast of Frankfurt International Airport, Germany’s third largest wine growing region is nestled between the stupendous mountain ranges of the Rhön, Steigerwald, Taubertal and Spessart.
Though you will also find some nice red wines here, the region is particularly known as a white wine area, with over 80% of Franconia vineyards planted to white grapes. The most planted today is Müller-Thurgau, though actually called Silvanerheimat (home of Silvaner), it’s clear where the local heart lies.
Franconia’s unrivalled flagship wine is made from the indigenous white Silvaner grape. A cross of Traminer and Östereichisch Weiss (Austrian white) it is one of the oldest grape varieties in Germany. Its cultivation was first documented in 1659 in the area of Castell. Once also the most important grape in Germany, with roughly one quarter of all vineyards plated to Silvaner around in the 1970s, today it represents less than 5%.
If you have never tried Silvaner, it’s a full-bodied wine with mild acidity that typically delivers aromas resembling flowers and plants, with fruity accents of melon, yellow plums and apples. Usually on the dry side, it’s a wine best drunken young.
The geography of Franconia Wine Region
Check out the official Wines of Germany website and it will strike you Franconia vineyards are found in different clusters sprinkled across the area.
In fact, there are three distinct areas officially forming the Franconia wine country.
- The Main Triangle (Maindreieck) stretches from Schweinfurt down to Marktbreit and up again to Gmünden. This area, which includs the city of Würzburg is without doubt the heart of the Franken wine region.
- The Steigerwald area which includes the villages of Iphofen and Castell in the southeast
- The Main Square (Mainviereck), located to the west of Würzburg spanns the area between Lohr, Wertheim, Miltenberg, and Aschaffenburg
Travelling to Franconia Wine Region
Exploring the Franconian wine region, from a traveller’s perspective it makes sense to break-up the area into different major clusters rather than the distinct wine areas.
The city of Würzburg is certainly worth a visit of its own. It’s not only home to some of the oldest and largest German wineries, but the city also boasts an UNESCO World Heritage Site (the amazing Würzburg Residenz) along with various other historic sites including the stunning Marienberg Fortress, Old Main Bridge, the picture-perfect historic Würzburg town hall, and many more.
If you want to learn more about the ‘city of hundred churches’ as Würzburg is called due to the large number of local churches and the wineries located right in the city, read my post Würzburg: A fantastic two-day itinerary around wine and more.
Starting just outside of Würzburg, following the Main River you will find a string of picturesque small wine towns spotting half-timbered houses, cobble stone streets, fantastic vineyard views and many terrific, family-led wineries. And not to forget superb restaurants and lovely accommodation.
Still in close proximity to Würzburg lies the Steigerwald area with the areas two famous wine towns Iphofen and Castel.
While divided into two different sub-regions from a winegrowing perspective, this area is small enough to be explored together. Thus why I call it the ‘Würzburg Area’.
Start to plan your trip to Germany’s amazing Franconia wine region right away. You will be in for a treat!
Discover The Beautiful Franconian Wine Region Around Würzburg: Historic Wine Towns, Wineries, Hotels and Restaurants
A picturesque area tightly packed with historic small wine towns, surrounded by seemingly endless rows of vines. Wineries handed down for generations in the family, now led by the latest generation of innovative winemakers, offering wine tasting and more. Lovely small hotels and restaurants offering cosy stays and awesome food and wine experiences. It’s an area perfect for a romantic weekend getaway, wine weekend break, winery tours, a little road trip, or hiking around the vineyards.
This internationally still under the radar German wine region – the third largest among the county’s 13 official winegrowing regions – really deserves to be on your bucket list.
Not far from Würzburg, the area is likewise perfect for a day trip from the city. But to really get to the bone of local wines and the exciting culinary offer, it’s well worth planning to spend a couple of days or a week in this part of the Franconian wine country.
Start your trip just outside of Würzburg and follow the Main River meandering through the area right up to Volkach, possibly with a little detour to charming Iphofen.
Leaving Würzburg to the south, Randersacker almost bordering the city is the first of several lovely little wine towns nestled along the Main River. First mentioned in 1123, the earliest vineyard in this area can be traced back to 779, and up to this day Randersacker stands for excellent wines.
In fact, word has is that Randersacker is home to at least as many wineries as there are homes. While this is likely a bit exaggerated, you won’t have to walk far to find a lovely little winery here.
Many of the local wines will come from the ‘Ewig Leben’ appellation, which literally translates into ‘living forever’, combining the different single vineyard locations of the town into one major appellation.
If you want to learn a bit more about local wines, I recommend heading to Weinhaus Ewig Leben, a little wine bistro owned by Trockene Schmitts winery, serving local food and of course their own wines.
Located further down the Main River, Sommerhausen with its amazing medieval little core is definitely one of my favourite Franconian wine towns.
Though counting less than 2,000 inhabitants, Sommerhausen is calling itself the ‘door to wine, tourism, and culture’. Once you pass one of the two medieval gates into the historic part of the town, it’s immediately clear why. Beautiful small boutique hotels, restaurants, cafes, and art galleries are lining the narrow streets, along with a few wineries inviting you to stop by and taste the local wines.
Sommerhausen is the perfect place to stay for a night or two to explore the many small wine towns of the Main triangle located close by.
It’s also home to one of the only few Franconian Michelin-starred restaurants. Restaurant Philip will not leave you disappointed, though you must time your visit to fall on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, the only days when the restaurant is open. The place also offers a handful of rooms (including a suite).
Otherwise, book your stay at Hotel Oechsle & Brix, a small boutique hotel with only 11 individually styled rooms. Wine lovers will recognize the name captures the scientific measurement of sugar in wine, with the sugar content typically referred to as Oechsle, Brix or Baumè depending on the geographic location where wine is made. Here you are in for lovely accommodation, a cosy atmosphere, and a lovely breakfast, but will have to head out for dinner.
For more rural accommodation and traditional Franconian food, there’s Hotel Ritter Jörg + Restaurant.
For an excellent wine experience, head to the impressive historic Weingut Schloss Sommerhausen a VDP-status winery.
One of the oldest wine towns in the area, Frickenhausen spots a mixture of medieval half-timbered houses and baroque mansions.
Hotel and Weingut Meintzinger easily stands out despite all the amazing architectonical beauty surrounding it. The origins of this estate go back to around 1790 and ever since was handed down in the family and run as a working farm. Turning it into the award-winning innovative winery it is today took until current owners Michaela and Jochen Meintzinger took over in 2005, though. Though it’s worth only coming for the wines, it’s more than worth coming also to stay at the small boutique hotel.
Another perfect spot for a little snack and perhaps a glass of wine is the small Weinbistro Frickenhausen, located in the old town hall.
Sulzfeld am Main
You can walk through the little medieval core surrounded by the still mostly intact historic wall in mere minutes. But why would you?
With less than 2,000 inhabitants, this picture-perfect little town nevertheless is home to a couple of wineries and places to enjoy local food.
Weingut Brennfleck with its lovely courtyard doubling as tasting room on warm days and the new, modern cellar building is one of thirty German wineries included in travel magazine Merian’s list ‘Best German Vinotheken 2016’.
Spotting a rare, still completely intact medieval town wall along with many other stunning historic buildings, make sure to reserve time for a stroll through charming Iphofen. Or better yet, check into the local icon Hotel Zehntkeller.
The small town was first mentioned in a document in 741 AD and started life as royal court belonging to the newly founded diocese of Würzburg, and it is picture perfect even in the smallest corner.
Simply stroll through the winding narrow streets to admire the historic houses, of which each seems more stunning then the other.
Of the three historic city gates the oldest, Rödelseer Tor is undoubtedly the most stunning.
Touring the little town, there will be many opportunities to stop for a glass of wine, whether its at Vinothek Iphofen, the towns remarkable tasting room or directly at one of the local wineries.
Weingut Wirsching is perhaps the most famous of the local wineries, and with many international awards to their name, no visit to Iphofen is complete without stopping by to taste and shop some of their wines. Silvaner, Scheurebe and Rielsing wines from some of the best vineyards within Franken are the winery’s flagship wines.
This small medieval town is one of the most popular destinations in Franconia, not least because of the nearby Main River bend.
Around the little town endless kilometres of hiking paths are leading through the vineyards, including the area’s most famous vineyard Eschendorfer Lump are waiting.
Inside the historic core of the town, a couple of popular spots along the main road – where cars are allowed but traffic is slowed to walking speed and pedestrians get the absolute priority – are waiting to be explored, including the stunning market square.
Both the town hall to one side of the square and the gorgeous half-timbered Hotel Tuchhaus diagonally opposite were built in the 16th century.
Several restaurants, cafés, and tasting rooms along with little gift shops invite for a leisurely stroll – and several stops – along the main road.
Located on the main road, Hotel and Weingut Schwane, boasts beautiful accommodation along with two excellent restaurants. Schwane 1404 offers elevated traditional local dishes – and on warm days romantic seating in the courtyard – while Michelin-starred Weinstock stands for fine dining in an elegant yet relaxed style.
Have you been to Franconia wine region? It not, definitely put this amazing destination on your bucket list. You will love it.