Churfranken is a wine region and the Franconian Red Wine Trail runs along the Main. Here you can not only enjoy a wonderful hike, but also watch the winegrowers at work and discover the local wines in the wineries.
How did the Franconian Red Wine Trail come about?
Sometimes you can get the best ideas even when you are half asleep. This is what happened over 30 years ago when Willy Stritzinger, still slightly dazed, heard something about a wine trail on the radio.
He was so enthusiastic about this idea that he approached winegrowers in the region to see if they would participate in a hiking trail project. The search for a name began and the “Franconian Red Wine Trail” was born. Signs were created and the route was defined. Care was taken to ensure that the signposting was so good that the trail could still be found effortlessly after the third glass of wine.
In addition, each participating winegrower committed to producing at least one red wine. In 2020, the Franconian Red Wine Trail celebrates its 30th birthday and tempts you to enjoy hiking in Churfranken.
Franconian Red Wine Trail – the hiking stages
The trail runs over 6 stages and is over 70 kilometres long.
Großwallstadt – Großostheim stage
The Franconian Red Wine Trail begins in Großwallstadt. The first stage runs over 16.2 kilometres (duration about 4.5 h) and is relatively flat.
We also start in Großwallstadt and meet Klaus Giegerich at his winery. We will then go by car to the Lützeltal. This is where the red wine hiking trail runs. A premiere for me, I walk between the vines for the first time. And for me, with my untrained eye, every vine looks the same. It’s a good thing that the Großwallstadt grape variety trail with its 14 information panels provides some clarification. It has been around since 1993 and leads through the Lützel and Pitz valleys. Yes, and after we had received a little training directly on the grapes, I recognise grapes with shoulders, leaf differences and grape sizes. Which grape ripens best where and which wine is best, I prefer to leave that to the winegrowers. I prefer to taste the wine.
A short time later, we also get the opportunity to do so. There are many small huts in the vineyards, which are also used by the winegrowers for events. And so we stop at a hut of the Giegerich winery and make ourselves comfortable under a tree in the shade. Five selected wines await us – four white wines and one red wine in a wide variety of quality levels, price classes and growing locations. My favourites quickly crystallise, a dry Müller-Thurgau (Frank & Frei) from 2019 and the Spätburgunder Pitztaler Berg from 2018, wines that would enrich our “wine cellar”.
Großostheim – Elsenfeld stage
Much too quickly we leave this idyllic place and head for the end of the first and beginning of the second stage to Großostheim. The second stage is 17.2 kilometres long and takes about 6 hours.
In Großostheim, winemaker Peter Höflich awaits us at the family-run Höflich winery. With him we explore his vineyards, which have a completely different slope than the cultivation areas we had visited before. While we enjoy the view of the Frankfurt skyline and Aschaffenburg Castle, the winegrower tells us a lot about growing grapes on his slopes. Due to a special permit, he is able to grow Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In addition, Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pino Noir are grown. Only now do I realise that each federal state has precise regulations about which grape varieties may be used. If you grow a variety that is not permitted, you are not allowed to use it in wine production.
Back at the winery, we were given a little tour of the production areas. I am surprised at the amount of material needed to make wine. I hadn’t thought about it before, so I was happy to learn something about the production.
The tour ended with a wine tasting in the estate’s Häckerwirtschaft. We were presented with four wines: Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Pinot Gris Spätlese 2018, a European cuvée wine “Teste Matte” and a Merlot from 2018. Here, too, my taste favourite is quickly found. I particularly like the Cuvée “Teste Matte” , which was developed jointly by several winemakers. In the first “trial” with his colleagues, a white wine was created, currently a red wine is being worked on, which will hopefully taste just as good.
Stage Elsenfeld – Rück – Schippach – Erlenbach
The third stage of the Franconian Red Wine Trail covers a distance of 14.6 kilometres. We meet Verena Waigand-Sacher at the end of the stage, who is responsible for production, among other things, in the family business of the Waigand winery.
With her, we went to the steep slopes of the vineyards. The terraces are divided by dry stone walls, steep irregular stairs lead up the slope. Here the winegrower harvests by hand, machines cannot be used in this steep slope. As I climb the narrow steps, I imagine what it must be like to carry baskets of grapes up or down here. Not a job I would like to do, but one that the winegrowers do with commitment and enthusiasm. Burgundy, Silvaner, Riesling, Portugieser and Müller-Thurgau grow here on the Buntsandsteinterrassen.
A little above the steep slope is the Franconian Red Wine Trail, which we follow to the terroir f lookout point.
Terroir f denotes magical places of Franconian wine. Places you should have visited that showcase the versatility of the landscape and viticulture. Places with vantage points to enjoy.
The vantage point lies exactly between Erlenbach and Klingenberg, the fourth stage of the hiking trail in Churfranken.
Stage Erlenbach – Kingenberg
At 4.1 kilometres, this is a fairly short stage, but one with a view. Arriving at terroir f, we meet Anja and Willy Stritzinger from the organic winery Stritzinger from Klingenberg.
Willy Stritzinger, the “inventor” of the “Franconian Red Wine Trail” and his daughter Anja have been running the organic winery as a family business for over 40 years. Here, too, the wine is grown in the terraces high above the banks of the Main and harvested by hand. One of the oldest vineyards in the village is located here on the Klingenberger Schlossberg. The special thing about it is that about 20 different grape varieties grow here in a colourful mix. These are harvested, pressed and fermented together and produce a unique wine every year.
We made ourselves comfortable at the terroir f vantage point and tasted four wines from the Waigand and Strietzinger wineries. A fantastic opportunity to taste good wine with such a view. From the light summery white wine to the Pinot Noir Churfranken with a light blackberry note here I could really enjoy.
Klingenbach – Großheubach stage
The fifth stage of the hiking trail covers a distance of 10.1 kilometres along the Main River.
Our way led us directly to the Kremer winery in Großheubach. Ulli Kremmer, a young winemaker who grows at the Großheubach Bischofsberg, was waiting for us. We walked with him along part of the educational wine trail. Here there are large display boards explaining not only grape varieties but also soil types and viticulture. In some areas of the vineyards there are also small signs showing which grape is ripening here.
After our short tour, we arrive at the winery’s vinotheque. In a stylish atmosphere, we are offered six wines to taste: 2019 Müller-Thurgau, 2019 Muskateller, 2018 Riesling in a Bocksbeutel, 2018 Chardonny, 2018 Spätburgunder and 2017 Pinot Noir Fass 29. Apart from the fact that the look of the labels on the wine bottles perfectly matches the colour of our logo, I am thrilled by the taste of the Muskateller. The light fruity taste convinced me so much that I took a bottle home with me. Have I found my new favourite wine?
Großheubach – Bürgstadt stage
The last stage of the Franconian Red Wine Trail is 15.2 kilometres long. Here you pass through the picturesque town of Miltenberg and reach the end of the trail in Bürgstadt at the Rudolf Fürst Winery.
Paul Fürst welcomed us to his farm and first took us to one part of the production, the cold store. Here we learned that the winery exports its wine to 35 countries and supplies top gastronomies. If you want to buy one of the top wines here, you can pay just under €130 for a 2018 Spätburgunder, for example.
After the short tour, we made ourselves comfortable on the walls above a vineyard and tasted four quite different wines. First, we were offered two Riesling wines. One of the wines from the 2018 production and one from 2009 from grapes from the Centgrafenberg. Already here, great differences in taste were noticeable. This became even more obvious when tasting the two Pinot Noirs. The first wine from 2018 was already quite full-bodied in taste, but the wine from 1999 tasted even more powerful and, with its rich dark red colouring, was also a feast for the eyes.
Planning the hike
For hikers, Churfranken e.V. offers a digital interactive map on its homepage that shows the individual stages. The length of the route, the degree of difficulty and the sights along the way are shown here.
Karten der Etappen
Disclosure: The exploration of the Franconian Red Wine Trail was part of a blogger trip to Churfranken. The report is based solely on my impressions and was written independently of the visit.