South of Frankfurt, along the Rhine and Main rivers and through the rolling hills of Bavaria, is the loosely defined region of Franconia, a dreamy area with centuries-old hamlets, colorful timber-framed shops, grand baroque palaces, and alfresco dining spaces lining cobblestoned streets. Before my recent visit, part of a Rhine and Main cruise from Uniworld, a friend begged me to bring back a few bottles of Franconian wine. “Isn’t it just riesling?” I thought. “She could get that at home.” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The residents of Franconia have cultivated wine for more than 1,200 years – and, it turns out, there’s plenty more besides riesling. The area’s mild climate, fecund soil, and twisting rivers make for excellent grape growing, I soon discovered, seeing rows upon rows of green vines covering the steep hillsides. Among the many varietals produced here are soft, floral silvaner; fruity Müller-Thurgau; and crisp, aromatic Bacchus: the top three plantings by acreage.
As I tasted my way through the region, I realized just how important wine is to Franconia. I was welcomed to exquisite vineyards and wine estates, and educated by enthusiastic locals in wine bars and shops. The area’s villages and towns even have their own Winzerfeste – wine festivals held throughout the year after harvests – as well as wine hiking trails. Whether you’re on a cruise excursion or a wine vacation, wend your way through these three towns to learn the secrets of Franconian wine.