Mainz and Wiesbaden’s wine fests: a study in contrasts, but equally fun

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

One city wears its wine festival proudly on its chest like an elegant string of pearls; the other tucks its annual homage to the grape in its back pocket like a jealously guarded treasure. Mainz and Wiesbaden, respective capitals of The Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse, often do things quite differently, and the way they set up their wine festivals is no exception. Local residents are often quick to express a clear preference for one over the other, but as one fest winds down before the other even gets underway, experiencing the festivities in both cities is as simple as a hop-skip across the Rhine.

First off the mark is Wiesbaden’s “Rheingauer Weinwoche, of Rheingau Wine Festival. From Aug. 10-19, the squares by the Market Church and Shlossplatz and the Dern’sches Gelände are transformed into a vast and upscale open-air zone for drinking and dining. Over 100 stands manned by wine estates pour the best vintages from the Rheingau winegrowing area, a region most noted for its Rieslings. Sparkling wines, a handful of reds and rosés and freshly pressed grape juice shore up the offerings for those not in tune with the crisp notes and acidity of a Riesling. As all that wine can be fatal on an empty tummy, an additional 17 catering stands serve up treats ranging from the humble bratwurst to tarte flambée to plates of wine and sausages for sharing among friends. Concerts and other forms of entertainment are offered across three stages. For something different, drop by stand number one to sample a Sauvignon Blanc or Zweigelt from Klagenfurt, Austria, one of Wiesbaden’s partner cities.

A unique and well-appreciated touch here are the special water stands at which the local utility provider ESWE offers free drinks of chilled water. The purchase of its collector’s glass at a cost of one euro supports charitable causes.

Traveling to and from the wine fest on public transportation is easy with the ESWE “WeinfestTicket.” The ticket costs 4.55 euros and is good for a single trip to and from the fest up until 5 a.m. the next day. If not bought from the bus driver, be sure to stamp it at the start of your journey. Next, bring the stamped ticket to ESWE stand number 72, where it can be exchanged for a voucher good for a free glass of wine or non-alcoholic beverage at participating stands.

As this festival positively heaves with visitors on the weekends, consider dropping by mid-week, when the atmosphere remains lively, but there’s no need to stand in line for half an hour to buy the next bottle or take a bathroom break. Navigate your way through like a pro by downloading the festival brochure here.

The Mainzer Weinmarkt, or Mainz Wine Market, takes place in the city’s expansive Stadtpark, about a mile’s walking distance from the pedestrian zone and cathedral. This fest runs Aug. 23-26, takes a breather and offers a second round from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2. The rock stars of the wine world here are those of Rheinhessen, backed up by those from neighboring regions Rheingau and Nahe. As Mainz is a partner in a network known as Great Wine Capitals, each year a wine from a member city is presented. Adelaide, Austria is the network’s latest entrant. The park’s Rose Garden is the site of stands pouring the sparkling wines known as Sekts and an artisan’s market at which paintings, wooden crafts, jewelry and other handcrafted wares are sold. The “Schlenderweinprobe” offers the chance to sample eight different Rheinhessen wines at a cost of around 13 euros. A special zone for children next to the flamingo garden offers a jumpy castle, face painting and other pursuits. Booths serving up tasty treats from the region and distant horizons, along with stages on which live music plays, round out all the makings for a great day out. Pack a large blanket to sit on and you’re good to go. The nearest S-Bahn station is Mainz Römisches Theater.

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