A grape celebration
The season is ripe for wine festivals. As early as March, festivals start to crop up and continue through October. This year, the height of wine merriment can be reached at the Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt in September. The name literally means sausage market and is the world’s biggest, annual wine festival. Nestled in the middle of the German Wine Road, Bad Dürkheim is the host town attracting over 600,000 visitors.
A massive wine barrel, notably the largest in the world, is Bad Dürkheim’s signature attraction. Situated in the midst of the fairgrounds, the barrel has a capacity to hold 1,700,000 liters, but it isn’t filled with wine. Instead, it houses a restaurant and wine bar.
Over 400,000 liters of wine are consumed during the Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt, accompanied by all kinds of sausage and other regional treats. The giant Ferris wheel is a recognizable part of the backdrop, along with rides and games infusing a carnival type of ambiance.
Small wine tents, called Schubkarch Stalls, are filled with wooden tables and benches. Seating is available within the 36 historical wine stalls, each holding approximately 120 people. The wine village offers classic wines in an intimate setting. Expect to sit comfortably close to other revelers. As the local poet Karl Rader said, “The Wurstmarkt is the only festival where you meet old friends you’ve never seen before.”
Local vintners on the German Wine Road are the exclusive wine distributors of the festival. Many of the participating wineries have a long standing tradition and presence. Entertainment in the form of live music and dancing escalates at the wine and beer halls. For 25 years, the Hamel Wine Hall has been accommodating up to 2,000 people annually. With a similar head count, three generations of the Spreuer Family have welcomed guests into their Wine Hall. And the Ehresmann Wine and Beer Hall has been operating for 22 years.
Whether the glass is half empty or half full, the total size is a half liter or pint (50cl). That is double the size of a typical 25cl glass served at most other festivals. When ordering a drink, a deposit of one or two euros is usually included in the total price. If the empty glass is returned, a deposit refund is given.
The Pfalz, or Palatine region, is where Bad Dürkheim is located. This is Germany’s second largest wine growing region, second only to the Mosel in acreage. Marked by mild weather year-round, the area is the warmest and driest wine making region in Germany. Bad Durkheim is easily accessible by train.