July’s obsession: Strausswirtschaft

July’s obsession: Strausswirtschaft

by Anna Leigh Bagiackas
Stripes Europe

Are you a snacker? I consider myself a snacker, totally content grazing away from a snack platter, sipping a glass of German wine and calling it a day. I love building easy and elaborate charcuterie boards, seeking out different unique cheeses, meats and snacks from all over Europe. So, when I learned about “Strausswirtschaft,” I knew what my new German hobby was going to be.

“Strausswirtschaft,” or ostrich taverns, are informal wine bars where a winegrower can sell his wine directly and offer simple snacks and treats to guests. What makes these “establishments” so enticing is that you have to go searching for a sign, typically in the form of a wreath, vine or broom to see if the spot is open for business and welcoming in hungry (and thirsty) wanderers. Legend has it that in the year, 812 Charlemagne—unifier of western and central Europe— allowed winegrowers to run “wreaths” or inns identified by a wreath made of vines. The rest was history.

Compared to more formal restaurants, these taverns have fairly few legal restrictions over them. You may find yourself in a garden, room or even a rustic barn. With this more informal setting, guests have a chance to get to know the winegrower a little better than at a typical wine tasting at a winery.

This centuries-old tradition can be found in wine regions all over Germany and the names differ depending on where you are: in Baden-Württemberg they are called “Besenwirtschaften” or “Besenenschänken”; in the Lake Constance region, Rädlewirtschaft; in Franconia, “Heckenwirtschaft,”; with “Strausswirtschaft” being the term in western Germany. Culinary offerings will also differ depending on what region you are in, ranging from steak, fried potatoes, meats and cheeses to seasonal asparagus, salmon and game dishes.

While many of us like to plan ahead, the surprise nature of ostrich taverns makes the hunt for them even more fun. You can usually research to find when they are open, but each one is different. They may be open daily for a certain stretch of days or only on the weekends for a couple months. Wherever you’re located or wanting to explore in Germany, you are sure to find some ostrich taverns within the local wine regions. All you have to do is know what to look for: a wreath, broom or vine inviting you in.

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