May 29, 2007


This past weekend was the Würzburg wine festival and the major local wineries opened their doors for tours and tastings. As part of the “cultural studies” portion of my German class, the entire class went on field trip to the Staatlischer Hofkeller in the basement of the Residenz, the “oldest continuous winery in all Europe.” (School is sooo much more fun here!)

The visit included a lecture by a local wine master (shown above) in his traditional garb), a wine tasting, and a tour of the actual wine cellar, with its several-hundred-year-old, hand-carved wine casks, or Weinfässer. But my favorite part of the day was a chance to try my hand at Fassschlupfen, crawling in and out of the tiny door at the bottom of the Weinfass.

Believe it or not, this is actually a normal part of the wine-making process. After every bottling, some poor soul has to crawl in each Weinfass and clean it out by hand from the inside. This was the unfortunate task that befell my friend Jack when he worked in a winery in Baden-Würtemburg last year. Still it’s pretty tricky, and you can’t be predisposed toward claustrophobia. But as you can see, I managed to crawl in and out and was awarded an official “Fassschlupfen Diplom,” signed by the Kellermeister himself.

Although it looks difficult, apparently anyone can do this if they learn the right moves. According to our tour guide, an American woman attempted it last year – while she was 8 months pregnant! The way he tells it, she crawled in without any problem, but then became stuck. Apparently they had to wait a whole month before they could get her back out. (Buh-dum, pum, pum)

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