A glass in his honour

Goethe and wine

A great poet who liked drinking wine. And a wine culture that is in the Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage and also has deep roots in Thuringia. Welcome to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site Classical Weimar and to the Saale-Unstrut Region.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe drank his first cup of coffee every morning at six o’clock. Then he sat at his desk until midday, working on literary texts – and taking care of his correspondence. This man was not just one of the greatest poets of his time; he was also a politician. He lived in Weimar from the age of 26. The young Duke Carl August summoned him because he needed a clever advisor and confidant. The two men got on well, went on riding excursions together, even got drunk together from time to time, and did politics together. Goethe rose rapidly and took care of the reconstruction of the Palace at Weimar, the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek (Duchess Anna Amalia Library) and the design of the Park an der Ilm, among other things. Finally, he was ennobled and became the “Prince of Poets”. Goethe lived through particularly fertile years from a literary perspective due to his friendship with Friedrich Schiller (set link). Together with the younger writer, he established Weimar Classicism.

Then and now in the Goethe National Museum

But as much as he worked, Goethe was also very keen on pleasure. This is demonstrated not least by the household accounts that the writer kept and from which we can study extracts in the Goethe National Museum. For several years, it has been possible to see the permanent exhibition “Flood of Life – Storm of Deeds” in this building, where you can also find the living quarters of the poet’s family. The exhibition puts Goethe’s life in the context not only of his time, but also of the present time. Along with many other authentic places relating to the life of the intellectual giants of the day, the ensemble is part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site Classical Weimar.

A glass of Madeira in the morning …

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is supposed to have said that “life is too short to drink bad wine.” Therefore, the poet often indulged in his first glass of Madeira at around 10 o’clock in the morning. He found the subject of wine-growing interesting, and was familiar with the vineyard slopes by the Saale – for example around the Dornburg castles – from his own observation. Therefore, Goethe and wine go very well together. Consequently, it is surely no coincidence that the traditional wine festival in Weimar’s old town is always organised around his birthday at the end of August.  

A poet wine

Thuringia can look back on a more than 1,000 year tradition of wine-growing. There are eleven regions with more than five hectares of vineyards. Interesting little locations such as the Weimar poet wine or the products of the Erfurter Weinzunft from the Petersberg Citadel in the centre of Erfurt are just as much part of the wine culture as larger operations. The Thuringian Bad Sulza winery and the Zahn winery in Grossheringen near Bad Sulza, for example, are located in the Saale-Unstrut wine-growing region, which Thuringia shares with Saxony-Anhalt. Germany’s northernmost wine region primarily cultivates high-quality whites, a lot of pinot gris and blanc as well as Müller-Thurgau. Andreas Clauss from the Thuringian Bad Sulza winery says: “Every drop of wine is a little miracle of nature that involves a lot of hard work.”

Good food with a view of the Saale

The Zahn winery is even amongst the top hosts in Thuringia. There, cellar master André Zahn is responsible for the wines, whilst his sister Elvira and her husband Torsten General manage the “Thüringer Weinstube” restaurant and take care of marketing of the wines. The grapes are cultivated as sustainably as possible in the family-run business and picked by hand in the autumn. André Zahn would like to give nature a lot of freedom. At the same time, he likes experimenting and even develops a white wine in a wooden cask from time to time. 

In the “Thüringer Weinstube” restaurant, guests sit cosily under the pergola entwined with vines right by the Saale and enjoy one special house wine or another. With the wine, Elvira and Torsten serve modern, seasonal food. And whether you are stopping off to buy some wine, have been pedalling hard along the Saale Cycle Route or have reached the winery by canoe, every guest is welcome and will be well looked after. Goethe would surely have liked this. Or, to put it another way: today’s wines would certainly have appeared as a fixed item in his household accounts. 

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