The German Wine Institute, a marketing organization serving as the central spokesperson for the country’s wine industry, is also active in promoting wine tourism. To this end, every year in spring it promotes “WeinWanderWochenende”, or wine hiking weekend. Aimed more at domestic tourists, the initiative encourages oenophiles to get out and explore the stunning landscapes of the vineyards, ending their tours at nearby vineyards, where wine tasting and the regional specialties that go so well with them feature prominently. place on the agenda.
Although reservations are required for many events scheduled for the weekend of April 23-24, a handful of organizers are happy to see visitors drop by spontaneously. Some of the wine regions hosting events open to all comers include Ahr (culinary hikes along the red wine hiking route between Rech, Mayschoß and Altenahr); Baden (open wine cellars and sparkling wine bar in the Kaiserstuhl nature garden by Burkheimer winemakers in Vogstburg im Kaiserstuhl); Mittelrhein (Wine Spring, with 16 stations serving wine and drinks on a 3-mile stretch between Boppard and Spay, April 24 only); Mosel (Zell Black Cat Festival, culinary hike with itineraries through the vineyards, only on April 24) and Nahe (Kreuznach Wine Spring, with wine tasting by the Nahe on the Roseninsel in Bad Kreuznach). For a full list, see tinyurl.com/4wecf4fe.
It’s not the only weekend where hiking in the vineyards goes so well with food and wine events. Mark your calendars for these upcoming culinary wine tours: Bergstrasse Vineyard Hike, 22 km between Heppenheim and Zwingenberg, May 1; Saale Wine Mile, four miles between Bad Kösen and Roßbach, June 4-5; Neuenahrer Burgunderfest, five miles between Bad Neuenahr and Ahrweiler on July 30; for more dates, see weinwanderung.net.
Even in the absence of special events, German vineyards are welcome spots for hikers, who are encouraged to bring food and drink for picnics. With thousands of miles of beautiful trails to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down one’s itinerary, but the German Wine Institute helps guide would-be adventurers with its “most beautiful view in the vineyard” initiative. Each of the 13 recognized German wine regions has at least one panoramic view included in the institute’s list of 39 winning views. A few of these wonders include the ruins of Wachtenburg Castle in the Pfalz wine region; a bend in the Saar near Kanzem (Moselle) and the Texas Pass at Oberbergen (Baden). For more views of Germany’s most breathtaking vineyards, go to tinyurl.com/2kax75uw
Of course, Germany does not have a monopoly on superb vineyards. Other lands in which hiking through growing grapes is a heady delight include these beauty spots:
Austria: About 72 km northeast of Vienna, the entrances to the Wachau Valley with its steep terraced vineyards rise almost above the banks of the Danube. The 20-mile stretch between the towns of Melk and Krems lends itself to both biking and hiking; to take advantage of the latter, the Wachau World Heritage Trail offers more than 100 miles of trails connecting the 14 villages of the region. During your stay in the region, taste Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners. A good time to visit is around the summer solstice, which is marked by many celebrations including fireworks, torch-lit vineyards and thousands of lights floating down the Danube. Online: donau.com/en/sonnenwende
France: The Burgundy wine region has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its “climats”, a term which designates parcels of secular and precisely delimited vines on the slopes of the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune, in the south of the city of Dijon. The Route des Grands Crus, passing through the most prestigious parts of the Burgundy vineyard, is an excellent way to discover the region. Over a length of about 40 miles, 38 wine villages, each more picturesque than the next, welcome hikers. Along this narrow strip that stretches from Dijon in the north to Santenay in the south via Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune, villages with opulent merchant houses and limestone houses with tiled roofs compete for the vines in gentle slope, often surrounded by dry stone walls, rivers or hedges. A great moment to visit is during “Le Mois des climats”, six weeks of guided tours, tastings, exhibitions and other fun and educational activities. The next edition of the event will take place from June 3 to July 17. Online: beaune-tourism.com
Italy: Among the tasty wines produced in the Veneto region is the sparkling Prosecco, and the place to experience this bubbly favorite is just an hour’s drive from Venice. The Prosecco Route, a land of steep terraced slopes, is dotted with small family wineries dedicated to growing the fruity and aromatic white grape known as Glera. While the entire 20-mile stretch between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene can be explored by bike or on foot, a popular route is “L’Anello del Prosecco”, a five-mile loop starting and ending in San Pietro di Barbozza. A good time to visit is the third weekend in May, when the “Vino in Villa” festival takes place in the beautiful setting of San Salvatore Castle in Susegana. Online: tinyurl.com/mryskchb
Swiss: The Lavaux wine region offers some of the steepest terraced vineyards in the world; these offer a dizzying view of Lake Geneva below and, in the distance, the Alpine peaks. Along the north shore of the lake between Lausanne and the Château de Chillon, the 23 municipalities that make up the appellation area are best known for their white Chasselas grape variety. The area between Lausanne and Vevey is considered the most dazzling for hikers. The Découverte des Terrasses de Lavaux hike, which stretches from Ouchy to Lausanne to Chillon Castle between Montreux and Villeneuve, is a 35 km route that can be covered in just over eight hours. Otherwise, head to Rivaz, where pleasure cruises depart from its landing stage and where a Vinorama offers tastings of the region’s estates. While the views here mesmerize through the seasons, fall sees the most spectacular scenery. Online: tinyurl.com/yc2fjnja