Whether you’ve been to the real deal in Munich, Germany or celebrated in a beer garden thousands of miles away, the following fun facts should hopefully enhance your next Oktoberfest experience:
It began as a wedding. Oktoberfest started in 1810 in the city of Munich to celebrate the wedding between King Ludwig I and Princess Therese. For the celebration, the city erected tents in the fields in front of the city gates and held feasts in the couple’s honor. To close the festivities, horse races were held, and these races were so popular that the city decided to conduct them every year. The next year, when the horse races were to be planned, the citizens began to demand all of the other merriment that went along with those races from the previous year—and thus began the tradition of Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest is huge. The centuries-old Bavarian festival is the largest Volksfest (People’s Fair) in the world, with roughly 6.5 million visitors each year. Although it attracts fans from around the world, Oktoberfest remains a German event with three out of four celebrants being Bavarian. Every year, visitors stream into the 4.5 million square-foot Oktoberfest fairgrounds in Munich for 16 days in late September and early October.
There are rules. The spirit of Oktoberfest has spread worldwide—and it’s a great opportunity to enjoy limited edition Bavarian-style beers with great labels—however, there are rules in order to serve beer at the official Oktoberfest celebration in Germany. Beer must conform to the Bavarian Purity Law (the Reinheitsgebot). The requirements include a minimum of 6 percent alcohol by volume, and the beer must be brewed within the city limits of Munich. There are only six breweries that meet the strict requirements of official Oktoberfest beer.
The Wine Tent (Kuffler’s Weinzelt) traces its history back to the original event. Honoring Germany’s rich wine history, the Kuffler’s Weinzelt in Munich features more than 15 German wines. In the past, German wines had a less-than-stellar reputation because, when the fickle German climate didn’t cooperate, the grapes were unable to fully ripen on the vines. To counter the searing acidity of unripe grapes, German winemakers used to add a lot of sugar. Now, through advancements in grape growing techniques and winemaking, Germany makes remarkable wines, regardless of what Mother Nature has dealt. Finely crafted Grauburguner (Pinot gris) and Rieslings are the most popular, but lesser-known Müller-Thurgau and Dornfelder are fruity, floral, crisp and delicious.
Generally, German wines are white, low alcohol, light and unoaked, making them a refreshing companion to enjoy with all that is offered at an Oktoberfest celebration: the Schweinebraten, or Bavarian Pork Roast, Würstl, Sauerkraut, Käsespätzle and even the German schlager music and carnival rides.
October 6-8, you can catch a great Oktoberfest experience on River Street in Savannah. No matter where you plan to celebrate Oktoberfest this month, remember that even at the official Munich celebration, it’s well within the rules to enjoy a great glass (or two) of wine! For more informations on Savannah’s Oktoberfest go to riverstreetsavannah.com.
By Georgene Mortimer, Island Winery
The perfect bottle of handcrafted artisan wine awaits at Island Winery on Cardinal Rd. Complimentary tastings, wine by the glass and cheese platters are available Monday-Saturday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. and Sunday, 12-4 p.m. (843) 842-3141 or islandwinery.com.