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An organ grinder entertains customers in the back yard of Marcus Allendorff’s winery in Wicker, Germany.

An organ grinder entertains customers in the back yard of Marcus Allendorff’s winery in Wicker, Germany. (Peter Jaeger / S&S)

An organ grinder entertains customers in the back yard of Marcus Allendorff’s winery in Wicker, Germany.

An organ grinder entertains customers in the back yard of Marcus Allendorff’s winery in Wicker, Germany. (Peter Jaeger / S&S)

Locals and guests get together on a warm August afternoon at the Wicker wine festival, enjoying wine and conversation.

Locals and guests get together on a warm August afternoon at the Wicker wine festival, enjoying wine and conversation. (Peter Jaeger / S&S)

Germany has 13 winegrowing regions with a large number of towns and villages producing wine in each. Many of those places have their own wine festivals, some starting as early as mid-March and some ending in December.

At the height of the season, it is easy to visit three fests in one weekend in one of the more prominent regions, such as those around the Moselle, the Pfalz or Rheingau. Some are famous and draw visitors from all over Germany — festivals like the Dürkheimer Wurstmart or the Rheingauer Weinwoche in Wiesbaden. Some are local and more like a family affair.

Among those in the second group is the fest at Flörsheim-Wicker. Wicker, a village not far from the Main River town of Flörsheim between Wiesbaden and Frankfurt, calls itself the "Gate to the Rheingau." It is the starting point of the Rheingau Riesling Route and the Riesling trail, both of which meander through the Rheingau region between Flörsheim-Wicker in the east and Lorchhausen in the west.

Wicker’s wine festival is always held Friday through Monday about the first weekend in August, this year July 31 to Aug. 2. It begins with an opening ceremony featuring music, speeches by local dignitaries and toasts by visiting wine queens from neighboring wine towns.

Then it is time for the first glass of Riesling or Spätburgunder made from pinot noir grapes. Or something else: Some 20 vintners from around Wicker display their wines at booths in the center of the town and open their backyards for guests. Wines from the areas around Wicker — Nonnberg, Mönchsgewann, Stein and König-Wilhelmsberg — are tasted, tested and compared. Drinkers argue about dry vs. mild wine, Kabinet vs. Spätlese, Riesling vs. Müller-Thurgau before agreeing it is all a matter of taste.

Soon the effect of the alcohol begins to show. The voices get louder, the faces get redder and the laughter heartier. Time for some food — and a glass of wine — before more tastings. The smell of a tasty Bratwurst or schnitzel tickles the noses. The food often includes homemade cooking at its best, prepared by the wives of vintners. A regional specialty that should be tried is Spundekäs, a fresh white cheese mixed with onions and paprika powder.

The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and open-minded. Most locals and their friends know one another, but strangers are always welcome. Families with children and pets greet each other. Everyone is well-mannered; you’ll never see a fight at a wine fest.

Too soon, the evening comes. But with the help of warm candle lights and colorful lamps, the fest continues. Do we still have time for a last glass? I had never tasted an Eiswein at a wine fest, until now. Fantastic! This is heaven in a glass. We raise our glasses. Prost!

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