Grown on the slopes above the meandering River Main, Franconia’s wines are fuller bodied and often drier than other German wines, their distinctiveness arising in part from the climate, which is less kind than that of the wine-growing regions further west. Summers are warm and dry, but winters are cold, rainfall is high and frosts come early, so slow-ripening varieties like Riesling are less important here. Müller-Thurgau – which is also known as Rivaner – and Silvaner are the significant white-wine grape varieties, with new crosses such as Bacchus also coming to the fore. Red wines are grown in the west of the region, around Aschaffenburg, while Würzburg’s Stein vineyard has given rise to the generic name Steinwein, which is sometimes used to describe all Franconian wines. Most distinctive of all is the squat, rounded Bocksbeutel in which Franconian wines are bottled – very different from the tall, slim-necked bottles used by most German wine-makers. Much the easiest way to experience the wines is in one of Würzburg’s traditional Weinstuben.
You can also tour the impressive Staatlicher Hofkeller cellars by the Residenz, where the €6 price of the tour (March–Dec Sat hourly 10am–noon & 2–5pm, Sun hourly 10am–noon & 2–4pm) includes a small glass of wine. The city has a busy programme of wine festivals throughout the summer months, culminating with the alfresco Weinparade am Dom in September; the tourist office has details.