Franconia – a very special fusion of medieval towns and villages, scenic beauty and an almost mediterranean climate with a centuries-old tradition of wine making and people who fully appreciate all that the region has to offer. Würzburg wines from Franconia were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's favourite tipple. At the same time, Franconia is the embodiment of a 21st century wine region with wines that win international awards and cutting-edge wine-making facilities.
The area in Franconia used for commercial grape cultivation totals 6,045 hectares, 20 per cent of which consists of steep slopes and terraces. Franconia's best known grape variety is silvaner, closely followed by müller-thurgau. In terms of red wines, the domina and pinot noir varieties lead the field.
40 per cent of its wines are sold in squat bocksbeutel bottles, the distinctive bottle shape immediately associated with the region. It is now a trademark denoting geographical origin as well as superior quality wine.
Diversity defines the Franconian countryside, its soils and consequently also its wines. Around Aschaffenburg the grapes grow in crystalline primary rock whereas Bunter sandstone extends from the Spessart hills to the foothills of the Odenwald region. In the area around Würzburg and Volkach, the main wine-growing region, the wine is affected by limestone, whereas it is influenced by clay in the Steigerwald region. Bunter sandstone, Triassic limestone and Keuper marl are also known as the Franconian 'Trias'.
Franconia has a continental climate, and as a result it has an annual frost-free growing period of 160 to 190 days, between 1,600 and 1,750 hours of sunshine a year, an average annual temperature of 8.5 to 9.0° C and annual precipitation of 500 to 600 mm. Grapes can therefore be grown in ecological niches in the Main valley, its tributary valleys and on sheltered slopes in the Steigerwald region.
There are more than 5,400 wineries in Franconia, around 33 per cent of which have more than half a hectare under vine. The best known vineyards are Homburger Kallmuth, Rödelseer Küchenmeister, Randersackerer Pfülben, Escherndorfer Lump, Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg and Würzburger Stein. Viticulture is the main occupation of over a third of growers and a sideline for the remainder. Six growers' cooperatives market 44 per cent of the wine produced. The largest cooperatives are Winzergemeinschaft Franken eG (GWF), Winzergenossenschaft Thüngersheim eG, DIVINO Nordheim eG and Winzerkeller Sommerach eG.
The people of Franconia are helpful, friendly, flexible and hard working. It is not at all easy to win their hearts immediately, but once a connection is made you have a friend for life. You could say diversity in a small space is the common factor in Franconia, including and perhaps most particularly with regard to their regional dialect.
Germany's first ADFC premium route to be given five stars boasts exemplary signposting, outstanding scenery and an abundance of cyclist-oriented accommodation, from the headwaters of the Main to where the river pours into the Rhine.