By Gisela Kirschstein
It all started with a couple of wine bottles underneath a bridge, some hammocks with view onto the Rhine River and a handful of young winemakers who simply shared their wines and wine knowledge with other young people. “It’s totally crazy what came out of that,” Alina Engel says. Today, ten years later, the Mainzer Weinsalon has triggered an unprecedented hype around the wines of young winemakers from Rheinhessen, has won prizes and fame and is a model for modern wine presentations all over Germany.
It must have been that special atmosphere: Right on the river promenade of the Rhine with that beautiful view on the Rhine and in the middle of the Great Wine Capital of Mainz, once a month young winemakers from Rheinhessen presented their wines to a young, urban audience. It all takes place open air. The guests simply sit on benches and stone walls or on everything the scenery of the promenade offers and enjoy a selection of 40 to 60 wines in the setting sun and under the rising stars – literally.
20 young winemakers from all parts of the wine region around Mainz founded the “Mainzer Weinsalon” in 2008. In 2009, the association decided to carry their wine bottles to Mainz in order to acquaint the city more with the products of the hills in the countryside behind. The concept immediately hit the mark right from the start: “We had a very relaxed atmosphere,” Engel says, “the food was homemade, we put up hammocks, and the people just stopped by in the after work-hours.”
It was the first time that wine was served in such a relaxed surrounding, and what was more: The winemakers themselves were there, taking to the guests, explaining their products, chatting with people their own age. Soon, the wines were sold out every evening, more and more people stopped by – “we realized we had to become more professional,” Alina laughs.
The After Work Wine Lounge moved a few metres further, where there was more space, and the winemakers bought a bigger counter, refrigerator cars and pavilions for rainy days. “Our motto: Give the Rheinhessen wine the stage that it deserves,” Alina says. The young winemaker from Flonheim became a member of the Weinsalon association in 2013. More than 1,000 guests follow the call of the winemakers every first Tuesday of the month during the summer season.
“It’s amazing, but people just don’t want to go home on these nights,” Alina says, “it turns nine, it turns ten, and they keep sitting there – the Weinsalon has turned into a truly long After Work Party.” And it has spread: A couple of years ago, the Weinsalon started a second After Work Wine Lounge in the courtyard of the historical museum in the middle of the city. Once a month, there is the wine bar of the young winemakers here, too, combined with live music – a true wine oasis in the middle of the government district.
It was especially for this, that the Mainzer Weinsalon was adorned with the Best of Wine Tourism Award in the category “Wine and Culture”: That combination of wine, culture and the young winemakers in touch with their customers creates a unique atmosphere of wine culture, the jury applauded. Indeed, it was this concept that raised the awareness for the high quality of Rheinhessen wines in the city of Mainz and beyond.
In 2018, the young winemakers moved to Darmstadt, a student city in Hessen, 40 kilometres from Mainz. “People there love the concept, too, and they know less about Rheinhessen and our wines,” Alina says. “We have to explain more about the grape varieties and the area, but that’s fun, because people are so interested in what we do and what we serve.” Well, wine, culture and a warm summer night – what more can you ask for?
Well, it didn’t work in 2020, of course; the coronavirus stopped the Weinsalon as everything else. But the young winemakers wouldn’t be stopped: “We created a ‘Weinsalon take away’,” Alina says – a package of 12 wines of different winemakers that comes at home. The package comes in “dry”, “semi dry-sweet” or “a bit of everything”, and is high in demand by the guests, Alina says. The wine drinkers obviously wanted to enjoy the Rhine feeling at home, Alina laughs, “with the splashing coming just from the wine bottle.”