How To Survive The Esslingen Wine Walk

Another wine-related post?  Well, it is that time of year!  And instead of my typical boring post just telling you what something is, I'm going to give you actual, practical advice you can use for one of the most popular events in the Stuttgart region: The Esslingen Wine Walk.

For those who aren't familiar, however, the wine walk (or weinwanderweg in German) is an event where the local winemakers set up booths in the vineyards where the grapes are grown, over a course of several miles.  For a refundable fee, you are given an adorably tiny wine glass (complete with cord to hang it around your neck!) and let loose to hike from station to station, sampling wines as you go.  At the end of the route, there is a huge fest with a traditional band, wurst, and even more wine.

Sounds great, right?  It is - but a lot of first (or let's be honest, second or third!) timers make some basic mistakes, and end up in rough shape afterwards.  So I'm going to give you some important tips to making sure you have a great time.

  1. Choose the right outfit.  Spring weather in Stuttgart is notoriously changeable, as you can see from the picture above, and we all know how accurate the forecast is here!  Dressing in layers is a must.  And tick season is in full effect, meaning pants are your best option.  This is a hike, so forget the cute shoes and wear something sensible.
  2. WEAR SUNSCREEN.  Then bring more with you.  I'm serious about this!  Also bring water, and buy more along the way.  Dehydration isn't fun for anyone.
  3. Go early or late!  This event seems to get more crowded every year, with 6,000 participants expected.  This means long lines to sample wine and feeling a bit like cattle as you slowly move from one station to the next.  You can avoid this by starting between 11:00-12:00, or waiting until the main rush has passed by starting after 15:00.  Another way to avoid the crowds is to do the hike "backwards" by starting in Mettingen (although if you want to join in the fest at the end, you'll have to take the S-Bahn one stop back to Mettingen)
  4. Try to stick to one taste per station.  The tasting size may seem small by local standards, but think of it this way - if you have one glass per station, you'll have drank nearly a full bottle of wine by the end of the hike, and you want to be in good shape for bench dancing at the party after!
  5. Some people decide to buy bottles along the hike, which can save time standing in line, but can also lead to drinking too much, too fast.  It's best to go this route only if you're with a large group of friends.
  6. Take public transit.  The wine walk is considerably less fun for a designated driver, and it's hard to tell just how much you're drinking along the way, so avoid any chance of a DUI.  The hike starts and ends within a 10 minute walk of the S-bahn line.
  7. Eat!  I can't stress this one enough.  Start with a big breakfast or lunch, and get a snack at one of the booths along the way.  
  8. Avoid shortcuts.  Sure, it might be tempting to walk down the hillside through the vineyards, or even down one of those ancient narrow staircases, but given all the rain recently, the steep ground is likely to be slick, and after a few glasses your coordination may not be the best.  Just stick to the path!
  9. Don't forget to get your stamps!  If you have one taste at every station, you are entitled to a free tasting at the fest at the end.  
  10. Take my brand-new Esslingen walking tour before the wine hike!  We'll start at 10:00 a.m., and finish at the starting point by 11:30 - perfect timing!  You'll learn about the origins of one of Germany's oldest cities, why Esslingen was bigger and more important that Stuttgart for nearly 1,000 years, and all about the local wine culture.  Impress the new friends you meet on the weinwanderweg with this trivia!  Did I mention that this tour is 2 euros off the regular price per person?  What a deal!

That about sums it up!  If you'd like a little more information on why Esslingen was so important, read about Free Imperial Cities in this previous blog post. Hope to see you either at my tour or up in the vineyards on Sunday, May 18th!