"We were pioneers, ahead of our time"

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by Gisela Kirschstein

Saturday in Mainz means wine time. It's on the market, at the feet of the 1000-year-old cathedrale, where young and old meet. They chat, they eat, but above all, they indulge in the wines of Mainz, and they come in hundreds. 20 years ago, the "Marktfrühstück" – the market breakfast – was invented by a small group of winemakers from Mainz, today, it’s the hottest wine event of a whole region – beloved all around, and imitated by many a city in Germany.

"We were pioneers, ahead of our time", Sigrid Lemb-Becker says, "we created a unique piece of wine lifestyle." Lemb-Becker is president of the association of the Winemakers of Mainz, 20 years ago, a handful of them founded the "Marktfrühstück." The farmers market of Mainz is an ages-old institution, and traditionally, bakers, butchers and farmers offered a breakfast for the visitors. The beginnings were quite simple: pork sausage, pea soup and beer were the most important ingredients.

In 1999 the Winemakers of Mainz took over and decided to change the setting slightly – now, there was wine on the tables. "It was quite hard to compete against the beer in the beginning", Hans Willi Fleischer says, smiling, he was one of the pioneers back then: "But then, people caught on quite fast." Today, several hundreds or even thousands flock to the market each Saturday in order to enjoy a glass of wine or two in the shadow of the cathedrale and surrounded by the century-old houses on the lower market.

"Weck, Worscht und Woi" – rolls, pork sausage and wine – is the traditional dish of Mainz, world famous because of the Carnival of Mainz. The city on the Rhine valley, capital of the state of Rhenania-Palatinate, is the third biggest carnival hotspot of Germany with one of the largest parades on Carnival Monday. 500.000 visitors are drawn to the city each year to see floats and carnival guards and marching bands. "Weck, Worscht and Woi" are carried at the front of the parade, as symbols of the special lifestyle of Mainz.

Sigrid Lem-Becker (Copyright: Gisela Kirschstein)

"People here are open-minded, lively and hospitable", Lemb-Becker says, "it's a cheerful and humorous atmosphere." It was the Romans who brought winemaking as a culture to the area, around 13 before Christ, the Romans built one of their most important forts right here next to the mouth of the Main river. Ever since then, winemaking played a huge role in the history of the city, the large variety of small wine taverns are one of the outcomes.

A vineyard in the disctrict of Mainz-Bretzenheim is one of the oldest recorded winemakers sites, today, 26 winemakers are recorded in the city, mostly in the southern area. In 2004, they founded the Winemakers of Mainz, it was the beginning of modern winetourism events in the city. The winetasting "Best of Mainzer Wine" brought the wines into the city and openend eyes and mouths for the new quality-in-the-making.

In 2008, Mainz became part of the Great Wine Capitals-Network, the new label sparked a deeper connection to the surrounding wine region of Rheinhessen – wine became predominant all over the city. Visible symbol of that development is the booth on the Rhine promenade: Right in front of the Townhall, the Winemakers of Mainz serve wine by the glass, it’s the new hotspot to be on the weekends, right after the Marktfrühstück. "The tourists love it as well", Lemb-Becker says, "they are quite astonished to see how much of winemaking is all around the town."

There are the wine festivals, of course, spreading throughout the year and the town's wine areas, and even a wine marathon: Three years ago, the Winemakers of Mainz created that wine walk which spreads throughout the whole city center along the landmarks of Mainz. And, of course, wine is not to be left out in the soccer stadium: When premier league-club Mainz 05 play at home, wine of Mainz is offered in the lounge. No wonder, that the Best of Wine Tourist Award 2019 for innovative winetourism went to the Winemakers of Mainz …

Learn more about Mainzer Winzer: www.diemainzerwinzer.de