Our next stop was Frankfurt. This central German city on the river Main is a major financial hub that is home to the European Central bank.
While we were docked close to the city center, the historical section is virtually all rebuilt after WWII but it gives a great idea of what it might have looked like during the day. Those buildings that have survived are few in number and unfortunately when they we anxious to rebuild many of the new buildings are stark 60’s style, very unattractive. However, the Square that now exists is lovely. In this square they have a traditional Christmas Market each year.
After getting back to the boat we cruised down the Main and back to the Rhine stopping at Speyer. Along the way, Janeen joined the Wine and Art Class on the upper deck.
There she had some interesting local wine and tried her hand at producing some floral art.
The Speyer Cathedral that includes tombs of eight Holy Roman Emperors and German Kings dominates Speyer. However, having seen one too many cathedrals, we opted for a special tour to a vinegar tasting.
Now, we have done a LOT of wine tastings even done a Modena balsamic vinegar tasting, but this was our first experience tasting this style of vinegar. Making vinegar is so easy it can be done by accident. Making it on purpose for a specific reason is a whole different story. Our visit to Weinessinggut Doktorenhof (Wine Vinegar Doktorenhof) was certainly an educational trip to try and begin to understand what this was all about.
We began our adventure tasting five different vinegars, varying in sweetness and flavors.
Each one was explained in detail, identifying the fruit or herbs used and also the uses of the vinegar. Some are used as an aperitif and others for overall well being.
Each is infused with different flavor ranging from wild cherries, apricots, vanilla beans, fig, wild oranges, lavender and any number of other things. Basically you start off with a batch of wine and you spoil it using a “mother” starter. This turns the wine into vinegar. Once that is completed add various flavorings to infuse the entire batch with a specific flavor or aroma.
Our guide for the tasting, George, explained the manufacturing process that has been handed down from generation to generation and the philosophy of the house.
While they make a LOT of different blends (over 50) we tasted only five – Ficus – the Fig, Angels Kissing the Night, Tears of Cleopatra, Balsam of St. Damian and Giacomo Casanova. Each was preceded with a description of what was in the blend as well as a story or two. Additionally there was some tasting and even some blending suggestions (champagne and Angels Kissing the Night for example). Each of the 5 different vinegars was tasted in hand-blown glasses together with chocolates and other treats.
After our tasting we donned a monastic looking robe and headed into the aging cellars. The cellars look very like wine aging cellars – barrels filled with juice. The atmosphere lets one breath pure, healing, vinegar fumes.
There was also a room filled with herbs used as part of the blending process. Vinegars age for a minimum of 3 years and others can go as long as 10 years. The aging process is to fully infuse the herbs into the vinegar and create more complex vinegar.
While I have heard of people drinking filtered apple cider vinegar on a daily basis for health reasons, many people for the same reason use the vinegars produced at Doktorenhof.
We did pick up a bottle of Angels Kissing the Night and I feel better already having had an ounce every day since.