They really did it. They shut the highway down for 14 kilometres for a giant wine tasting, Gutedel Tag (Gutedel Day). It was a great party.
Turns out the shuttle buses didn’t start running until 6 p.m., by which time I was home, so I didn’t get to see it all. Sulzburg’s location, at the half-way part of the route, meant that seeing everything would have required 28 kilometres of walking in the hot sunshine.
I like to walk, but that was a bit much to contemplate. Plus, once you’ve seen half a dozen varieties of gutedel, what could be different? I’d never heard of that particular type of wine before moving here; it seems to be the region’s signature.
The food was what I have come to expect as typical at German festivals. There were sausages galore, and not much else. Which was fine with me: we had eaten lunch and had dinner reservations, so food was not a priority. My wife did try a type of bacon on a bun that she hadn’t seen before.
Wine was available by the glass or by the bottle. There were other varieties besides gutedel (I think) but they were all chilled and white. We dropped by three or four of the booths, but other than one conversation my wife had with an award-winning vintner, I can’t report on much.
I was told that by evening there would be a lot of drunks on the road, but that certainly wasn’t the case during the afternoon. Thousands of people were taking an afternoon stroll (the day was a German holiday). If the rest of the route was as busy as the areas we walked, I would estimate that there were easily 50,000 people stretched over 14 kilometres. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.
For me the major attraction was the view. I drive along the L125 every week at least twice on the way to church. Things look very different when you walk it.
We headed towards Staufen, not Müllheim (where our church is). We walk to Staufen several times a year, usually taking the bus back. It is a steep climb both ways, and after six kilometres of mostly uphill walk in the sunshine we are usually unmotivated to walk back on the even steeper return trip.
The highway though, doesn’t have the inclines. The slope is gentle. We’d do the walk more often if the road was closed to vehicles.
Which isn’t going to happen. Closing the highway is a major disruption. I don’t remember the festival happening last year, but my wife tells me Gutedel Tag is an annual event, but it is only every second year that they close the road.
Pretty much each wine on offer was an award winner of some sort. I found it a little confusing.
For example, one booth offered a wine that was a gold medal winner. To me that means first place. But it was also noted that the wine had placed third in the Gutedel Cup, the local competition. Its first-place showing came elsewhere. I guess it is all a question of the taste buds of whomever is judging that day.
They’ll never ask me to be a wine judge. To me it is either white or red and my preference is milk or cola, something I don’t mention too often given that wine seems to be the economic driver of the region.
You don’t need to be a wine drinker to be able to enjoy Gutedel Tag. There are some festivals that I have no desire to see a second time. This one I will return to, if only for the opportunity to walk a different stretch of the highway.