There are many things to be said about German beer. But a legal fight about an advertising campaign means “wholesome” might soon be a word marketers explicitly can’t use.
Germans have a whole vocabulary for beer, with regional dialects and local favourites creating a vast range of choice when choosing how to describe their beloved drink. But the word “wholesome” might soon be verboten – at least for advertising purposes.
Back in 2016 AllesGerman.com covered the story of the southern German Haerle brewery which was describing its beer as “bekömmlich,” which roughly translates to “wholesome,” in its advertising. Health activists got “hopped up” and took them to court, where a Stuttgart judge ruled that the word created an inaccurate association with health benefits from the beer.
Starting Thursday the case is before Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (BGH), the final arbiter for criminal and private legal matters. It’s not clear when a verdict will be issued.
Q: What’s the case about?
The brewery had used the slogan “Wohl bekomm’s!” (To Your Health!) since the 1930s, updating it around the turn of the century with the word “bekömmlich.”
That drew the attention of the Association of Social-Minded Competition, which argued the term was misleading. In 2015, that led to brewery owner Gottfried Haerle having employees cross out the word with permanent marker on 30,000 bottles as he lost cases in local and appeals courts.
Q: What’s wrong with ‘bekömmlich’?
In its original usage, the word could have been translated as ‘acceptable’ or comfortable. But, in modern German, it has taken on the meaning of ‘easily digested’ or ‘agreeable.’ The competition organization argued that was not a term that could be lightly used with beverages containing an alcohol content of between 2.8 and 5.1 per cent.
Since it’s a “health-related” claim, it has to be used properly. Under EU law, the use of such a term would be limited to drinks with less than 1.2 per cent alcoholic content.
Q: Are there any comparable cases?
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has previously blocked German vintners from using the term to describe their wine, noting that alcohol consumption has health consequences and that consumers need to be protected from misleading advertising.
Q: Does that mean there’s precedent for the beer case?
According to the competition association and the German courts, the answer is a definite ‘Yes.’ They note that the term not only implies general well-being, but a “long-term promise” that regular consumption carries no health risks. They argue that advertising regarding alcoholic beverages cannot be misleading or unclear.
But the brewer says he understands the word as “purely a statement of quality” with a long tradition.
Food law expert Jeannette Viniol says its a borderline case. ‘Bekömmlich’ could be understood in a more general way and the ECJ ruling might not apply, since it was very specific to the acidic content of the grapes used to make the wine.
“In the current case, the decision will have to be whether the word ‘bekoemmlich’ can be found to be a health-related term without such a concrete issue … or whether it is viewed as a statement of ‘general well-being,’ which does not promise the consumer any health value.”
Q: Has a case like this ever come before the BGH?
In 2011, the court allowed an herbal liquor maker to use the word ‘bekömmlich,’ but drew the line at ‘wohltuend’ (beneficial). This was, however, before the ECJ wine case. Also, the 2011 case was never finally decided, because an appeal was made and then withdrawn.
Q: Could this affect other German breweries?
Germans spent 7.4 billion euros (8.7 billion dollars) on home consumption of beer and beer drinks in 2017. Nonetheless, brewers are seeing their sales decline. First quarter 2018 sales were 1.6 per cent lower than the same period in 2017.
To combat that, brewers are trying new branding exercises, which has left the country with 6,000 kinds of beer – 1,000 more than a decade ago – according to the German Brewers Association. The Haerle brewery argues that multiple others have also used the word ‘bekömmlich’ to sell their drinks.
Many millions of cups of Glühwein or mulled wine will be drunk in German Christmas markets, but only in Trier is there an official representative for the popular hot drink. Winegrower Sarah Schmitt (21) wears the crown of the German Glühwein Queen.
Since its inception in 2008, five women have been crowned Germany’s Glühwein or Mulled Wine Queen, being charged with promoting the festive hot drink.
This year Sarah Schmitt from Konz-Filzem, a genuine vintner’s daughter and reigning Saar-Upper Mosel Wine Queen, has assumed the title of German Mulled Wine Queen or “der Deutschen Glühweinkönigin” for the second time.
Trier’s magical Christmas Market in full swing
Sarah will be the “image of the Trier Christmas Market” and will be a national representative for vintner mulled wine at Germany’s Christmas markets. “I am assuming the office of German Mulled Wine Queen with pleasure and will fulfil it with great delight and commitment because original vintner mulled wine lives up to high quality standards. We can be especially proud that vintner mulled wine has been sold more and more frequently at Christmas markets,” Sarah declared and added, “A high-quality product produced from only the best basic wines that brightens up cold winter evenings with its additional Christmas spices”.
Sarah Schmitt, German Glühwein Wine Queen for 2017
More and more Winzerglühwein at Christmas markets
The Deutsche Weininstitut (German Wine Institute), based in Mainz, confirms a rising trend towards more and more “Winzerglühwein” or mulled wine from local wineries at Christmas markets. German winegrowers now offer mulled wines with their own individual recipes from their own production facilities, many of whom highlight and promote the organic nature of the product.
The fruity red wines from Germany’s wine growing areas are very well suited for an aromatic mulled wine. From a wine law point of view, mulled wine is an ‘aromatised wine-based drink’ made exclusively from red wine or white wine and sweetened and seasoned. The addition of alcohol is just as prohibited as that of water or dyes. The existing alcohol content must be at least 7% by volume and less than 14.5% by volume.
If you are unable to travel to Trier, not to worry, you can download a signed photograph of Sarah from www.trierer-weihnachtsmarkt.de
With the creation of the “German Mulled Wine Queen”, Winzerglühwein has for the first time an official brand ambassador. While the regency period may only be around four weeks, Sarah still has many important duties and tasks to undertake such as meeting visitors to the Christmas market plus interviews with the press and media. In addition to personal appearances, she also manages to maintain the Facebook page of the Trier Christmas Market. With well over 16,000 Facebook fans, the mulled wine queen has a very special job indeed, maybe second only to Father Christmas himself.
Germany has picked the new face of its wine industry, crowning Katharina Staab, 27, from the south-west state of Rhineland-Palatinate as this year’s German Wine Queen.
The 70-member jury chose Katharina over five other contestants on Friday night, in a competition involving quizzes over their knowledge of wine, their ability to give a speech on the spot and wine tastings.
“Super, it’s super,” said Staab after winning, tears in her eyes.
The German Wine Queen, a tradition since 1949, must represent Germany’s wine industry, which produced some 9.1 million hectolitres in 2016 and is the fourth-largest wine producer in the EU.
As queen, Staab will represent the industry at some 200 meetings scheduled both domestically and abroad throughout the year.
The competition pits contestants from Germany’s 13 wine-growing regions against one another. Katharina, a marketing manager, replaces outgoing queen Lena Endesfelder from the Mosel region.
At home among the vines: Germany’s new Wine Queen, Katharina Staab / Image rhein-zeitung.de
Germany has a national obsession with curry, most famously in the form of the Currywurst. One ice cream maker from the German city of Saarbrücken however has come up with an unconventional new variety: Maggi curry ice cream.
The creamy cold treat is served in a cup with salt crackers. But the real innovation is the garnishes on offer: curry powder, salt, pepper and, of course, Maggi. Uwe Hoffmann (54) dreamed up the iced dairy homage to the famous seasoning brand.
“[Locals in the German state of Saarland] eat Maggi with almost everything,” explains the trained chef. He says they sprinkle the packets of powder on everything from pasta to salad, from soups and to pizza. They even add it to their eggs at breakfast.
Decorated with tomato, basil, Liebstöckel and salt crackers: the Maggi ice cream from Saarland / Image: dpa
A spokesperson for Frankfurt-based Maggi confirmed Hoffmann’s assertion: residents of Saarland do consume an above-average quantity of its products.
Hoffmann knows that his concoction will likely be divisive. “Loads of people love it, others can’t stand it.”
According to the Italian ice cream makers’ association Uniteis, Maggi ice cream is unlikely to become a sustainable hit. Novelty varieties tend not to stick around, explains the body’s general secretary Giorgio Cendron.
Eklig oder Lecker? What do some of Uwe’s customers think?
Chiara Greff (12): “I usually eat everything with Maggi, but the ice cream doesn’t taste great.” / Photo: Simon Mario Avenia
Trudel Röhrig (92): “That tastes good. And is something different.” / Photo: Simon Mario Avenia
Sascha Müller (30): “It tastes terrible! Maggi in beef soup yes, not in ice cream.” / Photo: Simon Mario Avenia
Holger Schueren loves everything about bread. And he has now been tasked by Germany’s UNESCO commission with spreading his obsession as far as possible in order to keep his country’s world-famous bread tradition alive.
Renowned German baker Holger Schueren has an unusual mission in life: Recently named a cultural ambassador for UNESCO, he has been tasked with promoting traditional baking methods.
“The variety of German breads must be maintained,” says Schueren, who runs a bakery in the town of Nuthetal, just outside Berlin. Schueren loves everything about bread: the smell of a freshly baked loaf, the feel of it in his hands and, of course, the taste. And as the first certified “bread sommelier” in the state of Brandenburg – he applied to the Academy of German Bakers for the qualification last year – he’s keen to pass his passion on to his customers.
Image: blickpunkt-brandenburg.de / Jana and Holger Schüren at their small bakery in Bergholz-Rehbrücke near Berlin
His appointment is part of a campaign by Germany’s UNESCO commission to preserve intangible cultural heritage in the realms of dance, theatre, music, oral tradition, science and crafts. “We want to show with our campaigns what value it has,” says spokeswoman Katja Roemer.
Currently 429 customs, performance arts, crafts and sciences from around the world have been recorded on the list, including Germany’s co-operative model for business, Cuba’s rumba, traditional Chinese medicine and the Italian art of violin-making.
Within Germany, the commission has named ambassadors for all sorts of differing specialities. “We want to show that our intangible heritage doesn’t belong to the past,” says Roemer. The ambassadors are supposed to keep up traditions which still have a place in today’s society.
In 2014, Germany’s bread culture – which boasts around 3,000 different sorts – was added to the country’s register of cultural heritage, giving recognition to its 12,000 master bakeries and their 273,000 employees.
Schueren’s fascination with all kinds of baked goods, from rye bread rolls to German cream cake, is obvious. “We’ve got around 3,000 different types of bread in Germany, that’s hard to beat,” says the 48-year-old.
At his bakery, the bread is made by himself, his wife and employees. Not everything is “quick, quick, quick like in an industrial bakery,” he says. Each individual loaf produced by bakers who work from scratch can look different from one day to the next depending on the ingredients, temperature, humidity and other factors, he says.
“One thing remains the same: the quality,” he says. Real bakers have to differentiate themselves from the competition, he adds. They can’t compete in terms of price, so the best way is to ensure top quality. “Customers have to find out so much about the bakery and the products that they’re prepared to dig a bit deeper in their pockets,” he says.
German households bought 1.8 million tons of bread in 2015, 1.8 per cent less than the previous year, according to the market research company Gesellschaft fuer Konsumforschung. The reasons lie in the changing population and habits. More Germans are eating hot meals in the evening now, as opposed to bread, cheese and ham as in the past.
But Schueren still starts and ends every day with a slice of bread. “Bread brings back childhood memories,” he says. “We can’t forget the taste.”
Munich officials reject beer price cap plan for Oktoberfest.
City officials in Munich on Wednesday denied a request to cap beer prices for Oktoberfest at 10.70 euros (11.80 dollars) per litre for a period of three years.
After a heated debate between officials and organizers of the beer festival, Munich’s Social Democrat mayor Dieter Reiter said that visitors would not drink less beer this year just because the litre price had gone up.
The dpa news agency reported that Josef Schmid, who oversees the Bavarian capital’s annual festival, failed to gain a majority for his plan to cap the price at last year’s highest level for a period of three years.
Lydia Dietrich, a Green party councilor, said she opposed a “beer price brake” because that would lead to other food and drinks becoming more expensive.
Several million one-litre glasses of beer are served up in Munich’s beer tents over a period of three weeks each year.
Josef Schmid had to accept a defeat on the subject of the beer price freeze.
Beer based emergency? This German fire engine can extinguish any type of thirst.
Gerhold Becker and Sonja Heideroth from Borken, a small town in the Schwalm-Eder district in northern Hesse, own a very special kind of vehicle. They have converted a 31 year-old fire engine previously used by the Bavarian fire brigade into a thirst-quenching “Löschauto”.
Originally designed to fight fires, the vehicle can be hired for birthday parties, corporate events or festivals. Instead of water, ice cold beer now flows through its pipes thanks to an in-built cooler, while the owners seem to have thought of everything by also installing a washer system which cleans glasses in just two minutes using hot water.
The vehicle also comes with two large sunshades, tables and glasses as required, and can supply the majority of available beers upon request.
Apart from its originality, one of the great advantages of the Löschutos is mobility. It can be driven to most locations albeit with a few prerequisites such as the availability of a garden hose (to supply water for the glass washing machine) and of course, a space large enough to accommodate it.
Gerhold and Marianne Becker and Sonja and Claus Heideroth (from left) manage the Löschauto / Image: Zerhau
The Champagne market in Europe is worth around €1.4 billion, and while global sales for champagne might have dropped last year, Germany’s thirst for the sparkling wine has continued to grow.
In 2016, champagne deliveries to Germany rose by 4.9 per cent to 12.5 million bottles, the Bureau du Champagne said on Sunday at the start of ProWein, a global wine trade fair in Dusseldorf, Germany.
This makes Germany one of the most important markets for champagne after France, Britain and the United States.
Champagne, the sparkling wine named after France’s northern Champagne region, is exported to over 190 countries. Last year, worldwide exports fell by 2.1 per cent to about 306 million bottles, with the decline a result of falling sales in the French and British markets in particular.
Germany is of course equally well know for its own sparkling wine (called Sekt or Schaumwein) and is extremely popular in the country. The annual per capita consumption of about five liters is the highest in the world.
Sekt labeled as Deutscher Sekt is made exclusively from German grapes, and Sekt b.A. (bestimmter Anbaugebiete, in parallel to Qualitätswein b.A.) only from grapes from one of the 13 quality wine regions in Germany.
The German asparagus season has already begun, all thanks to heated fields.
As apples mark the Fall season, nothing quite epitomizes Spring in Germany like the revered white stalks of Spargel (Asparagus). Whereas other asparagus-eating nations like France, Italy and the United States prefer the green variety, in Germany it’s white asparagus or nothing.
Spargelzeit, or white asparagus season, officially begins in April, and harvesting finishes punctually on 24 June, the Christian celebration of the nativity of John the Baptist. The start of the season coincides pleasingly with the first rays of warm sunshine that follow a long, cold winter, and there’s a palpable buzz in the air when pop-up stands sprout all over towns and villages and the first mounds of white asparagus appear at farmers’ markets.
White and green asparagus are essentially the same species, with the plant grown under different conditions. In order to achieve the pure white spears demanded by German consumers, certain varieties of asparagus are grown underground under piles of dirt called hillings.
The harvest is back-breaking work; the Asparagus spears need to be gently freed from the surrounding dirt before being cut by hand / Image: dpa-Ingo Wagner
Depending on the region, the German asparagus harvest usually begins at the end of March at the earliest. However, some farmers in Germany are already able to harvest the first poles of the cold-sensitive spring vegetables.
In recent years, a number of farmers have come up with the idea of using waste heat to harvest a bit of asparagus earlier than others. They use heated floors and small tunnels made of plastic film, which are designed to drive up the temperatures in the beds. The first farms in Lower Saxony started harvesting at the beginning of March, even if the quantities are relatively small.
Harvesters first cut asparagus on a field in the commune of Kirchdorf. Early harvesting is possible thanks to a heated asparagus field, which draws its energy from the waste heat of a biogas plant / Image: dpa-Ingo Wagner
Image: dpa-Ingo Wagner
Image: dpa-Ingo Wagner
The waste heat comes from power plants and even opencast mining facilities. In some cases, wood-chip power plants are used in the operation to heat the Spargel. There are no exact figures on the quantities harvested using this process, but one site in Kirchdorf with almost 500 hectares of cultivated land has just three hectares dedicated to heating asparagus. One hectare delivers as much as 8 to 10 tons of asparagus for the entire season, but the heated fields are only harvested every second day. The yield is currently between 800 and 900 kilos per harvest day.
According to the Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft, about 120,000 tonnes of asparagus was harvested in Germany in 2016 – with around 24,000 tonnes being imported to meet the demand for the “white gold”.
One of the most popular ways to prepare Spargel: cooked and served with thin slices of cured Schinken, fresh new potatoes, Hollandaise and pure butter sauce.