Oktoberfest 2011

In Germany, it’s getting to be that time of year when lederhosen and giant pretzels are almost as ubiquitous as large, glass steins of locally brewed beer. Oktoberfest is an annual festival held in Germany from late September and into early October. Now boasting over 5 million visitors each year, the world’s largest fair was a long time in the making.

Oktoberfest was initially brought about by a royal wedding between King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, which took place on October 12, 1810. A public affair, all of Munich was invited to take part in the festivities. Locals enjoyed an entire day’s worth of beer and good company at Munich’s city gates until the event eventually closed with a horse race to celebrate the royal union. As it turns out, the race was so popular that it was decided to hold it again the following year, with the addition of an agricultural fair. After a few consecutive years of operation, amusements and small beer tents were also added to the festival.

Oktoberfest has continued to be held in Bavaria since 1810. However, the festival has undergone many changes over the years. Having ended in 1960, the horse race that got it all started has since been taken out of the festival. The beer portion of the event, however, has picked up considerably since the first few Oktoberfests. Additionally, the annual event has expanded from a small, one-day local fair, to a large, 16 day festival, drawing visitors from all over the world.

Today, Oktoberfest features rides, attractions, and widely celebrated, traditional German music. Tents are stocked with Märzen style beers, brewed by many German breweries. The refreshments are complemented by plenty of delicious German fare including pretzels, sauerkraut, and many varieties of sausage, even a German favorite—Weisswurst (white sausage).

Oktoberfest is truly an event worth experiencing and there’s still some time to catch Oktoberfest 2011. The festival begins on September 17 and comes to a close on October 2. Join VBT on our Czech Republic, Germany & Austria vacation and sample a great portion of German history as well as some of the best beers in the world. Don’t forget your lederhosen!

The Crush

All across California, from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, grapes are ripening and vineyards are in full production as California’s harvest season is in full swing. This year marks the seventh in a row that September will be commemorated as California Wine Month, and tastings are being held throughout the Golden State.

“The Crush,” as it known locally, is a great time to visit California’s wineries. From the Napa and Sonoma Valleys to the Central Coast, Californian vineyards are alive with pickers, trimming and drawing grapes from their vines. The earliest grapes to ripen are suited for Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, generally ready to be harvested by late August. Cabernets and Syrahs usually find themselves ripening in early to mid-October, at the tail end of the busy picking season.

Once the grapes have been harvested, the delicate process of vinification, or winemaking, begins. Red wines develop from the fermenting pulp that is produced by crushing grapes along with their skins. White wines are derived exclusively from the juice of pressed grapes, without their skins. At this stage in the process, yeast is added to the crushed or squeezed grapes to prompt primary fermentation. Taking approximately two weeks to completely ferment, the yeast helps to convert sugars from the grapes into alcohol.

As the primary fermentation comes to a close, red wines will undergo a second pressing to gather all the remaining juice from the grape skins. The wine is then warmed and the remaining sugars convert to alcohol marking the next phase in vinification: secondary fermentation. Secondary fermentations occur in red and white wine as malic acid is converted into lactic acid, making the product less harsh to the taste, and bringing about a full palate of flavors. The wine is then aged for a period of time ranging from a few weeks to tens of years before it can finally be enjoyed.

Though we’re closing in on mid-September, it’s not too late to catch all the excitement that the Crush has to offer. With vacations departing from late September and into October, VBT provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy California Wine Month. Join us on our California Wine Country & the Pacific Coast vacation and experience wine culture at its most exhilarating time of year.