The traditional “Heckenwirtschaft”, or hedgerow tavern, has been in existence for several centuries. It began life as a kind of domestic inn. After the harvest, the winemakers used to open their doors in order to sell the fresh wine directly. With it they served simple home cooking - not so Mathias Rippstein, who operates a winery in the Franconian town of Sand am Main. He is reinterpreting the Franconian custom by offering modern dishes and giving the tradition a modern feel - yet without losing sight of its origins.
Preserving traditions yet bringing them up to date was the approach taken by Mathias Rippstein’s parents in days gone by. “An original Heckenwirtschaft has a maximum of 40 seats. But what do you do if 39 of them are occupied and a couple arrives at the door? It doesn’t make sense to invite one in and ask the other one to wait outside,” explains the 47-year-old. The family therefore acquired a restaurant licence and increased the seating to 70. In this way they turned their Heckenwirtschaft into a “Heckenstube”. And that’s not all: Mathias Rippstein has also changed the menu. With a glass of wine he serves not only typical regional dishes such as Franconian Flammkuchen (tarte flambée), but also more unusual foods, such as carpaccio of white Presssack (brawn) in a balsamic and pumpkin seed oil dressing or marinated wild boar ham with raspberry and walnut oil. This development reveals his culinary past.
To this day the Heckenwirtschaften in Franconia serve as a social meeting place and have a major social and cultural significance. Mathias Rippstein reveals the secret behind the ongoing success of this tradition: “The Heckenwirtschaft doesn’t recognise status, everything happens on equal terms. Everyone is on a par. It’s all about being together.” Over a glass of wine and regional home cooking, people enjoy the Bavarian attitude to life - and in so doing continue a centuries-old custom.