The Bremer Ratskeller
The Bremer Ratskeller —the cellar of Bremen Town Hall—is the oldest wine cellar in Germany, constructed between 1405 and 1410. The Bremen Council has been serving as the governing body of Bremen’s town hall since the 1300s, and without the prior authorization of this council, nobody could sell wine. Moreover, the council would store all the wines in the cellar to control the wine prices and ensure that every winemaker paid their taxes.
Due to its longstanding control by the town hall, the cellar has remained standing for centuries. Moreover, it has been conserved for a long time – owing to its impressive architecture and craftsmanship. Currently, the cellar has been declared as a UNESCO world heritage site.
One of the primary attractions of the site is a ‘Rose Wine’ (in German, Rosewein) from Rudesheim, which is a 1653 vintage. The word rose here does not signify the typical style of wines but the prime quality of this particular wine. During those days, it was believed that excellent wine was analogous to a rose. Interestingly, on August 21, 1864, the New York Times published an article titled “The Bremen Wine Cellar” regarding this historic site. The article describes the exclusive right of the citizenry of Bremen by stating that Rosewein and Apostle Wines were only sold to inhabitants of the city. The article also elaborates that Rosewein was already 2.5 centuries old in 1864. Many tourists visit from afar to see and even touch this wine. One can only imagine how the wine tastes. A German citizen informed me that only the mayor has the authority to open the wine.
It is said that once they had opened the barrel to try and get a whiff & taste of this 300-year old wine. However, to their dismay, it was too rancid and smelt like vinegar. Nonetheless, irrespective of the authenticity of this story, there is still a concept of a wine being too aged. Therefore, many sources claim that the wine is still good as it is immensely precious and nobody can dare to open it. Another associated story about this wine is that when Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain had visited Germany in 1978, she had tried the wine. However, there are no official records of her review/reaction. Besides, many other famous personalities have visited the Ratskeller, including Otto von Bismarck, Johannes Brahms, Adolf Hitler, and Nikolai Gogol. The primary aim of the Town Hall authorities is to preserve it for as long as possible.
It is estimated that the cellar has 200+ casks, each containing approximately 1000 liters. However, this wine treasure only serves as part of history now, as most of these wines are too old to be worthy of drinking. One of the principal portions of this underground cellar is called Shatzkammer, which literally translates into the treasury, and it is the largest archive in Germany. Any ardent wine lover will appreciate this great collection of wines, which also includes those from the 1960s. However, they can also try fresher wines currently, as the cellar houses some of the best arrays of German wine, which goes through a formal approval process to be on the list. A part of Ratskeller cellar is now devoted to a restaurant that includes a plain open area as well as more intimate booths for people to relish their exclusive dining options.