When it gets quieter on Lake Constance, it's enjoyment time for locals and guests alike. This is when the hours of leisure by the water begin. People hike through the vineyards during harvest time and sit together on sunny days with regional fish. A flying visit to fish chef Hubert Neidhart and the young vintners of Hagnau
Six in the morning at Lake Constance. Clouds of fog drift across the water. The tower of Radolfzell Cathedral lies in a haze. And for a few minutes now, the sun has been mixing its autumnal orange and gold tones into this mystical atmosphere. Together with Hubert Neidhart, we take a boat out to Lake Constance to fetch fresh fish. Normally, of course, the fish chef from the Grüner Baum in Moos doesn't buy his ingredients out on the water, but quite normally on land, where the fishermen often deliver the fresh catch directly to his restaurant. But this morning we want to see what's going on on the water. And actually meet a few German and Swiss fishermen. With a magnificent tench on board, we finally chug back to the small harbor of Moos. "Lake Constance fish is 100 percent wild-caught," Hubert Neidhart tells us as he chops the vegetables in his kitchen that he has fetched fresh from the farmer. The chef, who has been involved in the Slow Food movement for many years, wants to cook the tench for us with regional vegetables, small potatoes and wine on a tray in the oven.
You can find more information about the enjoyment of fish at Lake Constance here: Lake Constance fish weeks - a culinary declaration of love
"We live here on the Höri peninsula in a kind of land of milk and honey," says the fish expert, who is the fifth generation to run the Grüner Baum. Due to the special climate on the lake, vegetables and fruit thrive in a special variety on the Höri at Untersee and are also consistently of first-class quality. In addition to artichokes and eggplants, the Höri-Bülle also grows there, for example. This is a fine edible onion that originally comes from Calabria, but was discovered by the monks of Reichenau about 1000 years ago and cultivated on the Höri peninsula. The red onion with the delicate, mild flavor bears the EU seal of protected origin and is thus one of the culinary ambassadors of Baden-Württemberg. Neidhart uses the Höri bulb with enthusiasm - and also prepares chutneys for the months when it is not available fresh. Although that actually almost goes against his own philosophy.
"Here with us at Lake Constance it's not like in a big city," says the head of the Grüner Baum. "We don't think up theoretically what we'll put on the menu the next day and then go shopping. My idea of cooking works the other way around: I look at what the fishermen bring in from the lake, what cheese I can buy from my favorite producers and what vegetables are available very fresh - and then I process that. My cuisine should be simple, fresh, regional and authentic. Stars don't interest me; this is pure nature." The menu of the Grüner Baum as a culinary reflection of the region - that's what the cozy inn has stood for for many decades. Hubert Neidhart only allows himself one outlier: He makes a fish soup with rouille - according to an original French recipe, as he brought it back from Brittany, where he learned. However - and then this fits well into the concept again - completely regionally with freshwater fish. "At first, the fishermen here thought I was crazy, but it works. Our fish soup is a specialty for which we are known all over the lake."
And the tench on the tin? In the meantime, it is also ready. It is best eaten with a glass of regional white wine, as is customary at Lake Constance. And it could come from Hagnau, for example. You can find more information here.
Change of scene. In the sunny vineyard above the winegrowing village of Hagnau and Lake Constance, five young people in their 20s toast with a glass of Müller-Thurgau in the early evening. There are now around ten young winemakers in Germany's oldest winegrowers' cooperative. But that's just one of many special things about the Hagnau winegrowers' association. They also have a wonderful old wine cellar here with historic giant wooden barrels that are always built for the 25th anniversaries. And, more importantly, all 52 of Hagnau's winemaking families have their grapes pressed collectively at the Hagnau Winzerverein - and still consistently produce top quality. "This works because we have a great cellar master and because we see ourselves here as one big family that always stands together," says Stephanie Megerle, Baden Wine Princess of 2018/19, young winemaker and marketing expert at the WG, as the young people here like to call their winegrowers' association.
In Hagnau hold Red and white wines roughly balance each other out. In addition to Müller-Thurgau, Burgundy varieties are typical for the region: Pinot Noir, but also Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are cultivated. Lake wine thrives so well, among other reasons, because Lake Constance prevents late frosts in spring, because it reflects sunlight and still gives off a long time of the stored warmth of the water in autumn. "In Hagnau, moreover, all the wines are still harvested by hand, says Christian Megerle, Stephanie's brother. He runs the family business together with his father. "We're all pretty expert, even though we're so young," Stephanie adds with a laugh. "Our lives have just revolved around wine all the time since we were kids."
Like most of the other The two siblings have also been apprentice winemakers abroad, but have subsequently returned home. "We have one of the most beautiful spots on earth here," says Christian. And continues, "I think our workplace in the vineyard up here is actually almost subject to pleasure tax." The Hagnau young winemakers laugh. More often, they meet up here on nice evenings after work. And they regularly offer their own wine tours at the vintners' association. "With us, not everything is as planned out as with the older ones," Christian admits, "but we all always have a lot of fun."
The sun is low by now on the horizon, it has become cool. The young winemakers pack up. It is one of the last quiet evenings for quite a while. Soon things will get hectic. The reading time is coming up. Stephanie, Christian and the others are already looking forward to it.
More information about guided tours, wine walks, wine sales and festivals is available at here.
Cover photo: A magnificent tench has gone into the net © Dietmar Denger
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