A brief history of German wine queens
Germany's wine queens used to have to dance the waltz and carry a scepter. DW looks back at the curious, and at times sexist, tradition.
First refugee to become a wine queen in Germany
Ninorta Bahno, 26, is an Aramaic Christian from Syria. She fled the civil war in 2013, arriving in the idyllic German town of Trier on the Moselle River. Bahno became three years later the first asylum-seeker to be named wine queen in Germany. Each year, local, regional and national wine queens are tasked with representing the drink. DW looks back on a tradition that has evolved over the decades.
The first wine queen
The wine queen tradition originated in 1931 in the Palatinate, when publisher and wine PR guru Daniel Meininger suggested crowning a local beauty at the annual wine festival. Ruth Bachrodt became the first wine queen. It wasn't until 1950 that regions outside the Palatinate joined in, with 13 regional queens competing for the German title, and juries were introduced to make the selection.
Wine queens under the Nazis
Gustel Hauptmann was crowned German Wine Queen in 1937, during Nazi rule but before the outbreak of World War II. Promoting wine as a national specialty was part of Nazi propaganda. It was during this era that the title "German Wine Queen" was created; the previous title, Pfälzische Weinkönigin, or Palatinate Wine Queen, rather highlighted the wine region.
The wine queen tradition spreads
In 1950, wine queen titles were handed out in other wine-growing regions beyond the Palatinate. The Württemberg winner that year was Martha Knobloch (left), who's pictured in 2013 with the 2013/2014 Württemberg queen Theresa Olkus. Up until 1999, contestants had to be single women from wine-growing families. Since then, it's enough if they have a personal connection to the wine business.
A wine queen's cultural duties
While on tour, pianist and conductor Leonard Bernstein was greeted at the Cologne Airport in 1968 by the reigning German Wine Queen, Ruth Collet. The ladies were the epitome of the beautiful German woman in a dirndl. They continue to serve as ambassadors for German wine both at home and abroad.
Wine and beer get along
Regional Palatinate wine queen Helga Weber is pictured (left) at the Oktoberfest in 1972. Since the German Wine Queen tradition began as a regional title in the Palatinate, Germany's wine-growing hub, the area's central role in the contest was sealed. Now, the German Wine Queen is crowned yearly in the town of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, located in the Palatinate on the German Wine Route.
From scepter to glass
As seen in this picture of German Wine Queens across the decades, they were initially pictured with a scepter until 1966. That was then replaced with a wine glass. The crown, however, has remained a constant.
Wine queen for a new Germany
Birgit Schehl was named German Wine Queen in 1990, the year Germany reunified. She is pictured here promoting wine in Leipzig, which had been part of communist East Germany. Wine queens were expected to wear traditional dirndls up until 1981, when the rule was relaxed in a bid to modernize the image of the title.
A southwestern affair
Traffic lights in Neustadt now pay tribute to the city's wine queen tradition. Even after the custom expanded from the Palatinate to the surrounding regions, it remained focused in Germany's southwestern area, which is most famous for its Riesling. However, other varieties, including reds like Spätburgunder, are also popular. A large jury selects the German Wine Queen annually in late September.
From wine queen to political leader
Parliamentarian Julia Klöckner is head of the Christian Democratic Union party in her state, Rhineland-Palatinate since 2010. She is also a former German Wine Queen. The daughter of a winemaker, she won the title in 1995. Since then, she's been a voice for women's equality, advocating gender quotas in publicly traded companies.
A man can also do it
Sven Finke-Bieger was a pioneer, but remains an exception: When the Moselle village of Kesten couldn't find a wine queen in the summer of 2016, the law student stepped in to serve as the region's wine ambassador. "I can't do it better than women, but just as well," he said. Different wine regions have recently changed their rules to specify that young men can also apply to become wine king.
The 75th German Wine Queen
Eva Brockmann (right) from Germany's Franken region was crowned 75th German Wine Queen in a live-streamed ceremony. Here she receives the crown from her predecessor, Katrin Lang of Baden (left). "I want to continue to improve the visibility and value of German wine in the world," Brockmann said.