View from Rue Saint-Georges

Ein Prosit!

Sometimes wine is the best medicine

By Thomas Chatterton Williams | October 31, 2018

I’m in the middle of a two-week writers’ residency at the university in Würzburg, the capital of the Lower Franconia region in the German state of Bavaria. They’ve provided me with a clean, well-lit room and made few demands on my time, for which I am grateful. And so, I’ve slipped into an almost monkish solitude punctuated by long walks along the Main River and through the city center, which looks like a medieval fairy tale but is in fact a replica, the original buildings having been destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II.

This is the heart of Germany’s underappreciated wine-growing region—the Romans planted the first grapes millennia ago—and the mineral-rich, local dry whites, specifically Silvaner, are revelatory. Viticulture infuses this society to such a degree that, since the Middle Ages, the biggest wineries have been attached to hospitals. (At first, it was thought that the wine had healing properties; it certainly helped with the pain. But for a long time now, these wineries have been big business, even as the institutions’ original missions remain unchanged.) The second-largest winemaker in Germany, Juliusspittal, sits on a splendid property directly across the street from me. Depending on your needs, you can pop in for a medical consultation or a crisp glass of Silvaner in the cozy dining room—and why not! Down the street is the Burgerspital, a centuries-old foundation operating several senior citizens’ homes and a geriatric rehabilitation clinic. It is also one of Germany’s oldest and largest wineries, serving up fantastic local varietals and exquisite Franconian breads and sausages.

Because it’s cold and overcast and raining pretty much every day, the need for Gemütlichkeit, or coziness, grows strong indeed. I’m headed to the hospital now.



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