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02.22.2008

All You Can Drink Wine Bars? I'm Moving to Germany!

OK. Not really. But Germany now seems to be the dream destination for either those who enjoy an evening with wine, or those with a serious binge drinking problem.

According to a New York Times Travel section piece earlier in the month, an enterprising Berliner named Jurgen Stumpf has opened four wine bars in which patrons rent a glass at a price of one Euro, drink as much wine as they want throughout the evening, and simply pay what they think they owe at the end of the night.

In paranoid and parochial America, this sounds completely insane -- a sort of neo-marxism for oenophiles that relies on the honor system instead of good common capitalist sense. Not to mention the fact that such a system of wine drinking, without the measured gatekeeping of a bartender and standard pours, would throw America's MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) members into fits of outrage. As for the British, who seem so irrational about their own relationship with alcohol that they've started blaming the size of their drinking vessels for the country's binge drinking problems, the shock would no doubt be fatal.

For low budget Berliners, and wine lovers like me, however, this sounds like a hell of a good time. The devilish details, however, are in the wine list, about which the Times article sadly did not comment other than to note that at least half of it was German. The unmentioned other half, presumably, does not contain California Zinfandel.

Of course, steeped as I am in the aforementioned paranoia and parochialism, I definitely think anyone trying this in San Francisco would end the night with their wine jugs empty and only a few dollars in the till. Especially once the homeless population found out about the deal.

I guess when I finally get a chance to take that Germany wine trip, I'll have to make sure to stay a day or two in Berlin.

Thanks to the folks at BoingBoing for the tip on the story.

Comments (7)

Arthur wrote:
02.22.08 at 6:55 PM

Interesting. What does this say about our (and the German's) culture?

Kathleen wrote:
02.23.08 at 9:39 AM

Intriguing, given the recent apparent trend towards prohibition that Western Europe is displaying. Although, correct me if I'm wrong and point me to supporting articles, Germany does not seem to be one of the countries kowtowing to the anti-alcohol lobby. I wonder if we're beginning to see a split in the former unity of the EU, as a result of the alcohol debate.

Kirstin wrote:
02.23.08 at 11:22 AM

I love the idea for tasting's sake, but a customer estimate of the bar tab at the end of the night would be a hell of a hard way to earn your keep in tips in the Bay Area.

Iris wrote:
02.24.08 at 1:35 AM

It's a very nice concept - they do it for food too, if I understand well. It's already existing for nearly 10 years and all they are afraid of, is to much publicity in travel-guides, which could bring "schnäppchen" clients, people only coming for the bargain of discount prices:-).

There are always 5 or 6 wines on the counter that you can taste this way. There's also a wine shop in the group and bartenders are payed from what rests in the bowl, when costs are subtracted...

If you know that one of the most popular advertisement slogans in Germany those last years was "Geiz ist geil" (something like greed is good) and that the money spend on a liter of wine in statistical average was 2,37 € last year, you understand that it needs really a special client to survive with this concept...

But if you ever go to Berlin, tell me, I'll come with you - and if the wines are good, we'll fill up the bowl.

James D. Graves wrote:
02.24.08 at 3:15 PM

Tell you what I'll go along just for the ride too. Oh maybe I can open a chapter of DAMM there...(Drunks against Mad Mothers), might be interesting....Jim

aimee m. wrote:
02.25.08 at 1:05 AM

Keep in mind that Berlin (and perhaps the rest of Germany, I'm not sure) has no rules against open containers, and it's a common thing to see people with a beer on the metro, on the street, morning or night; if it's a weekend, it might be a whole bottle of wine or Sekt. As it is in most of central Europe, beer (and wine, but to a lesser degree) *is* culture; there's not much of a movement to sober anyone up any time soon.

That said, there's been a rash of under-age alcohol poisonings and even deaths here in the past few months; some bars offer "all you can drink" evenings, and since the drinking age is hardly enforced, there's lots of talk of finally clamping down. It will definitely be interesting to watch.

We love the weinerei for the atmosphere, but certainly not for the wine. Two-buck Chuck would be a serious improvement. I've had many a sore tummy from the swill that's usually offered in the more casual places, but if you're a student on a non-existent budget (which we're not, thankfully, but the budget is always limited), it's still a good time.

And I had translated "geiz ist geil" more as "stingy is sexy" - the ad was attached to a cut-rate electronics store. The cheaper the better (quality often be damned, esp. when it comes to produce) is pretty much the rule in town. but it's still a great place to live, regardless :)

Alder wrote:
02.25.08 at 6:18 PM

Aimee,

Darn it. You've shattered the dream. Somehow, I knew it was just too good to be true. Even with all that good German wine, you can't get a decent glass, huh? What a shame.

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