Germany's 61st Wine Queen is Crowned

Sonja Christ, a 25-year-old MBA graduate and wine-grower's daughter from Oberfell (between Koblenz and Cochem on the Mosel), took top place in an exciting finale with five competitors in the election of the German Wine Queen in 2009. The petite blond from the Mosel, who is currently responsible for the organization and logistics of wine reviews for a German wine magazine, is extremely wine knowledgeable, articulate, and charming in manner. She will be the ambassador of German wine-growers and their products in the course of some 250 appearances in Germany and abroad during the coming year.

This year, 12 of Germany's 13 regional wine queens took part in the national competition – the Mittelrhein was the exception: the regional wine queen will remain in office for an additional year and thus, did not compete for the national title in 2009. A week before the finale, the candidates took part in a rigorous oral examination with questions about viticultural and winemaking techniques, as well as wine labeling, packaging and marketing. In addition, each contender was called upon to assist – in English – a "confused foreign tourist" visiting German wine country.

The candidates from the Nahe, Mosel, Baden, Württemberg, Sachsen and Saale-Unstrut regions qualified for the final test. They were challenged to demonstrate their wine knowledge as well as their ability to make a public appearance during the gala finale on 9 October, attended by some 1,300 guests on site in Heilbronn/Württemberg and viewed by more than a million people during the live televised broadcast.

Sonja Christ was a clear favorite in both the semifinal and final rounds. She was quick on her feet in answering questions about foliage management, glass fermentation bungs, and the typical characteristics of Dornfelder wines, and in explaining the impact of the vine louse without actually mentioning three elementary terms associated with the pest, including the word "America" (its origin). She cleverly sidestepped the problem by creating the word "CanUSA" – much to the public's delight. She also impressed the 80-member jury with her worldly sophistication and foreign language skills.

During the finale each candidate had 45 seconds in which to describe a wine-growing region other than her own, and in teamwork, had to identify typical red varietals in a blind tasting and discover six errors in a brief film about the Mittelrhein (as such, the region was part of the festivities even without a candidate).

With few exceptions, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in the Pfalz has been the traditional site of the national election and coronation since 1949. This year, however, they were held once again in Heilbronn after a hiatus of 55 years. After all, as the city's mayor pointed out, Heilbronn is a worthy venue with its 530 ha/ca. 1,300 acres of vines, "Panorama Route" hiking trail on Mount Wartberg, Germany's oldest viticultural school (1868), and annual Trollinger Marathon with some 6,000 participants. As the host of this year's wine queen election Heilbronn has received unparalleled national media coverage.

Naturally, the candidate from Württemberg, 25-year-old Christl Schäfer, felt very much "at home" in Heilbronn and represented her region with great elegance and wine competence. She will now represent all 13 German wine-growing regions as a German Wine Princess, as will 23-year-old Isabell Kindle of Baden, who won many a heart with her brilliant smile and down-to-earth manner.

Sonja Christ, the newly crowned wine queen, could hardly believe her luck, but said she was very happy to have been selected. During her term as wine queen, she will be on leave from the wine magazine and looks forward to becoming acquainted with many a good wine and people that appreciate them. She had her first opportunity less than 48 hours after being crowned, when she made her first official appearance as wine queen in the huge parade at the German wine harvest festival in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse on 11 October.

Germany's 61st Wine Queen, Sonja Christ, is crowned by her predecessor, Marlies Dumsky.
The 61st German Wine Queen Sonja Christ/Mosel (middle) and the German Wine Princesses Christl Schäfer/Württemberg (left) and Isabell Kindle/Baden (right).