Bedecked in a white robe, a velvet shawl and a laurel wreath, Sven Finke doesn’t fit the stereotype of the traditional wine queen – a beautiful young girl wearing a dirndl.
But on August 12th, the 25-year-old law student and vineyard-owner will be the first ever man to be crowned wine queen for the town of Kesten in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
It wasn't his charming eyes or gleaming smile that won him the title though, it was rather to do with the fact that there weren’t exactly queues of women volunteering for the role. In fact, none did at all.
Michael Beer, the village mayor, explained that doing without an “Ambassador for Wine” would have been out of the question: The tiny town of Kesten only has a population of 350 people, but it is home to a massive 25 wine businesses and is reliant on the grape for its economic survival.
So Finke stepped up to the plate.“I want to show everyone that men are just as well suited to this job as women,” he announced.
As the wine king he will attend between 15 and 20 wine festivals in the village and beyond throughout the course of his reign.
Beer for one seems happy with the result. “Finke is contributing to making the wine village of Kesten more well-known,” he said.
Why does Germany choose wine queens?
Established in the 1930s, the tradition of selecting wine queens in southwestern Germany’s wine-growing regions involves choosing a winner who will represent the wine industry during the following year.
After the 13 regional winners are crowned, one of them is picked to become Germany’s national wine queen.
In its early years, the tradition was much like a beauty pageant, in which pretty German girls from families of wine-growers would compete to claim the title, bedecked in dirndls and dancing the waltz.
The traditional stereotype of a German wine queen; Photo: DPA.
But the rules have since been relaxed – dirndls are no longer a requirement, and women who defy the classic stereotype also recently have been crowned wine queens. In 2013, a transsexual lady won the title of wine queen for the Green Party, and earlier this year, a Syrian refugee won the title in the town of Trier.
This wacky tradition isn't the only one of its kind in Germany, though. The Bundesrepublik has a weird and wonderful selection of other queens, ranging from the queen of potatoes to the asparagus queen.
Eating, drinking, and “full of the joys of life”
After he is crowned, Finke plans to play the figure of Bacchus, the Roman god of agriculture, the grape harvest, wine, and rituals.
He chose Bacchus due to the town's Roman roots, as well as the fact that its favourite type of grapes is the Bacchus variety.
“The role of Bacchus is right up my street,” Finke exclaimed. “I like eating, I like drinking, and I am just as full of the joys of life.”
The wine king in his Bacchus costume; Photo: DPA.
It’s “an absolute rarity” for a man to be selected for the role, said Ernst Bücher, a spokesperson from the German Wine Institute.
“In the whole Mosel region [one of the 13 German wine-making regions] there are currently no other men in office”, Finke revealed.
So holding the title “will be a sign of equal rights”, he added.
But Finke is dreaming bigger than the small town of Kesten. He aims to “conquer” the city of Hamburg, where at the St. Pauli Wine Festival drag queen and current wine queen of Hamburg Olivia Jones will crown him the new wine king.
If he endeavours to extend his reign and become national wine queen for the whole of Germany though, the odds are against him. German Wine Institute spokesperson Ernst Büscher explained that a man has never before clinched the national title.