It’s good to make the rules. This was especially true if you were a local politician in 15th-century Bremen, Germany. The city forbade the private sale of alcohol, consolidating the city’s wine supply into giant casks stored in a cellar beneath town hall. Bremen relaxed its liquor laws over the subsequent six centuries, but you can still visit the cellar, home to Germany’s oldest cask wine. In fact, it’s now a restaurant.
If there’s a place to wine and dine like it’s 1405 (when the place was built), this is it. Priolken, or private booths, line the walls on one side of the grand hall under dramatic vaulted ceilings. Ornately designed casks the size of elephants line the opposite wall, allowing the wines to mature undisturbed in the controlled cellar environment, imparting the still air with notes of fruity oak. Simple North German fare, from goulash soup to young herring to a variety of meat and cheese boards, is on offer, but the true draw is, of course, the drink list. With 1,200 German vinos available daily, there’s a wet for every whistle (just don’t expect your server to know each and every one). Celebrity visitors throughout the years include Johannes Brahms, Otto von Bismarck, Richard Wagner, and Kaisers Wilhelm I and II.
It’s also in this tranquil, underground wine hideout that Germany’s oldest cask wine rests: a Rüdesheim wine from 1653. To sample it, however, you’ll have to either become the cellar master or royalty. The last person to have tried the vintage was Queen Elizabeth II in 1978.