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Saxon Wine Route

A long-standing winegrowing tradition

Dresden Elbland
Meißen Castle

Drinking for peace

Such was the motto of the ‘Society for the Abolition of Sobriety’, established by Augustus II the Strong in the 18th century. He chatted with ‘Soldier King’ Frederick William I of Prussia, and the pair simply drank their way through many a political crisis. The meeting had been arranged by Count von Wackerbarth, and the Saxon State Winery in Radebeul, where he resided in his old age, continues to bear his name to this day. By the time of Germany’s reunification, the estate was technically outdated, the quality of the wines substandard, and millions of Marks needed to be invested. ‘At the time’, CEO Sonja Schilg reflects, ‘very few people had heard of Saxon wines.’ A management concept was necessary. Marketing wine as a cultural asset, acting as ambassadors for a whole region, advocating pleasure and culture, and representing the entire 55-kilometre-long Saxon Wine Route from Pirna to Diesbar-Seusslitz were the main objectives. Wine and sparkling wine production was also to be made interactive, resulting in ‘Europe’s first interactive winery’.

Demand outdoes supply

‘The demand for Saxon wine and sparkling wine is today greater than the supply’, says Schilg. 160,000 visitors come to spend time, eat, drink or shop here. Every year, at Wackerbarth Castle alone. Then there are the balls, tours, seminars and vineyard hikes. 700,000 bottles of wine and sparkling wine are filled every year – the wines primarily being Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Dornfelder and Spätburgunder.

Private and state

Apart from the Winzergenossenschaft Meißen winegrowers’ co-operative, only one other person falls into these categories in terms of sales volume and vineyard area: Georg Prinz zur Lippe from Weingut Schloss Proschwitz winery. His branch of the family has been established in Saxony since the early 18th century. Dispossessed after the war, the Lippes fled to the West. Georg Prinz zur Lippe started growing wine on a very small scale as a so-called ‘garage winemaker’ in 1991. He purchased a property in Zadel near Meissen, and bought back the family estate in 1996. Schloss Proschwitz (Proschwitz Castle) is today the oldest and largest private winery in Saxony. Spread over some 90 hectares, it primarily produces Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder, Spätburgunder, Frühburgunder and Elbling, as well as the Goldriesling unique to Saxony. The agricultural engineer has invested eight-figure amounts in Saxony. He has another 46 hectares in Thuringia, resulting in a total of 600,000 bottles. ‘I want to build something sustainable, and leave my footprint’, he says.

Leaps in quality over the tiniest of areas

A hotel, restaurant and wine shop have all been set up at the Zadel winery, while the castle can be hired out for parties, seminars and concerts. Apart from Klaus Zimmerling’s establishment in Dresden, this property is the only one in Saxony to belong to Germany’s Verband der Prädikatsweingüter association for promoting the country’s top wines and estates. And it’s not just they who have made tremendous leaps in quality; the whole industry has. And yet, with just 480 hectares of vineyards, Saxony’s 850-year-old winegrowing region is one of the smallest in Germany. The vineyards are tended by more than 2500 winegrowers, 99 percent of whom are small-scale producers.