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Saxon Wine Route

A pleasure tour along the Saxon Wine Route

Dresden Elbland
Elbe valley

By hand, not by machine

‘Any steep-slope winegrower knows they’re in for back-breaking work, because it involves a lot of manual labour. Machines can’t help us here.’ In the evening light, Anja Fritz stands on the slopes of the Mariaberg, which forms part of her vineyard, a glass of Traminer in hand. The 20-odd guests, including seven female food bloggers*, hang on her every word. The bloggers have been invited by the So geht Sächsisch (‘Simply Saxony’) initiative to spend this sunny autumn weekend in Saxony to learn more about the state’s wines and soak up Saxon hospitality.

They’re staying right at the vineyard, in Anja Fritz’s holiday homes. To kick things off, the self-employed winegrower, certified wine guide and former ‘Wine Princess’ explains what makes Germany’s smallest winegrowing region so special. ‘Wine has been grown in Saxony for 850 years. But with only around 450 hectares of vineyards, Saxony is one of Germany’s smallest wine regions. The fact it is even possible to grow wine so far north-east is due to the particularly mild climate here in the Elbe Valley. Our vines on the southern slopes enjoy more than 1,600 hours of sun every year.’

55 kilometres of delights

More than 20 grape varieties – including Riesling, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder, Spätburgunder, Traminer and Scheurebe – are grown here, primarily by small-scale winegrowers like Anja Fritz. Goldriesling is a Saxon speciality that is indeed only grown here. As a tourist route, the 55-kilometre-long ‘Saxon Wine Route’ connects the winegrowing towns between Diesbar-Seusslitz and Pirna.

After a hearty dinner of regional cheese and sausage specialities in the Mariaberg’s wine cellar, the bloggers have a varied programme to look forward to the following day.

1st stop: The ‘Sächsischer Weinwanderweg’ wine hiking trail

It all starts with an autumn hike through the Spaar Mountains along the ‘Sächsischer Weinwanderweg’ trail, accompanied by Anja Fritz. The hike takes the women past idyllic vineyards and viewpoints. The pleasure-seeking group’s destination? Weingut Schuh winery in Sörnewitz. During the hike, winegrower Anja chats about the land and its people, explaining that the historic dry-stone walls not only look nice, but are actually very important, for they act as a brace and heat store, and provide an ideal habitat for flora and fauna. Anja Fritz is also impressively frank about herself and how she ended up in Saxony: By accident. Fifteen years ago, she and her partner at the time bought the dilapidated vineyard, restored the building, and gradually began tending the vines on their property. She had previously travelled far and wide, including a stint living and working in Mexico. The Lower Saxon native then finally settled in Meissen, where she discovered her love of wine.

2nd stop: Weingut Schuh winery

After some stunning stops at the ‘Juchhöh’ (Karlshöhe) lookout and Schwalbennest (Kapitelberg) vineyard, the little group arrives at the Weingut Schuh winery in Sörnewitz. The table in the former farmstead’s courtyard has already been meticulously laid. Manager Katharina Pollmer is ready and waiting, along with a nicely chilled, fruity Schieler Secco. She greets the guests with a cheery ‘Welcome to our family-run winery.’ Together with her younger brother Matthias Schuh, she runs the business with great warmth and a personal touch. It was only last year that the pair took the winery over from their father, who had built it up since German reunification. The Schuhs and their team tend to five hectares of steep-slope vineyards sustainably and in harmony with nature. ‘That means we refrain from using any herbicides, and only use organic fertilisers’, says Katharina Pollmer. Along with the grape varieties conventionally grown in Saxony, the Weingut Schuh winery is the only establishment to press a rich, genuine red wine made from Dunkelfelder grapes. A walk through the cellar and modern high-rack warehouse clearly highlights the Schuh’s philosophy of focusing on modern technology, quality and sustainability.

3rd stop: Sächsisches Staatweingut (Saxon State Winery) at Wackerbarth Castle

With Mediterranean weather and a clear-blue sky, the group moves on from the small family business and makes its way to the Saxon State Winery at Wackerbarth Castle in Radebeul, where everything is several sizes larger. The state winery is packed on this lovely autumn day, with many locals and tourists enjoying the vibe and autumn sun, strolling through the parklands, or admiring the centuries-old winegrowing craft on a tour through the manufactory. Welcome to Europe’s first interactive winery. Led by Martin Junge, the food bloggers take in the photogenic complex of baroque castle and grounds, historic winegrowing landscape, and modern wine manufactory. There’s a flurry of camera-clicking. ‘Here, have a taste’, says Martin Junge once the group has gathered outside the modern manufactory building. He points to the plump grapes on the ‘visitor vines’, where tasting is allowed. Everyone takes up the offer. ‘Mmmmm, super sweet and flavoursome’, is the unanimous verdict.

An interactive training experience

With the taste of fresh grapes in everyone’s mouths, the foodies head inside the manufactory, where they see how these fruits are turned into select wines, what happens during fermentation, and how natural flavours and aromas are preserved during the delicate barrel-ageing process.

To finish, the group passes by the terraces to the ‘Belvedere’ pavilion to enjoy a magical view in magical weather. By now, everyone has fallen in love with this place.

4th stop: Restaurant Daniel

When it comes to understanding Saxony hospitality, the quality of the wines, and Saxon cuisine, Restaurant Daniel in Dresden is a good place to start. The bloggers have been expected here this Saturday night, and are warmly welcomed by manager Carolin Fischer, the wife of owner Daniel Fischer.

This is followed by a delicious seasonal menu consisting almost exclusively of regional ingredients. The Fischers run the establishment as a slow-food restaurant. Unlike ‘fast food’, where it’s all about getting full quickly, ‘slow food’ is all about the culture of conscious eating and enjoying.

5th stop: Meissen porcelain manufactory

After a breakfast on Meissen porcelain at the Café & Restaurant Meissen, the tour continues on Sunday morning. A pleasure tour along the Saxon Wine Route always has to include a visit to the Meissen State Porcelain Manufactory. The bloggers, who hail from Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Weimar and Leipzig, enjoy a delicious breakfast on crockery from the latest ranges of porcelain. They listen keenly to the tableware stories told by guide Beate Debernitz. Before the Meissen Porcelain Factory was founded in 1710, people ate off plates made from wood, clay, tin or even silver. Augustus II the Strong was the first to present his astonished guests with exquisite tableware made from Meissen porcelain.

On a tour through the museum, the group then speeds through 300 years of Meissen’s porcelain and art history. The pieces of porcelain on display are opulent, luxurious and captivating down to the tiniest of details. True craftsmanship. Unfortunately, there is only a little bit of time left for the ‘artCAMPUS’ exhibition, which showcases contemporary artworks by external artists from all over the world, made from Meissen porcelain. The idea? For internationally acclaimed painters and sculptors to collaborate with Meissen artisans to create contemporary pieces of art, such as a sculpture made from precious porcelain fragments.

The allure of porcelain

In the display workshop, the women then watch how the unique pieces of Meissen porcelain are being made. After the turning and sculpting processes, the individual parts of the figurines are then moulded and assembled. In our case, these are countless blossoms. At the underglaze painting station, the bloggers learn that the onion featured on the famous Meissen pattern is actually a pomegranate. The Meissen trademark of the crossed swords is also painted on by hand. The last stop is the glaze painting station, where the group marvels at how a wild dragon is gradually created, stroke by stroke. Fascinating!

After a quick stop at the Meissen boutiques (there is also an outlet!), Katharina Lai is already waiting for us, and it’s onto our final stop of the wine weekend.

6th stop: The Goldriesling-Express to WeinReich wine bar in Diesbar-Seusslitz

Katharina Lai’s yellow-and-red Goldriesling-Express trundles its way amusingly from Meissen to Diesbar-Seusslitz. The bus is an old East German vehicle, one of the last models to have been produced at the VEB-Robur-Werke factory in Zittau. Katharina Lai revived the bus, specially obtained a bus driver’s licence, and now runs guided wine tours along the ‘Saxon Wine Route’. She is yet another multi-talented star.

Spoilt by an all-rounder

A natural insurance expert, she has for years been running her own steep-slope vineyard, is the CEO of the region’s local tourism association, a wine guide, and former ‘Wine Princess’. In 2016, she and her partner also opened WeinReich, a wine bar housed in the meticulously restored former manor stables of Seusslitz Castle. Here, she presents selected drops by Germany’s 13 regional wine queens, as well as local varieties. At WeinReich, these excellent wines are combined with modern cuisine made from regional ingredients – something the food bloggers were able to sample for themselves at the end. Having seen so much and full of impressions and images, they allow themselves to be spoilt by the two hosts.

An unforgettable weekend

WeinReich in Diesbar-Seusslitz marks the end of the intensive wine weekend – at precisely the place where the Saxon Wine Route starts. ‘Along with Meissen, Radebeul and Pillnitz, our village is one of the best known and most beautiful of Saxony’s winegrowing towns’, says the former Wine Princess.

‘Yes, it sure is’, the guests nod in agreement as they take one last look at the baroque Seusslitz Castle and the paddle steamer sailing by on the Elbe. ‘Thank you so much. We had such a great time with you. We’ll be back – we promise!’

The participating food bloggers were

Thanks to Anja from schönes + leben for the text and photos©