Although Germany is lauded mostly for its beer, wine lovers will be happy to learn that in the Rhine River Valley and in Saxony vine cultivation goes back 1,000 years. Today it’ still produces excellent wines. Covering a little over 1,000 acres, the wine region of Saxony is comparably small. Situated along the Elbe River, it is also one of the northernmost wine growing regions in Europe. But Saxony has a long winemaking tradition, with evidence of viticulture in the region dating as far back as 1161 in Meissen. The granite and gneiss based soils of the area are similar to the Austrian Wachau wine region. The Müller-Thurgau grape is the leading planting of the area, followed by Riesling and Pinot Blanc. The vast majority of the wine production is in dry wine.
The Saxon Wine Route runs for about 35 miles from Pirna, south of Dresden, to Diesbar-Seusslitz north of Meissen. It winds past vine-clad terraces along the banks of the Elbe River, past little towns and villages which offer countless reminders of its wine heritage. There are whitewashed vintners’ cottages, soaring church steeples, and snug wine taverns along the route. There are about 20 full scale wineries, but also a number of smaller wine growers who form the Saxon Winemaker’s Association.
Sloping terraces planted with vines dot a stunning landscape but the steep terrain doesn’t allow for the use of agricultural machines. Consequently, grapes are hand-picked, and the result is a superb high quality production of excellent white wines as well as a smaller selection of reds.
Nestled in the little town of Radebeul, Schloss Wackerbarth houses Saxony’s oldest production facility for sparkling wine. It’s also Europe’s first vineyard allowing visitors to discover and experience the world of wine first-hand. In 1730, Count August Christoph von Wackerbarth, a cabinet minister of Elector Augustus the Strong, purchased these vineyards and the green spaces surrounding them. He instructed the architects of the Saxon court to construct a country house, belvedere and a formal French garden. All of this Baroque splendor is part of the winery today. Schloss Wackerbarth organizes special events throughout the year, the highlight being the Midsummer Night’s Ball with Saxon’s State theater group. Soloists, orchestras, and the ballet provide magical moments on the romantic sloping vineyards. Culinary specialties are served and paired with rare wines from the winery’s cellars.
Another historic wine estate is a 600 years’ old Hoflössnitz. Founded in 1401 as a yard for growing wine by the Wettins, Hoflössnitz expanded over the following centuries with the addition of vineyards and, together with the hillside pavilion built in 1650, the vines continue to be cultivated today. There is a wine growing museum, a winery and a wine tavern. The Hoflössnitz wine festival is the highlight of the wine year. The festivities take place on the street, in courtyards, cellars, gardens and meadows. The tapping of the first barrel of “Federweisser” forms part of the opening ceremony, as does the entrance of the Wine Queen – a title worth pursuing.