August the Strong was the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland until 1733, and is said to have drank seven bottles of wine a day. Experts are now speculating that this wine had a lower alcohol content than today’s wines. But at least we can draw the conclusion that people long ago also enjoyed drinking wine, just like the wine-lovers from the Sächsisches Staatsweingut Schloss Wackerbarth today. Only the work in the vineyards was more difficult back then – because there were no specialty vineyard tractors from the Fendt brand at that time.
Autumn is the most important time for wine-growers. This is when the grape harvest shows if the time and effort put inover the entire year has paid off. “That was certainly the case in 2011,” says Alexander Thau, manager for the wine-growing area in Radebeul East, and looks back at the last harvest with satisfaction: a golden autumn with sunshine from September to November. The grapes ripened fully and stored many good aromas. Riesling, Müller Thurgau, Traminer, Kerner, Gold Riesling, Pinot gris, Pinot Blanc, Scheurebe or Bacchus are the basis for the coveted dry white wines from the Sächsischen Staatsweingut GmbH at Schloss Wackerbarth in Radebeul. They thrive particularly well under the local climate conditions. Several select red wines from the grape varieties Pinot noir, Dornfelder, Blaufränkischer and Pinot Noir Précoce, barely make up 20 percent of the total production in this typical white wine region.
“With an average annual temperature of 9.2 °C and 1,570 hours of sunshine, the Elbe Valley is the warmest region of Saxony. The early blossoming of the vines and late grape harvests provide enough time for storing minerals and rich fruit extracts,” explains Alexander Thau. He inspects the vines on the slope near the wine village of Diesbar-Seußlitznicht, west of Meißen, which is well known, not only by wine-lovers. It is a warm spring day. The first buds have appeared. It is clear: there is a lot to do until a good wine grows and ripens, is pressed and filled and then finally stands on the shelf ready to be sold.
“And that is to remain that way...” The wine year actually begins in the winter of the previous year, when the vines are pruned. “About 90 percent of the new growth on the vine is already pruned off in the winter months. But just so far that two spurs remain. Actually, you only need one. We prefer to be prepared, in case a late frost sets in,” he explains. The steep slopes, for which Wackerbarth is famous, lie in his area of responsibility. They have unusual names such as “Goldener Wagen”, “Steinrücken”, “Johannisberg” or “Heinrichsburg”. “The wines that ripen there are really something special. Since these areas can only be worked by hand, we primarily grow late harvest grapes here, which must be handled extremely carefully anyway, so they can produce the expected quality,” he explains.
In the “normal” vineyards, such as the 54 hectares around Diesbar-Seußlitz, Thau’s employees use Fendt tractors, including two narrow vineyard tractors 200 V with Vario transmission, to do almost all of the work that is required in the vineyard. After the first cut, the wood on the vine is “pulled out”. Then the spring work is similar to farming work: cultivation with a paraplough, application of pesticides and fertiliser, then later leaf removal or grapeharvesting. “And that is to remain that way,” sums up the manager, referring to the use of Fendt tractors.
Thau likes the Vario transmission in particular, it makes operating easier and saves an enormous amount of diesel, “Compared to the competitors, Fendt is a length ahead in terms of technology,” he adds and emphasis the good cooperation with Frank Nicklisch, BayWa Cunnersdorf, the local Fendt dealer and Fendt factory representative Klaus Golpon.
Normally, the vines in Wackerbarth become 30 to 35 years old. “But we also have many specialities here; we have the oldest wall vine in Germany, which is at least 300 years old,” reports Alexander Thau. The “Früher Leipziger” vine ripens on the steep slope “Goldener Wagen” and still carries fruit. It is a visitor magnet. Back in the beautiful ambient of Schloss Wackerbarth, it quickly becomes clear that the Staatsweingut is much more than just a wine and sparkling wine factory. “It is also the first adventure vineyard in Europe,” explains Ulrike Schröter, Press Officer for the company, a bit proudly. Under the slogan: “Welcome to a feast for the senses”, wine lovers and connoisseurs learn about the world of wine. “This is done on vineyard hikes as well as wine, sparkling wine or adventure tours, where the production of the fine wine is explained, and numerous other interesting events,” she describes.
Some 160,000 people enjoy Schloss Wackerbarth each year, with its Baroque garden, romantic vineyard terraces and the charming Belvedere“Lusthäuschen”. The person to thank for the ensemble is August Christoph, Count of Wackerbarth, a close confidant of August the Strong. He bought several vineyards from 1727 to 1729 in the area around Radebeul and had a Baroque palace “Wackerbarths Ruh”, today's Schloss Wackerbarth, erected by the court master builder Christoph Knöffel. Here the count spent the last years until his death in 1734. August the Strong was one of its most loyal wine customers.
Of the 13 German wine-growing regions, the one in Saxony is the smallest. Schloss Wackerbarth, with nearly 100 ha of vineyards, makes up almost one fourth of it. Despite this, the Saxon wine-growers work according to the motto: “Quality instead of quantity”. Not just because there is no space to expand the vineyards. The highest quality, which they also demand from their Fendt tractors, is the self-proclaimed objective of the wine-grower north of the 51st parallel north. Some 500,000 bottles of wine and sparkling wine are filled every year at the Staatsweingut. “The Saxons Cellar Master Jürgen Aumüller and Ulrike Schröter, Press Officer, in front of Schloss Wackerbarth. On the steep slopes, the grapes are harvested per hand – in all kinds of weather. drink almost all of it alone,” laughs Ulrike Schröter and adds: “In addition to selected specialist shops in Saxony and our own shop on the estate, connoisseurs can also order exquisite products from Wackerbarth through our online shop.”
The numerous DLG awards and many other awards prove that the wine can compete at the top in terms of quality. The sparkling wines from Saxony repeatedly receive trophies at the AWC Vienna, the largest officially recognised wine challenge in the world. The Traminer from Saxony always does well at the “Traminer Competition” in Northern Italy, the home of this grape variety. “When high quality is delivered on all levels and excellent work is done, the final product turns out right,” sums up the press officer. August the Strong, who supported local wine-growing and whose name is on the label of the sparkling wine from the Staatsweingut Wackerbarth, surely would have found pleasure in all the exquisite wines.