Wines from Saxony are known as rare gems because the Saxony wine region is the most north-easterly and one of the smallest in Europe. People have been producing wine here on the river Elbe for 850 years. Special features include the vineyards divided into small plots that are cultivated by more than 3,000 small independent growers. Saxony has a broad range of grape varieties – including goldriesling which is only grown here. The majority of Saxony wines are drunk locally, a rarity in Germany.
Saxony's wine-growing region currently covers around 472ha, 80 per cent of which is used for growing white-wine grapes. Saxony has a broad range of grape varieties, currently 37 are grown. The main cultivars grown include müller-thurgau, riesling, pinot blanc and pinot gris, plus pinot noir and dornfelder for making red wine. Regional specialities include traminer and goldriesling.
The special character of Saxony wines is determined by a variety of different soil types depending on the location of the vineyard. The Elbe Valley features a wealth of geological formations. During the main folding phase of the Erzgebirge mountains in the Lower Carboniferous period, rocks from Meissen's granite-syenite massif pushed their way to the surface. The syenite layers were partially covered by sandstone and pläner layers from the Upper Cretaceous period. In turn, these were also partially covered over by ice-age deposits such as loess, clay and river sand.
Saxony's easterly position means it is heavily influenced by the continental climate. In addition to cold winters and late frosts, this also means plenty of rainfall and a high average amount of sunshine a year. This creates the perfect conditions for the grapes to grow and mature. Some parts of the region have more sunshine than a number of other German wine regions, such as the Elbe Valley which enjoys an average of approx. 1,570 hours of sunshine a year. Also, the closer you get to the outer limit of the wine-growing region, the richer the aroma and bouquet of the wine.
Saxony's wine-growing structure is unique in Germany: the wine region is currently cultivated by approx. 3,650 independent growers, 21 wineries for whom wine production is their main occupation and twelve wineries for whom it is a sideline. The majority of the small independent growers belong to winegrowers' associations. The three biggest wine producers are the Saxony wine cooperative in Meissen with approx. 1,600 members, the Saxony state winery at Schloss Wackerbarth and the only quality-certified winery in Saxony, Schloss Proschwitz Prinz zur Lippe.
The character of the Saxony winegrowers is reflected in their wines – traditional but open to change. For many years, the growers have seen themselves as open, honest hosts, responsible for bringing both locals and tourists closer to Saxony wine. The famous laid-back attitude in Saxony not only benefits visitors, it also means the grapes are left in peace to mature. The least you can do is devote some of your time to sampling the results!
Between Pirna and Diesbar-Seusslitz near Meissen, the Saxony Wine Route wends its way for 55 kilometres through the sunny, mild and captivatingly varied valley of the Elbe, along with the international Elbe Cycle Route and the Saxony Wine Trail.