On 3 October 1990, the Free State of Saxony (Freistaat Sachsen) formally became part of the reunified Germany. East Germany, for the most part of its history (1949-1990), had Districts (Bezirke) as first-level political and administrative divisions, as opposed to West Germany’s Federal States (Bundesländer) structure, which continues to this day and beyond. Covering some 18,500 sqkm, Saxony is about 10percent the size of Guangdong Province – the two are uncannily similar in landscape and topography. With a population of approximately four million, Saxony is economically the strongest amongst the former East German states.
Bordering Prussia to the north and Austria – its Bohemian possessions, to be exact – to the south, Saxony was for long caught in the crossfire of German dualism, but nonetheless held its own. A constituent duchy and electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, Saxony would come to dominate the Upper Saxon Circle, one of the ten Imperial Circles of the empire, and become a kingdom in its own right, after Napoleon I abolished the millennial Holy Roman Empire.
Possessing less than 500ha under vine, Saxony is the third smallest wine regions of Germany – note that the figure has already doubled since reunification. Alongside Saale-Unstrut, Saxony is one of the only two wine regions in former East Germany. Latitudinally on a par with southern England, Saale-Unstrut and Saxony are also the northernmost wine regions of Germany and indeed Europe. Most of Saxony’s vineyards are located northwest of Dresden, the “Elbflorenz” (literally: Florence of the Elbe), roughly equidistant from Berlin, Prague and Wrocław.
Viticulture and winemaking in Saxony have been mentioned since the 12th century. Saxony has a wide range of soil types ranging from feldspar, gneiss, granite, mica and sandstone, often with a deep layer of loess as topsoil, well-suited to cold-resistant Germanic and Burgundian white varieties. Unsurprisingly, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris represent about half of all hectares under vine in Saxony. The Elbe is to Saxony what the Rhine (“Rhein” is German spelling) is to Rheingau, reflecting sunlight and warmth crucial to the ripening of grapes.
In the age of global warming, whereas Mosel producers struggle to produce Eiswein due to rising temperatures, the same could be good news for Saxony. Saxon wines are traditionally dry and light-bodied, but more substantial styles are beginning to emerge. Who knows, one day Saxony may become a prime location for Eiswein.
Schloss Proschwitz – Prinz zur Lippe is one of the only two VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter) estates in Saxony. The House of Lippe was first documented in the early 12th century, and over the years it and its cadet branches have produced numerous rulers for various German states. Built between 1701 and 1704, Schloss Proschwitz was expropriated by the Soviets after 1945, but starting from 1990, Dr. Georg Prinz zur Lippe began to buy back his ancestral residence and wine estate, now equipped with a state-of-the-art cellar, whilst the grand ballroom, Chinese pavilion and music room have been restored. Now that the Iron Curtain gloom is no more, the future of Schloss Proschwitz and Saxon wine looks indefinitely brighter.
The following wines were tasted at VDP.Weinbörse 2017 in Mainz. Weingut Schloss Proschwitz – Prinz zur Lippe – W: www.schloss-proschwitz.de; E: email@example.com; VDP – W: www.vdp.de; E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Limpid citrine with light golden reflex, the fragrant nose offers calamansi, green apple and crushed rock. With energetic acidity and saline minerality, the spicy palate delivers grapefruit, mirabelle and white pepper. Off-dry and medium-full bodied at 12 percent, the fleshy entry continues through a peppery mid-palate, leading to a rounded finish. An interesting interpretation of Pinot Gris, differing from the Alsatian and Italian styles.
Translucent citrine with shimmering golden reflex, the aromatic nose presents Williams pear, apricot, crushed rock and daffodil. With generous acidity and saline minerality, the intricate palate supplies peach, green olive, rock salt and apple blossom. Full-bodied at 12.5 percent, the dense entry persists through a structured mid-palate, leading to a tangy finish. The new benchmark of an outstanding Pinot Blanc.
Luminous ruby with bright carnelian-cardinal purple reflex, the floral nose reveals blueberry, strawberry, bouquet garni, crushed rock and iris. With abundant acidity, fine-grained tannins and clean minerality, the vibrant palate furnishes blackberry, raspberry, Qimen red tea, forest floor and violet. Medium-full bodied at 13 percent, the tutti-frutti entry evolves into a tea-like mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish. An enchanting expression of Pinot Noir, rivalling the finest Morey-Saint-Denis.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages