Picture: With a Glass of the Hessische Staatsweingueter Kloster Eberbach in the Steinberg Winecellar
Wine produced and sold by the Government? No, we are not talking about socialist co-operatives of Eastern Europe in the 1970s; we are talking about Germany of today.
Germany of today is a federal state with 3 levels of government: federal, state and local. At the federal level, there is no government ownership in the wine industry, but there is extensive involvement at the state level. In addition, there is government ownership at the local level.
There is no federal government ownership in the wine industry in Germany. At the state level, there are 2 kinds of involvements. First, there are wine estates that are government owned, but operate like private wineries. There are five such wine estates in Germany and all of them are large. I discuss them below under the heading "The Big Five". Second, there are government wine estates that produce and sell wine, but also fulfill other functions, notably research and education. The second group I understand is treated like government departments and is accounted for in the national accounts in the government sector. Four of these government departments are even member of the VDP; I review these below.
At the local level, I just started my research. But I noticed that there is a Weingut der Stadt Mainz in Mainz and a Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt in Frankfurt. Both are operated on long-term leases. Also, I have come to realize that Weingut Schloss Vollradts in the Rheingau is fully government-owned, but indirectly.
Finally, some wine estates have been privatized recently. I review two of them.
The Big Five
There are five important wine estates owned by a State of Germany.
Hessische Staatsweingueter Kloster Eberbach (Rheingau and Hessische Bergstrasse)
The Hessische Staatsweingueter Kloster Eberbach, owned by the State Hessen, is Germany’s 3rd largest wine estate. It serves as an umbrella organization for seven individual wine estates, including 3 wine producing facilities and cellars.
The Bensheim Estate is the only one located in the Hessische Bergstraße wine-growing region. Grand Duke of Hessen-Darmstadt founded this Estate in 1904, the vineyard holdings total 38 hectares. The main grape variety planted is Riesling (25 ha), as well as Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.
The red wine Estate Assmannshausen at the western edge of the Rheingau has a vineyard area of 27 hectares in the Höllenberg site, of which 25 hectares are planted with Pinot Noir. These two Estates do their own bottling, and market the wines under their own names.
The five remaining estates are, all in the Rheingau:
Hattenheim (50 ha vineyard area in the Engelmannsberg, Siegelsberg and Marcobrunn sites),
Hochheim (Domdechaney site),
Rauenthal (48 ha in the Baiken and Wülfen sites),
Rüdesheim (23 ha in the Berg Roseneck, Berg Rottland and Berg Schlossberg sites) and
Steinberg (32 ha, a monopole holding).
The total vineyard area of the 7 estates comes to more than 200 hectares, of which 85% are planted with Riesling, 10% with Pinot Noir and 5% with other varieties.
Pictures from top to bottom: A 1979 Riesling Steinberger, the Steinberg, Christian G.E.Schiller in the Steinberg, Eberbach Abbey and the Steinbergkeller
Most of the vineyard holdings of the Hessische Staatsweingueter date back to the 12th centuries, when Cistercian monks founded the famous Eberbach Abbey. Its Romanesque and Gothic buildings are impressive. It was founded in 1136 by Bernard of Clairvaux as the first Cistercian monastery on the east bank of the Rhine. The vineyards of Eberbach Abbey were, at 300 hectares, the largest in medieval Europe.
The Abbey, including its vineyards, was secularised under Napoleon in 1803. The new owner was the Duke of Nassau. Then, from 1866, the Prussia became the owner of the Abbey and its vineyards. Finally, in 1945 after World War II, the Federal State of Hessen took it over.
A few years ago, the Hessische Staatsweingueter built a new winemaking facility and celler just outside the wall of Steinberg, the Steinbergkeller. The Steinbergkeller – a state of the art winery - was a very controversial project. It was constructed for several 100 million Euro.
Landesweingut Kloster Pforta (Saale Unstrut)
The Landesweingut Kloster Pforta is located in Saalhäuser in the Saale-Unstrut wine-growing region and owned by the State of Sachsen-Anhalt. It is Germany’s 30th largest wine estate.
Its origins date back to the Pforta Abbey, founded in 1137 also by Cistercian monks. Pforta Abbey soon had a reputation as the richest abbey in medieval Thüringen, with vineyard holdings in 192 communes, totaling at least 250 hectares. The vineyards were located on slopes above the Saale river.
During the period of reformation, Duke Moritz von Sachsen transformed the abbey into a college. Some of the vineyards were transferred to private growers, who had to share the yield with the Duke von Sachsen.
As a result of the Vienna Congress in 1814, the Kingdom of Sachsen lost Pforta to the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia converted Pforta into a wine estate and wine research institute. After World War II, it became the socialist co-operative VEG Weinbau Naumburg in East-Germany, with 120 hectares of land. After the breakdown of the socialist system in East Germany in 1989, Pforta was in the hands of the privatization organization Treuhand for a couple of years, but not privatized and became the Landesweingut Kloster Pforta of the Federal State of Sachsen-Anhalt.
The vineyard area totals 51 hectares, with holdings in the following sites: Goseck (Dechantenberg), Großjena (Blütengrund), Naumburg (Paradies), Pforta (Köppelberg) and Saalhäuser (with eponymous monopole sites). The main grape varities are Müller-Thurgau (10 ha), Silvaner (6 ha), Riesling (6 ha) and Pinot Blanc (5 ha) as well as Portugieser (5 ha), and Zweigelt.
Saechsisches Staatsweingut Schloss Wackerbarth (Sachsen)
The Saechsisches Staatsweingut Schloss Wackerbarth is located in Radebeul in Sachsen and owned by the Federal State of Sachsen. It is Germany’s 11th largest wine estate.
This beautiful style palace was one of the many pleasure palaces and country residences build near Dresden under Augustus the Strong. Schloss Wackerbarth was constructed by Christoph August von Wackerbarth, who was a Minister in the government of August the Strong, between 1727 and 1730. After his death, the castle was inherited by Joseph Anton Gabaleon von Wackerbarth-Salmour and had in the following 200 years various owners, including Dresdner Bank.
In 1952, after World War II, it became the socialist wine co-operative VEG Weinbau Radebeu. Efforts to privatize the wine co-operative after the fall of the Berlin Wall by the Treuhand privatization organization in 1989 were not successful and the estate finally was taken over in 1992 by the Federal State of Sachsen. In 2002 the State of Sachsen decided to renovate the castle and transform it into a “Erlebnisweingut” with an educational mission.
The vineyard area totals 94 hectares. Some of the vineyards are terraced and on steep slopes, along the Elbe river. The main grape varities are Riesling (25 ha), Elbling (12 ha), Müller-Thurgau (10 ha), Kerner (9 ha) and Pinot Blanc (7,5 ha) as well as Pinot Noir, Dornfelder and Regent.
Staatliche Hofkellerei Wuerzburg (Franken)
The Staatliche Hofkellerei Wuerzburg is located in Würzburg in the Franken wine-growing region and owned by the State of Bavaria. It is Germany’s 6th largest wine estate.
The Staatliche Hofkellerei Wuerzburg can look back to a long tradition. Founded in 1128, it is Germany’s oldest wine estate. Initially, it was owned by the Prince-Bishops of Wuerzburg, who were simultaneously bishops of Wuerzburg and dukes of Franken.
From 1814 onwards, after the Vienna Congress, the Kingdom of Bavaria was the owner under the name Königlich Bayerischer Hofkeller (royal Bavarian state cellar), with an interlude from 1806 to 1814, when it was owned by Grand Duke Ferdinand of Tuscany.
After the revolution of 1918, the Kingdom of Bavaria became part of the Weimar Republic as the State of Bavaria and the State of Bavaria took over the Staatliche Hofkellerei Wuerzburg as the successor of the Kingdom of Bavaria.
The residence building, built from 1720 to 1744 in baroque style, is very impressive and is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. The extensive and labyrinthine wine cellars stretch out deep below the building.
The vineyard area totals 120 hectares. These holdings are spread over many communes. The area is planted with the white varieties Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, Kerner, Rieslaner, Scheurebe, Ortega and Gewürztraminer, as well as with the red varieties Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Domina, Portugieser and St. Laurent.
Staatsweingut Meersburg (Baden)
The Staatsweingut Meersburg is located in Meersburg at Lake Constance and owned by the State Baden-Württemberg.
It was owned by the church for a short period of time. From its construction in the 1750s until the bishopric was dissolved in 1803 it was the seat of the Prince-Bishop of Constance. In 1802, it passed – along with the Salem Abbey - into the hands of the Margrave von Baden during Napoleon’s secularization.
Baden came into existence in the 12th century as the Margraviate of Baden. It became the much-enlarged Grand Duchy of Baden through the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. The Grand Duchy of Baden remained a sovereign country until it joined the German Empire in 1871. After the revolution of 1918, Baden became part of the Weimar Republic as the Republic of Baden.
Pictures: Staatsweingut Meersburg
The Republic of Baden, as the successor of the Grand Duchy of Baden, took over the Staatsweingut Meersburg in 1918. (But it did not take over Schloss Salem, which became the private property of the Margrave of Baden.) In the Federal Republic of Germany of 1945, Baden and Wuerttemberg were merged to the Republic of Baden Wuerttemberg, which is the current owner of the Staatsweingut Meersburg.
The vineyard area totals 62 hectares, planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Traminer and Regent.
Wine Estates as Government Departments
There are a handful or so wine estates that operate as a government department. These are wine estates that produce and sell wine, but also fulfill government functions, notably research and education. The following 4 of them are even members of the VDP association, Germany’s association of elite winemakers.
Staatsweingut Weinsberg is in Wuerttemberg and a department of the Government of Baden-Wuerttemberg. It is part of a college and research institute, which opened in 1868 as the Königliche Weinbauschule (royal viticultural school) under King Karl I. of Württemberg, the oldest viticultural school of Germany. It has 40 hectares of vines, some of which are planted in the estate’s solely owned Weinsberger Schemelsberg and Abstatter Burg Wildeck. Riesling, Lemberg and Pinots predominate.
Staatliche Weinbaudomaene Oppenheim
The Staatliche Weinbaudomaene Oppenheim is in Rheinhessen and a department of the Government of the State of Rheinland-Pfalz. It is mainly a college and research institute. The Domain was founded in 1900 by Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig von Hessen. Today, the vineyard area totals 23 hectares.
The Forschungsanstalt Geisenheim is in the Rheingau and a department of the Government of Hessen. It was founded as a royal Prussian college in 1872.Today, it operates a wine estate that has 30 hectares in outstanding sites of the Rheingau. It was here that Prof. Dr. Hermann Mueller from the Swiss Canton Thurgau bred the varietal that bers the name Mueller Thurgau.
Staatsweingut Freiburg und Blankenhornsberg
The Staatsweingut Freiburg and Blankenhornsberg comprises two domains, in Freiburg and near Ihringen in the Kaiserstul. Both are integral parts of the State of Baden Wuerttemberg viticultural institute in Freiburg and as such part of a government department. The combined vineyard area totals 37 hectares and 180.000 bottles are produced annually. The Staatsweingut Freiburg and Blankenhorsnberg has been a member of the VDP since 1926.
Other: Indirectly and Partly Government Owned Wineries
These are wineries that are indirectly or partly owned by the government.I assume there are many more of them. I came across a few of them and decided to include the following in this posting.
Indirectly Government Owned: Weingut Vollrads
Schloss Vollrads is a historical monument and one of the art-historical highlights of the Rheingau region in Germany. It is also one of the oldest wine estates in the world; wine sales have been documented as early as 1211 and ever since. Schloss Vollrads is a rather large estate by German standards, with 60 hectares of vineyard land, and produces exclusively Riesling wines. It is currently Germany’s 23th largest wine estate. Owned since 983 by the Archbishop of Mainz and since the 1218 until 1997 by the family of Greiffenclau, the heirs of the Lords of Winkel; it is now owned by a local government owned bank (Nassauische Sparkasse). The owners of the Nassauische Sparkasse comprise the cities of Wiesbaden (25%) and Frankfurt as well as 6 districts (Landkreise) of the State of Hessen.
Long-term Leased: Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt
That the city of Frankfurt is in the winemaking business goes back to the secularization (the expropriation of the church and transfer of the assets to the state) that took place under Napoleon at the beginning of the 1800s. In the course of the secularization, the city of Frankfurt became the owner of the Carmelite Monastery. With the monastery came its winery and vineyards.
Pictures: Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt in Hochheim and Frankfurt City Town Hall with Sales Offices of Weingut der Stadt Frankurt
For almost 200 years then, the Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt was a government owned and run winery. In 1994, the city of Frankfurt decided to privatize the operational side of the Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt and signed a 30 years lease with Armin Rupp, a winemaker from the Pfalz. The Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt is based in Hochheim in the Rheingau.
Long-term Leased: Weingut der Stadt Mainz
In 1906 the citizen of Mainz Joseph Schick donated his winery in the Mainz to the city of Mainz. Since then, the city of Mainz has been the owner of the property. In 1994, the wine estate was leased to Weingut Hans W. Fleischer. The history of winemaking in the Fleischer family dates back to a deed from 1742. Hans W. Fleischer has been joined by son Michael and daughter Sabine to grow vines on 20 hectares of vineyard land around Mainz.
Privatized Wine Estates
Formerly Government Owned: Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung
Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung is a winery in Hattenheim, Rheingau that is now fully privately owned , but used to be owned by the local government over a whole century. Georg Müller, the co-owner of the famous Eltville sparkling wine cellar, Matheus Müller, established the Estate towards the end of the 19th century. In 1913, he donated the Estate to his home community of Hattenheim: with the stipulation to use the profits for the benefit of the needy in the community. Thus, the Wine Estate became the Georg Müller Stiftung, owned and run by the local government.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Peter Winter and Alf Ewald
Things changed dramatically in 2003, when the local government decided to privatize the Estate, which had produced good wines until the 1970s, but since then had deteriorated. Peter Winter purchased the Estate and – after many decades of a “Dornroeschenschlaf” - revived it, obviously with sizable financial investments and his enthusiasm and dynamism. Part of the credit also needs to go to Alf Ewald, the energetic young winemaker, he hired. Weingut Georg Mueller Stiftung is a member of the VDP.
Formerly Government Owned: Weingut Herrmannsberg
The estate is located in the town of Niedernhausen in the Nahe region. It was founded in 1904 by the Prussian State as a model operation to help revive the wine industry after the phylloxera disaster. In 1946 the estate became the property of the State of Rheinland Pfalz. It was privatized in 1998. In 2010 it changed hands again and was renamed Weingut Herrmannsberg. The vineyards cover 30 hectares. Weingut Herrmannsberg is a member of the VDP.
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