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Wine at the 51st Parallel

Vitzenburger Schlossberg

Wine at the 51st Parallel

By Christoph Raffelt


Heading north from Franken, across the Thüringen Forest toward Berlin or the Baltic Sea, the view is conspicuously flat — except along the Unstrut, Saale, and Elbe rivers. Off the standard tourist routes, few visitors anticipate the hilly landscape, framed with old buildings and picturesque vineyard huts. Even fewer know that Freyburg, with its 4,500 inhabitants, is the birthplace and headquarters of Germany’s largest sparkling wine producer, known since 1895 as Rotkäppchen (“little red riding hood”) for its memorable red closures. 


Standing before the estate’s well-preserved, historical buildings, reminiscent of Reims and Épernay, one might have the impression that the little-known winegrowing region of Saale-Unstrut has followed a straight path to the here and now. Yet, one would be mistaken. While Rotkäppchen maneuvered its way through the Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, Nazi regime, Second World War, conversion into a nationalized company, and ultimately the rise and fall of the GDR to become one of the few East German companies to find post-Socialism success in the west, the rest of the region’s winegrowers were forced to navigate less well-trodden paths...


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