Terraced vineyards and fine wines invite visitors to experience Saxony’s hilly river landscape. By Don Heimburger and Mary Beth Strickler
If you take the sleek S Bahn from downtown Dresden east along Leipziger and Meissner Strasse, in about 20 minutes you’ll come to the village of Radebeul and the vineyards along Saxony’s Elbe River. In the 17th century winegrowers from Württemberg brought terraced viticulture to an area now considered the center piece of the Saxon Wine Road. Today, around 2,000 adventure vintners, including more than 1,700 leisure hobbyists, cultivate by hand over 60 different grape varieties in the old dry-stone vineyard walls. Artist workshops, galleries, cozy cafés, traditional taverns, and festivals situated around the town’s Altkötzschenbroda welcome more than 200,000 visitors annually. Several wine trails afford visitors the opportunity to explore and sample all the area has to offer.
As with other German wine regions, where the Church and the aristocracy were the primary Medieval property owners and were responsible for development of the vineyards, this area’s history is closely linked to the Saxon court during the heyday of Dresden’s Baroque period. Between 1727 and 1730, August Christoph Graf von Wackerbarth had a palace and garden built in the middle of the Radebeul vineyards. The Count was one of Augustus the Strong’s closest confidants and held numerous political offices. As Dresden’s governor, Wackerbarth is remembered mostly because he commissioned, and donated a fortune from his private coffers, for the building of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Architect Johann Christoph Knöffel not only delivered the first design for the Frauenkirche in 1722 yet in 1730 also constructed Wackerbarth’s Lößnitz wine-growing estate with its Baroque manor house, generous gardens and private quarters in the form of the Belvedere.