Germany's Saale-Unstrut Wine Region: One Thousand Years of Winemaking

Most wine drinkers have never heard of Saale-Unstrut, unless they happen to live in Germany.  That's understandable, since nearly all the wine produced in this small German wine region is consumed locally.  Wine production varies here, because Saale-Unstrut lies so far north.  In particularly harsh years, crops are lost and production declines accordingly.  Still, Saale-Unstrut has a proud winemaking history, dating back over a thousand years. 

view counter

Let's take a closer look at Germany's northernmost wine region.

History and Tradition
According to the Web site of the Saale-Unstrut wine region, the first recorded mention of wine production in the area occurred in 998, when Emperor Otto II gave vineyards to the Benedictine monks at Memleben.  Cistercian monks at Kloster Pforta were growing wine grapes soon after the monastery's founding in 1137.  Wine production increased as more vineyards were planted along the Saale and Unstrut Rivers.  Unfortunately, warfare and a growing need for food crops created a long-term decline in wine production.  By the early 19th century, Saale-Unstrut vineyards had all but vanished.

After Saale-Unstrut came under Prussian control, more vineyards were planted, but production remained low until the 1960's.  Key reasons for the region's decline were the 1887 phylloxera attack, unhelpful customs regulations and communist control of the area, first by the Soviet Union and then by East Germany.  After the fall of the Berlin Wall, winemakers began to expand and modernize in spite of some weather-related setbacks.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Today the region's wine producers are committing themselves to quality over quantity.  Weingut Klaus Böhme, for example, received commendations from Gault-Millau's The Guide to German Wines 2008 for its 2006 riesling, weißburgunder and traminer wines.  Owner Klaus Böhme has set his sights firmly on continued achievement.  Bernard Pawis, who took over his parents' Weingut Pawis in 1998, and Uwe Lützkendorf of Weingut U. Lützkendorf are also among the region's top winemakers.