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Sachsen is Germany's easternmost and smallest wine-growing region. Its recorded viticultural history dates from 1161 and parallels that of other wine regions, where the Church and the aristocracy were the primary medieval property owners and responsible for the development of the vineyards. In addition to viticulture, their legacy includes a wealth of art and architectural gems throughout the region. Most of the vineyards are between Dresden and Diesbar-Seusslitz, the northern end of the Saxon Wine Road. A few vineyards are being restored on the southern outskirts of Dresden and further south, in Pillnitz and Pirna, the gateway to Saxon's Switzerland. Many of the small parcels are planted on steep, labor-intensive stone terraces. The proximity of the Elbe River helps temper the climate, but given this northerly location and growing conditions similar to those of Saale-Unstrut, it is not surprising that the early-ripening Müller-Thurgau predominates. Here, too, the wines are marketed as varietals and nearly always vinified dry.
Geographical location: In the upper Elbe Valley, along the 51° of latutide. The region extends some 55 km/ 34 miles north and south of Dresden. About 100 km/62 miles to the north are a few patches of vines not far from Wittenberg, where Martin Luther posted his famous theses in 1517.
Major town(s): Dresden, Meissen, Radebeul.
Climate: Continental, with warm, dry summers and cold winters.
Soil types: The steepest slopes are of weathered granite and gneiss, with loess or sand deposits in some of the vineyards.
Vineyard area (2003): 446 ha / 1,102 acres · 2 districts · 4 collective vineyard sites · 17 individual sites
Grape varieties [white 85% · red 15%] (2003): Müller-Thurgau (20.9%), Riesling (15.9%), Weissburgunder (12.6%), Grauburgunder, Traminer, Kerner, Elbling and Scheurebe, as well as a small quantity of the specialty Goldriesling, are the most important white varieties. Spätburgunder and Dornfelder are the primary red varieties.
Marketing: Most of the region's vines are tended by part-time wine-growers who deliver their crop to the regional cooperative cellars in Meissen. There are a handful of private wine estates that produce and sell their own wine. The state-owned cellars in historic Schloss Wackerbarth (1730) in Radebeul and the region's oldest estate at Schloss Proschwitz (privately owned) are Sachsen's largest estates. Saxon wines are rarities, available in very limited quantities, and nearly all are consumed locally.
Signposted routes through wine country: Sächsische Weinstrasse (driving), which is also the starting point for many a Wanderweg durch die Weinberge (hiking trail through the vineyards) · Elberadweg (cycling