When travelers think of wine destinations, Germany often doesn’t rank as high on the must-sip list as do such perennial favorites as France, Italy, Northern California and even Chile and South Africa. And when it does, the Mosel-Rhine Valley—famed for its Rieslings and pinot noirs—commands the spotlight.
But Saxony offers an array of vintages that makes the eastern German state just as worthy of a visit, particularly when combined with the many splendors of the state capital of Dresden and the quaint burg of Meissen, both located a short hop away from the area’s most prominent wineries (Weingüter, in German). The heart of the wine country lies along the well-marked Saxon Wine Route, founded 25 years ago and stretching more than 37 miles on scenic routes suitable for both hikers and drivers.
With only 500 acres of active vineyards—much of it in the affluent town of Radebeul—the region produces enough wine to satisfy locals and visitors but exports very little, even to other parts of the country. The small production has kept Saxon wines from becoming more widely known, even though the sparkling wines (Sekt) and white varietals boast a lineage dating back some 850 years.
German Wineries: Where to Sip
Schloss Wackerbarth: The former party palace of August the Strong is now one of the area’s largest and most elegant wineries, offering the whole gamut of wine attractions, including an enormous gift shop, an on-site restaurant featuring local and seasonal specialties, and tours of the vineyards and production facility, where the process of creating sparkling whites is still mostly done by hand. Wackerbarthstr. 1, Radebeul, Germany
Drei Herren: The award-winning winery produces several wines, including the white varieties Scheurebe and Solaris, the latter being relatively new and thus less well known. Visitors can stroll the vineyards or sample bottles indoors, where the owner’s vast art collection provides reason enough to make a stop. Weinbergstr. 34, Radebeul, Germany
Weingut Karl Friedrich Aust: The homestead dating back to 1650 offers wine-tastings and event spaces that overlook vineyards that climb up the precipitous slopes beyond. In addition to its popular Rieslings and smooth pinot blancs (Weißburgunder), the winery also produces pinot noir (Spätburgunder), one of the lesser-grown varieties in the region. Weinbergstr. 10, Radebeul, Germany
Where to Stay: Hotels and Inns of the Saxon Wine Trail
Villa Sorgenfrei: The charming inn, located right on the Saxon Wine Trail, exudes romance and history in every room, including the Restaurant Atelier Sanssouci. Both Sanssouci and Sorgenfrei translate as “carefree.” Augustusweg 48, Radebeul, Germany
QF Hotel Dresden: Set up base camp in the heart of the city at the boutique hotel conveniently located in a mini-mall right on Neumarkt square, one of the focal points of sightseeing. Nearby transportation provides quick and easy access to the countryside. Neumarkt 1, Dresden, Germany
Where to Eat and Drink: Saxon Wine Trail Restaurants
Pulverturm an der Frauenkirche: A mix of tasteful kitsch, history, and cuisine awaits in the former gunpowder tower. Costumed troubadours and performers meander among the numerous rooms, while unique experiences such as the infamous “Last Meal” dinner provide a lighthearted glimpse into the past. An der Frauenkirche 12, Dresden, Germany
Domkeller: Meissen’s oldest restaurant, dating back to 1470, overlooks the historic Old Town and serves updated takes on regional specialties, including several vegetarian dishes. Domplatz 9, Meissen, Germany
The Bermuda Triangle: The most happening part of the already hip Neustadt quarter is nightlife central for Dresden, with a bevy of bars that range from the retro-chic Room 64 and its notoriously potent cocktails to the Lebowski Bar, which plays the Coen Brothers’ cult classic on continuous loop. Louisenstraße and Görlitzer Straße, Dresden, Germany
What to See and Do in Dresden
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden: The Dresden State Art Collection is so vast it could warrant several days of visits, but for those on a schedule, highlights include the Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe), containing a trove of kingly treasures; the Turkish Chamber, with one of the most impressive collections of Ottoman art and artifacts outside of Turkey; and the Riesensaal, the palace’s reconstructed great hall, where armored combatants stand frozen in mid-fight. Schinkelwache, Theaterplatz 2, Dresden, Germany
Panometer Dresden: Yadegar Asisi has created several large-scale artworks depicting cities of yesteryear. The Dresden location alternates biannually between 360-degree panoramas of the city in its Baroque period and immediately after the 1945 bombing that destroyed the majority of the Old Town quarter. Gasanstaltstr 8b, Dresden, Germany
Semperoper: Although the original opera house was all but rubble after World War II, the reconstructed performance palace has reclaimed its former Baroque splendor, which can be seen by attending either a behind-the-scenes tour or one of its many world-class performances. Theaterplatz 2, Dresden, Germany