Landmarks and Wineculture Details
Sektmanufaktur Kessler: Oldest Sparkling Wine Cellar in Germany
Landmarks of German Wine Culture: Württemberg
The godfather of Kessler Sekt was none other than the famous brand Veuve Cliquot. On July 1st, 1826, Georg Christian von Kessler returned from Champagne to found the first Sekt cellar of Germany in Esslingen on the Neckar river. He started producing Württemberg bubbles in a Champagne style.
Von Kessler had learnt the art of making champagne in Reims, France. In 1807, he became clerk of the famous company Veuve Cliquot-Fourneaux & Cie., and in 1815, he was promoted to be a member of the company's executive board. It was Kessler who led the champagne cellar to its days of highest prosperity, especially by establishing a thriving export channel. His plans to take over the whole business as its chef in 1824, however, were thwarted by intrigues.
This turned out to be a good thing for Esslingen and for Germany. Kessler returned to his home city and in 1826 founded G.C. Kessler & Compagnie in the old wine press house of the Kaisheimer Pfleghof. The first 4000 bottles of sparkling wine were produced from Pinot Noir Précoce (Frühburgunder) and were sold under the modest name "sparkling wine from Württemberg." The sparkling wine produced in champagne fashion, however, was an immediate success: Within the first ten years, Kessler sold about half a million bottles of his sparkling wine. In 1829, Kessler was already exporting to Russia, Great Britain and to the United States while his chief market remained in Württemberg, including the royal court.
In 1832, Kessler bought his first vaulted cellar in the Speyrer Pfleghof. The building with its impressive façade, where once tithe used to be collected, was probably erected around the year 1213 and remains the company's headquarters and main production site up to the present day. When Kessler died in 1842, his company was selling around 46 500 bottles per year, now continued by his successor Carl Weiss. At the Leipzig Fair in 1850, Weiss first presented the new brand „Kessler Cabinet“ – the oldest known sparkling wine brand of Germany. The company's success continued throughout the 20th century and Kessler Sekt was served during the world trip of the famous airship „LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin“, and later on in 1956, the brand was appointed as the official sparkling wine of the Federal Government of Germany for state receptions by then chancellor Konrad Adenauer.
In spite of all this success, the company had to file for bankruptcy in December 2004 and it was only a restructuring, organized by the business administrator Christopher Baur from Esslingen, that saved the sekt producer from closing. Thanks to Baur, the two stewards with the champagne cooler (the company's trademark) are still around to serve sekt to their customers today. This logo was created in 1904 by none other than the cartoonist Josef Benedict Engl who was working for the famous satirical magazine Simplicissimus. Today, Kessler sparkling wine is again receiving prizes – thanks to their unique style which still stands in the tradition of Veuve Cliquot. This can all be seen and experienced at the Kessler Karrée 18 in the middle of Esslingen, which holds a bar, a tasting area and a historical vaulted cellar.