A few years ago when I visited Saxony I had some time left one afternoon and decided to pay a visit to a castle called Schloss Wackerbarth – also known in the past as Wackerbarth’s Ruh – in Radebeul. I never got into the castle, but I did enjoy my visit anyway, despite of the warm weather. Radebeul is situated between Dresden and Meissen and is most known for the Villa Shatterhand, where writer Karl May lived, and which now is the Karl-May-Museum, the Karl May Festival, the steam train to Moritzburg and its vineyards.
The first thing you notice when arriving at Schloss Wackerbarth is a big green sign saying “Europas erstes Erlebnisweingut” (Europes first experience wine-growing estate). I’ll explain later what that is. But first a bit of history. Augustus Christopher Count of Wackerbarth (1662-1734) started as page at the Palatine court, then began his military career and later was in the service of the Saxon court. In 1710 he became privy councillor and also was governor of Dresden. He gave permission for building the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). And he was one of the confidants of King August the Strong. In 1707 he married Caterina di Balbiano, widowed Countess of Salmour.
In 1727-1730 the count had the architect Johann Christoph Knöffel construct a baroque manor house and wonderful gardens. When Wackerbarth died in 1734 the estate was inherited by his stepson Count Joseph Anton Gabaleon von Wackerbarth-Salmour (1685-1761). After his death, according to his wish, the castle was sold and the money given to widows and orphans in Dresden. Among the next owners were Carl August Count von Rex, Freiherr Christian Friedrich von Gregory and August Josef Ludwig von Wackerbarth (a great-grandnephew of the builder of the castle). Over the years the castle was not only a home but also a school, a hospital and even a post office.
In 1948 the castle started trading again as a state-owned wine-growing estate under the name Lößnitz. In the 1970s the house and parts of the gardens were renovated. 1992 the Saxon State Ministry for Agriculture in the Free State Saxony became the owner. The new name was Saxon State-owned Wine-growing Estate Schloss Wackerbarth. In 2000 extensive renovation work began. The castle was renovated, and a production plant for wine and sparkling wine was constructed in a separate building. In August 2002 the estate was reopened as an “Erlebnisweingut” (experience wine-growing estate).
I arrived at Wackerbarth on a very sunny and warm afternoon and at first was rather disappointed. The castle offers lots of events during the year, you can even hold corporate events, conventions and seminars inside the castle yourself, but you can’t just visit the building. There are however several tours on the website (better inform beforehand to be sure if you don’t want to be disappointed) and you can even taste the wine:
- Wine Tour (wine fields and wince cellar), daily in the afternoon.
- Sparkling Wine Tour (sparkling wine factory), daily in the afternoon.
- Castle and Gardens Tour (castle, park and gardens), on Sunday afternoon.
- Historic Tour, January-March on Sunday afternoon.
- Vineyard Walk (vineyard), April-October only in weekends, afternoon.
Whether you’re into wine or not, the gardens and vineyard are lovely places to walk around, especially when the weather isn’t too bad. Otherwise the estate has a nice shop, where you can also buy their wines. And there is a lovely restaurant. I didn’t eat or drink there, but it was lovely sitting on the terrace. What I did have was having an ice cream. Let’s be honest: it was probably the best ice cream I ever had in my life!