The Zahn winery in the Saale-Unstrut region produces not only first-class wines - but also exciting and atmospheric events for guests.
In the small community of Kaatschen, one half-timbered house follows the next. On one side, the Saale flows leisurely; on the other, there are small mountains full of vineyards. Even the entrance to the village is a delight: a stone bridge leads across the Saale into the district of Großheringen. Here, in this idyllic setting, lies the Zahn Winery - and behind the old, wooden gate, it becomes even a little more romantic: Here, the restaurant with its cozy terrace awaits guests. Wine grows over the heads of the visitors and forms a natural green roof.
You could say that wine is in the Zahn family's blood. Torsten General runs the estate, together with his wife Elvira Zahn-General and his brother-in-law André Zahn. Elvira's parents once founded the business. Father Hartmut Zahn still likes to keep an eye on things in the vineyard, and his wife Christina is still active today as office manager and the good soul of the winery. Elvira, the 2009/2010 Saale-Unstrut Wine Queen, studied wine business administration at Heilbronn University and returned to Thuringia with many innovative ideas. Today, she and her husband Torsten are responsible for the wine restaurant and the marketing of the wines.
"We believe that today it is no longer appropriate to simply show guests the wine cellar and philosophize about acid and sugar there," explains owner Torsten General. "Our way is to put wine into experiences in which it plays a role, but perhaps not always the main role." That's how the estate has become an adventure winery. Throughout the year, the trio offers events such as an inflatable boat trip on the Saale River by moonlight, a stylish picnic in the middle of the vineyard or a three-day mystery dinner in the vineyards, where guests have to solve puzzles while enjoying the wine. Particularly popular is "Tafeln im Dachsberg," a classy dinner at a long table in the middle of the vines, which takes place annually in late summer.
The location of the winery is perfect for exquisite wines such as Acolon, for Pinot Blanc, Blauer Zweigelt or Muscaris: Kaatschen is located directly on the Thuringian border with Saxony-Anhalt, in the triangle between Weimar, Jena and Naumburg. The wine regions are wonderfully connected by the Saalreradweg, which follows the river from its source to its mouth and passes numerous vineyards along the way. On the southern slopes of the hills, the grapes can ripen properly, André tells us. As cellar master, he is responsible for storing the wines. Whether stainless steel, large wooden barrel or barrique, he looks for and finds the right aging method for each wine. "The approximately 1,600 hours of sunshine a year, little rainfall, plus the rich soil and climate here on the Saale and Unstrut rivers, these are the most important prerequisites for our wines full of character."
In the meantime, life has come to the restaurant: smartly dressed waiters ensure that the glasses are always full and serve delicacies such as beef carpaccio, Riesling soup or filet of Thuringian catfish.
Torsten and Elvira not only pay attention to first-class quality when it comes to wine, but also to the products in the restaurant. "We opted for regional cuisine," Torsten tells us, "especially when it comes to meat and fish, we know each producer personally." What began as a small Straußenwirtschaft is now an established and lovingly decorated restaurant in the backyard of the winery. The Saale flows right past the terrace, a few canoeists greet you now and then, and a goose preens itself extensively on the other bank. An enchanting backdrop for a glass of wine or two and a freshly grilled trout.
And this is how you get to the Zahn Winery by bus and train: Plan arrival.
Cover photo: At the Zahn Winery you can enjoy your wine with a view of the Saale © Christoph Keller
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