Bubbling over from success

The Local’s series Made in Germany presents the best the country has to offer, including eastern success story Rotkäppchen sparkling wine.

Bubbling over from success
Photo: DPA

From luxury cars to precision machinery, “Made in Germany” still means quality craftsmanship around the world. But the Teutonic attention to detail goes far beyond engineering. This series will feature a diverse array of products from both well-known German brands and less famous firms. But no matter big or small, all of them are focused on being the best at what they do.

Cornering almost half of the German market, Rotkäppchen-Mumm sparkling wines are one of the former East Germany’s biggest success stories. But the history of the Freyburg an der Unstrut-based company goes back to 1856, when the brothers Moritz and Julius Kloss and their friend Carl Foerster opened a wine shop in this town in Sachsen-Anhalt. Seeing demand, they soon began producing their very own sparkling wines known as Sekt in German.

After a trademark dispute in 1894, they named their company Rotkäppchen because of the red bottle cap they used. (Rotkäppchen means, literally, ‘Little Red Cap,’ and is also the name of the heroine in the Brothers’ Grimm story, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’). Indeed, since then, the company’s fortunes have risen and fallen in a series of twists every bit as thrilling as Red Riding Hood’s adventures. And like the fairytale’s plucky heroine, the company has always bounced back buoyantly from difficult circumstances.

Celebrated by Kaiser Wilhelm II, the sparkling wine made its way to officers’ messes in the first years of the 20th century. But the inflation of the Weimar period hit hard: in 1923, a bottle of sparkling wine cost 1,928,000 marks. East Germany nationalized the company after Word War II, and it thrived again. Communist leader Erich Honecker used the home-grown bubbly to toast Fidel Castro, and production peaked in 1987 at 15 million bottles.

The fall of the Iron Curtain was accompanied by a dramatic fall in sales: in 1990, Rotkäppchen sold only 1.8 million bottles. But a series of upgrades and investments made both before 1989 and in the years following reunification got the company back on track.

In early 2002, Rotkäppchen did what few other East German companies had managed when they took over the West German-based brands Mumm, Jules Mumm and MM Extra. In 2003, Rotkäppchen-Mumm Sektkellereien, as they are now called, did it again, buying out another West German firm, Geldermann sparkling wines. In 2006, the acquisition of Kloss & Foerster followed, as did the buyout of Eckes Spirits and Wine.

Today, sparkling wine lovers curious about the history of this German company can visit the original cellar in Freyburg. There, they can pick up a bottle of the traditional sparkling wine, or try one of the newer products, like the Rotkäppchen dry Reisling. (They can also check out Germany’s largest carved cuvee vat, which was built for the company in 1896 using 25 oak trees.)

Meanwhile, production just keeps climbing: in 2009, Rotkäppchen-Mumm produced 211.9 million bottles and employed 529 people. Turnover keeps growing, too, with the company making €778 million in sales last year, their largest figure to date.


Saxony’s Covid rules get mixed reaction from the vaccine hesitant

The eastern German state of Saxony may have ordered tough restrictions on the unvaccinated to push them to get the Covid-19 jab, but shop assistant Sabine Lonnatzsch, 59, is unmoved.

People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, eastern Germany, to get a Covid vaccination without an appointment, on November 8th.
People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, eastern Germany, to get a Covid vaccination without an appointment, on November 8th. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

The new rules are “discriminatory” because they are “pushing the unvaccinated further into a corner,” she says. 

Lonnatzsch won’t change her mind about getting inoculated – she just won’t go to restaurants or events anymore.

“I’ve had corona cases in my family and in my eyes it is nothing more than a bad flu,” she says.

With Covid-19 infections rocketing in Germany, Saxony this week became the first to largely exclude unvaccinated people from indoor dining, cinemas and bars.

READ ALSO: Germany divided over Covid restrictions for the unvaccinated 

The new rules, likely to be emulated by other states in the coming weeks, are designed not only to reduce the spread of Covid-19 but also to encourage more people to get inoculated.

But Lonnatzsch is not the only one resisting the jab in the town of Radeberg in Bautzen district, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country at just 45.7 percent.

The clothing store No 1 Mode where she works has a sign in the window that lets customers know that all are welcome – regardless of vaccination status.

‘Bad for business’

Across the town square, the co-owner of Cafe Roethig also has no plans to get the vaccine. Like many people in the region, Carola Roethig, 58, is “not convinced” by the jab because “it was developed in such a short space of time”.

The district of Bautzen has one of the highest incidence rates in the country at 645.3 cases per 100,000 people, but Roethig is not worried about catching the virus.

People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, Saxony.
People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, Saxony. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

The new rules are “definitely bad for business,” she says at the cafe’s bakery counter, which is lined with untouched fresh cakes, tarts and iced donuts.

“Many of our customers are not vaccinated, so we are losing income, because fewer people are coming in,” she says.


The rules are also bad for her personal life.

“I’m not allowed to go to a restaurant in the evening and have a nice dinner with my husband. I don’t think it is right,” says Roethig.

Outside the cafe, 40-year-old Susan feels the same.

“Nothing would convince me” to get the jab, she says, without giving her last name.

“I see no sense in it because (vaccinated people) can still get the disease and infect others.”

Vaccine push

The new rules come as new infections surge in Germany, with the national incidence rate reaching 213.7 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven
days on Tuesday – a record since the pandemic began.

The political parties looking to form a coalition government after September’s election have so far ruled out compulsory vaccinations and general
lockdowns to tackle the surge.

But with just 67 percent of the population fully jabbed, ministers say encouraging more people to get vaccinated is key to bringing the numbers down.

Outside Radeberg town hall, a modest queue of people formed for a vaccination event organised to encourage more people to get the jab.

Kitchen assistant Mirmirza Kabirzada, 36, had previously hesitated because “I heard that many people died in Norway and others got a fever, so I was a little bit afraid”.

But with the numbers rising so dramatically, “now I realised this is very important,” he says.

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine has been linked to very rare and potentially fatal blood clots, but experts agree that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Intensive care nurse Nicole Wieberneit, 39, is waiting in line to get her booster.

She is optimistic that the new rules will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“When it becomes about the freedom to travel, to go out to eat, I think more people will come forward. Freedom is very important to people in Saxony,” she says.