At the top of the vineyard, on the summit of the Wolkenberg with a view overlooking the property and spanning as far as the eye can see, Bettina Muthmann, the owner of the Wolkenberg Winery, welcomes her guests. Her charming humor immediately puts everyone in a good mood for touring, tasting and learning about the transformation of the mining region where she has lived for many years.
The 35 hectare vineyard is located in one of the sunniest areas of Germany, the Niederlausitz. The uniqueness of this landscape is shaped above all by its history. Brandenburg's wine-growing areas are currently still quite unknown. Bettina explains that, "around 200 years ago this region had more than 750 hectares of vineyards, more than in Saxony." After the open pit mine was shut down, the operators considered how to recultivate this area. Remains of an old vineyard were found in the area at that time, so it was decided to bring back to life Brandenburg’s wine-growing history with the inception of Wolkenberg.
The interplay of nature and humans
creates a unique and special experience at Wolkenberg
In the middle of the vineyard, among the vines, Bettina explains that after a successful pilot project of viticulture on the Wolkenberg in 2013, she took the initiative to keep this particular project alive and continue with it full time still today.
Support came from the well-known oenologist Martin Schwarz from the Meissen Wine Manufactory. "Once we knew it was working, I couldn't imagine giving up the project. I really wanted to dedicate myself and push forward with the reclamation." Today, the recultivated open-cast mining area is an exciting and hopeful testament to how nature can recover with the right intention and dedication behind it.
Bettina has done a lot to restore the fertility of the soil. She has been on the market with her wines since 2015 and now offers eleven different varietals. Visitors have the opportunity to partake in a selection of tastings in the tasting room - a small wooden house, at the foot of the vineyard called "Besenwirtschaft." Some of the grape varietals are a rarity and very popular among connoisseurs, such as the Red Riesling.
When visiting Wolkenberg you feel transported from everyday life into a special slice of nature
Accompanied with the wine tasting, Bettina offers a selection of local produce, cheeses and other delicacies, really showing off how delicious and multifaceted Brandenburg can taste. Not for nothing Bettina, describes how being at the winery gives her the feeling of being on holiday. Which is very much the feeling you get when visiting Wolkenberg: Transported from everyday life into a special slice of nature, wine and cheese. But instead of traveling abroad to have this experience, it’s right in our own backyard.
Both the tour and the tasting are peppered with stories about the uniqueness of the region and the journey of the vineyard. In order to be a successfully producing winery, Wolkenberg had to overcome some challenges, such as the water supply to the land and the particular condition of the soil after being mined for so many years.
Bettina also tells an anecdote about a wolf that visits her every morning at dawn. Each time she chases him away, taking precautions to prevent him from eating the grapes, as they could ferment in his stomach and make him sick. The wolf isn’t the only local wildlife that enjoys her harvest, the birds, the rabbits, and even her dog want in on the fruits of her labor.
Man and nature must continue to work together here
so that nature can fully recover
The interplay of nature and humans creates a unique and special experience at Wolkenberg. In the distance, you can see huge machines mining lignite in the still-functioning open pit mine. Here, at the vineyard, the world looks different again, the soil has become fertile, the vines grow year after year and slowly animals settle again. Nevertheless, man and nature must continue to work together here so that nature can fully recover.