Good champagne is the best medicine

Kessler is sparkling again: Germany’s oldest champagne house is back on the road to success with its history and quality
Esslingen am Neckar, 26.06.2008 | 

There will be plenty of champagne corks exploding at Christmas and especially on New Year"s Eve. Unfortunately, too many consumers will be drinking cheap bubbly or sparkling wine produced for the mass market, according to Eberhard Kaiser from the champagne factory Kessler. This is despite the fact that there are plenty of high-quality substitutes available in Esslingen, where the champagne is maturing underground. No less than a quarter of a million bottles of champagne are stored in the vaults of the Speyrer Pfleghof, up to twelve metres deep in parts, where the wine tithe was once stored. The property is in the direct vicinity of the town hall and church and has been the headquarters and the production site of Germany"s oldest champagne house since its founding in 1826. This number is small compared with the large champagne producers with 100 million bottles. But Kessler knows that it is quality and not quantity that counts. The champagne factory Kessler is once again focusing on quality.

The company started to savour success once again after the reputation of the company, which is steeped in tradition, had been damaged some years back by reports of mediocre quality. Kessler came close to insolvency as a result. Dedicated new shareholders put measures in place to rejuvenate the traditional brand instead of putting it out to pasture. These measures have once again been praised very highly recently. The ranking list in STERN magazine showed that the vines in Esslingen can hold their own against French champagnes. "Jägergrün’ extra dry from Kessler reached the top group in a blind tasting session of over 300 different varieties of champagne throughout Europe. No less than 3 million bubbles can sparkle in a glass of very good champagne.

"Our work reflects a love of the product and a dedication to detail", explains Eberhard Kaiser, "This results in a quality handmade product that sells well because consumers trust it". While many large and small competitors produce champagne in large tanks, Kessler has just 30 employees, who mature its champagne using the royal tradition of in-bottle fermentation. Part of the champagne is still shaken by hand using the méthode traditionelle developed in the Champagne region of France. The highly praised Jägergrün is not the only variety in the range. Kessler’s core brands have a market presence that dates back more than 100 years. Kessler Cabinet is the oldest brand of champagne in Germany, appearing on menus as far back as 1850. Kessler "Hochgewächs‛, a blanc de blancs made from pure Chardonnay wines, was served on the Zeppelin fleet in the 1920s. After the Federal Chancellor of the time, Konrad Adenauer, visited the champagne house in February 1956, it was elevated to the status of the "Chancellor’s champagne’ for use at official receptions held by the Federal Government.

There are also small limited special editions for fans and collectors. The champagne factory intends to use its new Kessler "Kreation’ product range to catapult it to the top in the medium term. The best vines can already compete with a lot of champagne varieties. Connoisseurs and insiders enjoy the mulled wine-free zone at the Kessler Karree during the Esslingen Christmas Market or pop in for a glass at the main building with its stately atmosphere after visiting the weekly market. After all, the Emperor Friedrich II once resided in this building. Kessler’s motto is that a good champagne fits every occasion. In France, this sophisticated drink is served throughout an entire menu.

As part of its realignment some years ago, the company has opened itself up, and this turnaround also contributes to the company’s success. In addition to original and sophisticated marketing, the tours of the vaults are very popular and provide interesting and varied insights into the company’s history. Georg Christian Kessler, born in 1787 in Heilbronn, learned his trade in France at the famous champagne house of Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin in Reims. He co-owned the company after some years, and returned home to found his own champagne house there in 1826. In order to finance the expensive undertaking, he ran a textile processing firm on the side that produced Merkel and Kienlin (Esslingen wool company). Kessler also benefited from the secularisation of Esslingen, which meant that there was widespread availability of properties including cellars at affordable prices.

In this vast domed vaults from the Middle Ages, the champagne matures in the bottle for up to four years. Some housewives are shocked by the sight of the gray-black cellar fungus covering large parts of the dome. However, this spooky atmosphere is a sure indicator that the climatic conditions in the maturing vaults are perfect. The two agile Piccolos are still the logo of the Kessler company. The drawing was created by Simplicissimus artist Josef Benedict Engl. Back in those days, the apprentices were called "Piccolos’. Their name carried over to the small 0.2 litre champagne bottles and became a commonly used term. Annals report that the champagne was even prescribed by doctors and used as medicine in these homeopathic measures at the beginning of the century. Keeping this thought in the back of one"s mind helps to enjoy a (good) glass of champagne even more!