Rotkäppchen: the Champagne of the GDR

With New Year’s Eve upon us once again, it seems a good time to turn our attention to the champagne of East Germany, Rotkäppchen Sekt (“Little Red Riding Hood” sparkling wine). Thanks to the GDR Objectified’s Missus a bottle of this plonk found its way under our tree this Christmas and the story of how it got there is an interesting one . . .

Rotkäppchen - Tree

Founded in 1856 in the town of Freyburg, Saxon-Anhalt, Rotkäppchen was obviously not a GDR product as such (a likely explanation for its quality and popularity), but its production continued throughout the period and it was one of the few Eastern consumer goods to survive the Wende in 1989. Though sales largely dried up in the immediate aftermath of unification, the company was able to reestablish itself under an ownership group led by a number of former employees. Over time, Rotkäppchen once again became a popular item in the “new German states” (the clumsy post-unification term for the area of the former GDR) and benefitted greatly from the attention cast upon it during the Ostalgie wave of the late 1990s. This popular culture phenomenon saw many aspects of everyday life in the GDR, in particular its consumer culture, suddenly became fodder for endless series of lighthearted TV and film productions.

Stand des VEB Rotkäppchen-Sektkellerei Freyburg (Unstrut) auf der Herbstmesse 1953 (photo: Roger Rössing/Renate Rössing (Deutsche Fotothek))

Display of People’s Own Little Red Riding Rood Sparkling Wine Freyburg (Unstrut) at the Leipzig Trade Fair in the fall of 1953 (photo: Roger Rössing/Renate Rössing (Deutsche Fotothek))

The popularity of Rotkäppchen did not go unnoticed by the markets and in 2002, the French champagne manufactuer and Seagrams, a Canadian distiller, bought into the company. In the years since, the wine has become the market leader in its category in Germany (33.5% market share) and is now being exported worldwide, as is attested to by its appearance under my tree in Toronto, Canada!

So, from the GDR Objectified:
May you enjoy a good slide into the New Year and Prost!

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