Kessler at Esslingen: Oldest Champagne Cellar in Germany
Von Kessler had learnt the art of champagne making in the Champagne region of France: In 1807, he became clerk of the famous company Veuve Cliquot-Fourneaux & Cie., in 1815, he was promoted to be a member of the company's executive board. It was Kessler who lead the champagne cellar to its days of highest prosperity, especially by establishing a thriving export. His plans to take over the whole business as its chef in 1824, however, were thwarted by intrigues.
This turned out to be good thing for Esslingen and for Germany: Kessler returned to his home city and founded in 1826 G.C. Kessler & Compagnie in the old wine press house of the Kaisheimer Pfleghof. The first 4000 bottles of sparkling wine were produced from Pinot Noir Précoce and were sold under the modest name "sparkling wine from Württemberg." The sparkling wine produced in champagne fashion, however, was an immediate success: Within the first ten years, Kessler sold about half a million bottles of his sparkling wine. In 1829, Kessler was already exporting to Russia, Great Britain and to the United States while his chief market remained in Württemberg, including the royal court.
In 1832, Kessler bought his first vaulted cellar in the Speyrer Pfleghof. The building with its impressive façade, where once tithe used to be collected, was probably erected around the year 1213 and stays the Kessler's champagne company's home and main production site up to the present day. When Kessler died in 1842, his company was selling an amount of 46 500 bottles per year, now continued by his successor Carl Weiss. On the Leipzig Fair in 1850, Weiss first presented the new brand „Kessler Cabinet“ – the oldest known champagne brand of Germany. The company's success continued throughout the 20th century: Kessler Champagne was served during the world trip of the famous airship „LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin“, later on in 1956, the brand was appointed as the official champagne of the Federal Government of Germany for state receptions by chancellor Konrad Adenauer.
In spite of all, the company went bankrupt in 2004, only a restart, organized by the business administrator Christopher Baur from Esslingen, saved the champagne cellar from closing. Thanks to Baur, the two stewards with the champagne cooler are still around to serve champagne to their customers today – the stewards are the company's brand mark, featured on the bottles. Their picture was invented in 1904 by none other than the cartoonist Josef Benedict Engl who was working for the famous satirical magazine Simplicissimus. Today, Kessler Champagnes collect prizes again – thanks to their unique style which still stands in the tradition of Veuve Cliquot. The whole history and the modern champagne can be visited in the newly erected Kessler Karrée 18 in the middle of Esslingen, which holds a bar, a tasting area and a historical vaulted cellar.