Prost! With a Special Bottle of Bubbly | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 31.12.2001
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Prost! With a Special Bottle of Bubbly

The Germans will be bidding goodbye to the year with their own red-capped bottle of bubbly, “Rotkäppchen”. The sparkling wine company is an unlikely success story from Eastern Germany


Full of high spirits!

It’s the time of year again to break out the bubbly and pop corks. In Germany, the "Rotkäppchen" is picking up in popularity and sales and is poised to climb to the top of the national German sekt market.

The brand is more than 100 years old and comes from the small town of Freyburg, in the Unstrut river valley in eastern Germany.

The humble beginnings

The story began in 1856 when brothers Moritz and Julius Kloss opened a wine store in the valley of the Saale and Unstrut rivers, one of Europe’s most conducive wine-growing areas. Little did the duo dream then they would one day be selling millions of bottles of Sekt.

Two years later they recognised the importance of the sparkling wine and supplied their first bottles of ‘Champagne’. A legal dispute with a French Champagne producer in October 1894 led to the brothers’ traditional German brand ‘Monopol’ being renamed Rotkäppchen.

The label has nothing to do with the colour of the Sekt, but is named after the bottles’ distinctive red cap.

Symbol of a dying German Democratic Republic?

With a 53 percent regional market share, it’s little wonder that almost half of eastern Germany drinks "Rotkäppchen" sparkling wine. But what has taken most people by surprise is the increasing success of the label in Western Germany.

Clubbed together with other East German symbols such as the "Trabant" car or prefabricated buildings that are today just relics of a bygone era or even collectors’ items, most predicted a similar fate for the "Rotkäppchen" brand.

Stunning success

But in 1993, the company was privatised and Günther Heise took over as Managing Director. Since then the company hasn’t looked back.

Its sales have grown fivefold. With a relaunch, new television spots and acquisitions of other premium sekt brands such as Mumm, Jules Mumm and MM, "Rotkäppchen" is racing to become Germany’s number one champagne.

"Many people didn't believe that Rotkäppchen would be able to establish itself on the national market. Now with the acquisiton of other well-known German sparkling wine labels, we're set to become the country's leading brand. I think it's been a surprise for a lot of people. But it's also been a major challenge for us as well", says Günther Heise.

Success in figures

The Society for Consumer Research in Nürnberg indicated that in the first half of 2001, Rotkäppchen’s share of the German sekt market leapt from 2 percent to a record 18,2 percent. And the brand registered special success in Western Germany with a growth of 13,1 percent – its market share rose from a previous 2,3 percent to 3,1 percent.

The wines for the Sekt come from Italy, France Spain and from the Rhine and Mosel region in Western Germany. And Günther Heise believes that the euro will only make it easier for the company to acquire wines from neighbouring countries.

Never out of business

The company now turns out about 400,000 bottles a day ahead of the parties. According to the Leipziger Zeitung, more than 50 million sekt corks popped on New Year’s Eve day alone last year in Germany.

And according to one study, the Germans consumed 543 million sekt bottles last year, out of which 431 million bottles came from German cellars.

As the Germans turn increasingly to sekt to slake their thirst around the end of the year, there’s no doubt that "Rotkäppchen" will be doing roaring business for quite some time to come.