Entrepreneur Georg Prinz zur Lippe
“I am always curious to experience and understand new things”
After completing his doctorate at TUM, Professor Georg Prinz zur Lippe lived in Munich and led a non-aristocratic life. Then he decided to buy back the former family castle and its winery near Meissen.
Georg Prinz zur Lippe lived almost incognito in Munich, studied and earned his doctorate at TUM and worked for a consulting firm. When German reunification came, he decided to return to Meissen and to revive the castle that had once belonged to his family. But that was not all: “My aim was to make an excellent wine that is authentic, that stands for its region, for the soil, for the climate, for the people.” And he has succeeded. Saxony’s oldest winery again produces first-class wines and shines in new splendor, but it was difficult getting there.
Complex process of reconstruction
The land was run down, the castle was in ruins and neither was for sale. But Georg Prinz zur Lippe did not give up. He took out a loan on his Munich apartment, worked as a freelance consultant and initially bought only the vines of the vineyard. This was the beginning of the rebirth of the castle and the winery. He commuted between Munich and Meissen for the first year and finally moved in 1991 with a whole series of questions on board. Because at that time it was still completely unclear whether the wines would find buyers, whether the financing would work and whether the wine would go down well. “I started with very, very, very many question marks and I would say that the question marks have not diminished to this day. New ones keep popping up.”
It took him another five years to buy back the castle. “After reunification, people were not directly enthusiastic about old owners and they simply wanted to design the world anew. Back to old structures was in many parts not what the masses wanted.” With the purchase of the castle, things became even more complicated. The facility for the disabled, which was housed in the castle, existed there until 2000 – under difficult conditions: “This began with the sewage pipes in the walls being corroded and the sewage no longer getting where it was supposed to go”. So, during the holidays the pipes were re-installed, the roof was repaired, and the floors were redone. The renovation work had to take place while the school for the disabled was in operation. “That was quite ambitious! So many problems that one had to keep an eye on over and over again. It was all very complicated!”
Weihenstephan and the entire world
But Prinz zur Lippe has a soft spot for complexities and, in addition to working at the castle and winery, he is also a professor and management consultant. The entire region, which has become his home, is very close to his heart: “I try to get things moving here in many activities besides viticulture. It’s many, many, many small, exciting projects that, like an Advent calendar, actually open a new door every day, and I think that’s nice.” He is also regularly abroad. “I am always curious to experience and understand new things. There is so much strength and potential in that if one treats people with respect and at eye level, placing appreciation in the foreground. If you just listen, you can learn an incredible amount for yourself. For me it’s still an elixir of life.”
Prinz zur Lippe also likes to return to Munich again and again. “My connection to Bavaria is still strong. And whenever I hear a Bavarian accent, I’m happy again, because it is all just so familiar to me.” He has very fond memories of his studies in Weihenstephan. His former fellow Weihenstephan students meet and go on joint excursions in the Dresden area, and the Prince maintains close contact with two of them. “What I want, of course, is to give back a little of the training that I received myself. And I want to preserve a cultural asset for the region where I now live and pass it on to the next generation.”
I believe that things that are authentic are more or less always self-explanatory.
Both his experience as a management consultant and his respect for his environment and for people have helped him a lot in his life, especially in building up the winery again. Along with the vines, he also kept the complete wine-growing brigade 56 of the state-owned unit “LPG Wilhelm Pieck”. Many of the former employees are now retiring and have stayed with him at the winery for almost 30 years. “A great deal has changed with people. In the beginning I was the epitome of the class enemy – a prince, an entrepreneur: For God’s sake! and today it’s just completely normal, I’m the neighbor from next door, and it’s all very pleasant and you get invited to a barbecue, and that’s just become very, very normal and friendly.” He himself and his family do not live in the castle, but in the gardener’s house. But he still enjoys the flair: “Sometimes in the evening I sit in front of the fireplace in the castle, really stoke it up, bring out a nice red wine, look into the fireplace and then feel like a little lord of the castle.”
Back to the roots
In the long term, as much as possible of the estate in Zadel, which houses the wine production, is to be brought back to Proschwitz, where the winery’s origin is. “I believe that things that are authentic are more or less always self-explanatory. You can often feel the ideas that others had centuries ago, over and over again, and that is ultimately the authenticity of the place”. Three very beautiful historical cellars, which are ideal for use, are just waiting for the wine to return.
Und besonders stolz ist Prinz zur Lippe auf die Geschichte des Weinguts. Einer der Weinberge wurde in der Gründungsurkunde der Stadt Freiberg erwähnt und feiert damit am 11. Juni diesen Jahres sein 800jähriges Bestehen. „Das muss man erstmal einem Weingut nachweisen können, das ist schon phänomenal. Wir haben mehrere Weinberge, die schon vor über 800 Jahren urkundlich erwähnt wurden. Und man spürt, dass da viel Geschichte dahinter steckt.“ Diese lange Tradition kommt auch dem Wein zugute: „Qualität geht über alles. Die Größe des Weinguts spielt keine Rolle.“
And as soon as Prinz zur Lippe talks about his wines, you recognize the passion behind it. He describes the Proschwitz wine as being like lime leaf: with a fine sour note, other finely nuanced aromas and altogether round. “Once you realize what a treasure you have there, then it is even more fun to care for this treasure and explain it in such a way that other people can also understand it and enjoy it for themselves. In addition to classics such as Grauer Burgunder and Riesling, the Prince also cultivates rarer grape varieties. For example, Elbling, one of Europe’s oldest cultivated white vines, or Gold Riesling – a Saxon rarity that only grows on 16 hectares in Germany. Prinz zur Lippe is particularly proud of the history of the winery. One of the vineyards was mentioned in the founding charter of the city of Freiberg and celebrates its 800th anniversary on June 11 this year. “That really is an amazing piece of historical proof for a winery, it’s phenomenal. We have several vineyards that were already mentioned in documents over 800 years ago. And you can tell there’s a lot of history behind it.” The wine also benefits from this long tradition: “Quality is paramount. The size of the winery is irrelevant.”
Prof. Dr. Georg Prinz zur Lippe
Degree in Agrarian Science in 1985, Doctorate in 1991
His greatest challenge so far has been to manage many different things altogether. Besides working on the castle and winery, he was Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Saxony for over 20 years. In this function, he supervised Erasmus exchanges for students and created cooperation projects with Dutch universities, developed an MBA program, and supports the MINT sciences and MINT professions. He has also been an honorary professor at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg for several years and works very successfully as a management consultant. Today, he is also a member of various advisory and supervisory boards, especially at companies where he has worked as a consultant. In addition, he is – like his grandfather – canon in the cathedral of Meissen. Doing all of these activities parallel is a joy to him, because so many of them flow into one another. For example, the winery regularly serves as a case study in his courses at the university. “And, despite all that, I do try to reduce everything a little just to free my mind from time to time and to be there for my family.”