Tradition has a name: Kessler. Since 1826, the oldest sparkling wines producer in Germany has been placing its faith in high-quality champagne and other wines – and intends to continue growing in the future with traditional methods and ultramodern production systems. Experts from Festo Training and Consulting are helping to make the new processes as smooth as possible.
When the clock strikes midnight. When fireworks light up the sky. When the corks pop and fly through the air – in some cases at more than 45 kilometres per hour, faster than Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, can run. It’s New Year’s Eve. According to surveys, around 78% of Germans, and even 94% of Austrians, agree that drinking to each other’s health while holding a glass of sparkling wine has become synonymous with the turn of the year. And half of them prefer sparkling wines with titillating names. Such as Kessler for example. With new systems and optimised processes, Germany’s oldest sparkling wines producer wants to further increase its quality standards in order to create a healthy foundation for future growth. Sustainable, bottle by bottle – together with the experts from Festo Training and Consulting.
"We have recently made considerable investments in state-of-the-art production facilities to significantly increase production of around 1.5 million bottles in the next few years," says Christopher Baur, Managing Partner of Kessler – a name that stands for tradition unlike any other company. In 1826, Georg Christian von Kessler founded the eponymous sparkling wine cellar in Esslingen – inspired by the many years he spent in France working for one of the world’s most renowned champagne producers for. On his return to Germany, he brought with him a very special process from Champagne: the “méthode traditionelle” – a bottle fermentation process which is still used today to produce the company’s top sparkling wines.
With style from still to sparkling wine
What has most distinguished Kessler over the past 190 years is the uncompromising quality of its products. “To this day, 90% of our production relies on bottle fermentation. All of the bottles are still filled in our historic, 13th century building, and in some cases, are stored in medieval aging cellars,” explains Christopher Baur proudly. Initial fermentation in casks is followed by secondary fermentation in the bottle: still wine is transformed into sparkling wine – and depending on the cuvée, aging can take as long as five years. Not without reason is it said that the secret of a great sparkling wine is time. Speaking of time, the wine cellars have grown steadily, due to increasing sparkling wine consumption. In order to be able to use the traditional, complex production process on a large scale, Kessler has recently invested in modern machines, which are used today in subprocesses. For example, when disgorging, in which the lees, consisting of yeast and sediment, is removed from the bottle, and in packaging. Packaging consists of inserting the cork and applying the label, after which the bottle with fine sparkling wine is ready to be enjoyed.
Premium processes for premium products
But the use of new systems also means different work processes and changing requirements for employees. “To be able to ensure top-quality and consistent growth, the organization behind the scenes has to be adapted too. And so it was important for us to have external professionals to carefully examine, analyse and optimise our processes,” explains Baur. Kessler counts on the long-standing expertise of Festo Training and Consulting with the goal of improving efficiency in production. “We want to produce our premium products with premium processes,” says Baur, getting to the heart of the matter. It all started with a strategy workshop facilitated by Festo, for managers, supervisors, and selected employees from production, sales, and logistics at Kessler. Among other things, a business game was used to develop a feeling for the entire value creation chain. This was followed by an in-depth value stream analysis. At the end, a comprehensive concept evolved for the long-term optimization of all production steps – including employee training sessions. In keeping with the motto: an even more sparkling or bright future with more fluid processes.
“Implementation is going very well, as is collaboration with the team from Festo headed up by Project Manager Ulrich Fischer. We don’t see it as a purely strategic project, but rather as an operational project. That is why it’s been very important for us to closely involve our employees and provide them with optimal training,” says Baur, whose company is dedicated to continuous development despite its long history: “Learning needn’t be a contradiction to tradition – and tradition must evolve as well.” And the best source of inspiration for evolution is plentiful at Kessler, as US author Mark Twain once said: “Champagne is indeed the most joyous source of inspiration.”