A STORY OF PROVIDENCE: OUR HISTORY
The Böckings: Tradition with Vision
The entrepreneurial story of the Böckings began at the onset of the 17th Century with the formation of their trade and exchange company (“Handels and Wechselcomptoirs”). At the beginning of the 18th Century, the successful businessmen and financiers risked expanding into iron smelting and lumbering industries. Their growing reputation was enhanced by successful trading in wine, spices, coal, and salt, which led in the 18th Century to a trading monopoly negotiated with the Electorate of Trier for the area including Nassau-Saarbrücken and Pfalz-Zweibrücken; the upper reaches of the Mosel and the Saar. The Böckings, however, also attained a lucrative and dominant banking operation, a business that began with their position as the regional treasurer (“Landeskassierer”) for the Prince of Palatinate. Vestiges of their property, like the magnificent family residence overlooking the Mosel that Johann Adolph Böcking (1695-1770) built in 1750, can still be seen in Trarbach today. Since the 1970’s the Böcking villa has been home to the Mittel-Mosel-Museum.
In the 18th Century the prosperity of the Böcking family was at its zenith and had its greatest influence on the wealth of Traben and Trarbach. (The two towns were joined together in 1898 with a bridge that spanned the Mosel River and unified the two into a single municipal government in 1904.)
The fact that Traben-Trarbach was a Protestant enclave amidst a sovereign Catholic region made it the first connection for the wine trade with England, the Netherlands, the Protestant Church, and Friederich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, with whom Heinrich Böcking had a personal relationship.
In the middle of the 19th Century, the wine trade was a stable and self-sustaining industry. At the turn of the 20th Century, Traben Trarbach, along with Bordeaux, were the largest wine trading towns in Europe. During this period the Böckings acquired Ungsberg and Schlossberg, in Trarbach, and Geyerslay, in Wintrich, along with the present day Juffer and Juffer-Sonnenuhr, in Brauneberg-all vineyards with a reputation for exceptional quality.
The well-known 14th-Century “Kaisersaal,” or Rittersaal (Knights hall), is the largest secular building from the Middle Ages on the Mosel. This building, erected as a wine cellar for the vineyards (present-day Burgberg) located just below the Grevenburg Castle, was under the ownership of Louis Böcking and Franz Langguth. In the middle of the 20th Century the Langguths’ part of the building was purchased by the Böckings and, today, it is used for wine storage, guest events, and as the administrative office of the winery. After the devastating town fire of 1857, the foundation and walls of the 400-square meter (4,306 square feet) building remained, but the roof had to be rebuilt. While in need of repair, the building has a historic, romantic ambiance of yesteryear. Today, the Rittersaal stands not only as the center of the wine operation, but is a historic legacy of the Böcking family and the town’s once-mighty wine trade.
At the beginning of the 20th century, fortunes changed for the Böcking family. After ten generations of successful mercantilism, the entrepreneurial spirit of the family died in 1903 with Adolph Böcking. With the marriage of his daughter, not only did most of the family’s fortune pass into the ownership of the wine-trading dynasty of the Huesgen family, but also the prized vineyard of Geierslay as well. Though the Trarbach sites remained with the Böckings, they did not prosper in the historic and economic hardships that followed.
In 2010 a decision faced the descendants of the Böckings: sell the traditional but marginally profitable winery and the accompanying vineyards, or pursue a new vision and direction. The decision occupied the family; nostalgia and economics both needed consideration when reaching an agreement on the proper course to take.
Today a new generation of Böckings owns and manages the vineyard business. They have combined tradition and history with confidence and entrepreneurial vision to lead the family enterprise into the future and reestablish its international following.