At first sight, Levice is a town as any other. A pedestrian zone, shops, hotels, a shopping centre, an industrial park, blocks of flats and houses with front yards. Random tourists have no idea that they are walking down the streets in the underground of which there are hidden kilometres of underground passages and deep cellars.
The oldest Levice cellar is the so-called Schoeller Lords’ Cellars, which are located in Levice only few minutes on foot away from the Levice Castle. The exact history of the building of the cellars is unknown, but we shall look together into the times when the Schoeller family bought Levice estates.
The members of Schoeller House, as they themselves called their family, were exceptionally entrepreneurial. Over the time, they acquired mines, smelting plants, machinery plants, paper factories, textile factories, railway carriage factories, shares in shipyards in Germany and Austria, and one branch of the family settled in Brno. In 1862, the company started working in brewing and malting industry.
Looking at the Schoeller business portfolio, one inadvertently thinks of a similarity with the businesspeople from Ayn Rand’s famous novel Atlas Shrugged. Those must have been fascinating times, when industry was born, humans were taming the elements and, using fire and water, created steam, by which they caused huge machines to work unlike ever before.
A New Chapter
The brothers Willhelm Alexander and Johann Paul Schoeller managed a Vienna company Schoeller & Co, which dealt in wholesale of silk, wool and indigo. In 1867, they bought the Esterházy family estates, which had been leased to Ladislav Leidenfrost. Why mention a lessee? Because he was no ordinary lessee. Among other things, he had – today no longer existent – the Schoeller manor house built and during the restoration of Levice vineyards, he secured the import of new resilient varieties, thanks to his relatives from the USA.
Wilhelm Alexander Schoeller was convinced that even in agriculture profit can be made thanks to applying organizational talent.
Wilhelm Alexander and Johann Paul came to Levice with the intention to invest into food production. Even though before the purchase they had to overcome resistance from some family members who were afraid of the risks, eventually the purchase was made and the family acquired more than 10,000 hectares of soil, a castle and other buildings in Levice. Eventually, the Schoeller family owned 7 distilleries, they traded wholesale in cattle and breeding horses, their estates included the surrounding forests, vineyards, a quarry and a mill.
Schoeller Lords’ Cellars
Schoeller Lords’ cellars are located in the depth of 15 metres underground. Their arch is in the hight of 4 metres and their width is an impressive 4.5 metres. Dedicated winemakers are convinced that these grandiose rooms were used for grapes processing and wine maturing. Let us allow for a heretical idea that maybe they were full of sugar beet or alcohol, or maybe those wide passages served as underground roads for the Schoellers’ business. The torsos of huge barrels, which were built directly here, speak in favour of the winemakers’ version.
If you want to visit the Schoeller Lords’ Cellars, look for the company Víno Levice, a traditional producer of wine and wine products. Naturally, you need to arrange a visit in advance over the phone.
Víno Levice is a modern company which produces a wide range of both cask and bottled wines. During a tour through the production, you will smell the typical aroma of maturing must and you will advance underground through the processing equipment. If you are lucky and the experienced company oenologist accompanies you, you will learn many interesting things not only about the place’s history, but also about wine production and wine itself. You may conclude the tour by wine tasting or a purchase of wine.
Don’t be deceived by the apparent ordinariness. Levice is interwoven with ancient cellars and passages and the genius loci playfully offers tastings of history served on the plate of the present.
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