When winemakers fall in love

When winemakers fall in love

What one cannot do, many can" – this ideal of the cooperative movement is followed by numerous german winegrowers. Germany’s oldest winegrowers’ cooperative is now 150 years old.

At the end of 1868, 18 winegrowers in mayschob in the rhineland-palatinate took up the suggestion of social reformer friedrich wilhelm raiffeisen (1818-1888) and joined forces in the lower ahr valley. "They were not in a position to market their wine at a profit during the economic crisis at the time," explains the head of the mayschob-altenahr winegrowers’ cooperative, matthias baltes. After the distribution, the cooperative also took over the cellar management, i.E. The aging of the wines in barrels. This allowed the winemakers to concentrate fully on the work in the vineyard.

According to the german wine institute, there are now 160 cooperatives in germany with a turnover of 800 million euros. Cooperative production accounts for nearly 30 percent of total wine production in germany. Focus on baden-wurttemberg with 115 cooperatives. The cooperatives have not been able to escape the process of concentration in the wine industry as a whole. In 1960, there were 543 winegrowers’ cooperatives, 441 of which had their own cellar management. Until this decade, the number of cooperatives decreased due to mergers. The vineyards they cultivate reached 37 in 1990/91.148 hectares at its peak, currently there are more than 28.000 hectares.

"The merger into a cooperative leads to coarser production quantities that can be better offered on the market," explains rhineland-palatinate’s winegrowing minister volker wissing (FDP) after a visit to the mayschob-altenahr winegrowers’ cooperative. "Uniform product lines strengthen market presence and increase consumer perception."A cooperative thus offers an economic perspective to smaller businesses in particular. With the cooperative taking over other tasks such as wine production, marketing and sales, the winegrowers could concentrate fully on the care of their vines.

"The cooperative has the advantage of producing coarser quantities consistently, even with high quality," says ernst buscher from the german wine institute. No single winery can afford as many employees as a winegrowers’ cooperative. With coarser quantities, investments in cellar technology, for example, were more profitable, and machines could also be utilized more efficiently.

"None of our 50 winegrowers could handle the immense investments in technology and marketing on their own," says bastian klohr, managing director of the 116-year-old weinbiet manufaktur winegrowers’ cooperative in neustadt an der weinstrabe in southern rhineland-palatinate. "Everyone does what he or she does best in the division of labor."The cooperative, with a vineyard area of 325 hectares, sees itself as a non-profit institution serving its members. The income from wine sales is distributed to the winegrowers according to the shares of the grapes they supply. For the cooperative remains a "black zero.

With an area of 150 hectares, the winemakers’ cooperative mayschob-altenahr is one of the smaller cooperatives. It employs 33 permanent staff and about 100 people in marginal employment. The cooperative has 444 members, about half of whom are active winemakers. The rest are often former winegrowers who have given up their sideline business but want to remain associated with the cooperative. Within the cooperative, there was a certain shift toward coarser operations, says baltes. In the steep slopes of the ahr valley, however, winegrowing is mostly done by small sideline winegrowers, often with less than half an acre.

The cooperatives are unhappy with the prejudice held by some wine drinkers that the quality of cooperative wines is supposedly inferior. "The wines of cooperatives are not "per se" worse or better than those of other wine companies," emphasized the managing director of lauffener weingartner im neckartal, marian kopp, in a recent letter to the editor of the trade journal "weinwirtschaft" (wine industry).

"We attach great importance to also being able to serve the premium wine segment well," says baltes for the jubilarian at the ahr. "We are a cooperative that works at VDP level" – VDP is the association of german pradikatsweinguter, founded in 1910, with 197 wineries and defined quality criteria from gutswein to "grobe lage" (rough site). Mayschob-altenahr’s spatburgunder wines are aged in barrique barrels – "we don’t have to shy away from comparisons with french red wines."

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