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Respekt This!

If the last decade, American drinkers moved up the chart as consumers of Austrian wines.  Ten years ago, we were the #7 importer of Austrian wines, and today we are #4, only behind Austria’s neighbors, Germany, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.  In that time, we have doubled our consumption.  And we like the good stuff – we are #3 in terms of how much we spend on Austrian wines.  It’s not a huge amount, considering what we buy elsewhere, but it’s a respectable start.


Last week, Winebow had a seminar on “A Vision of Austrian Winemaking” in New York with three of its stars – Andreas Wickhoff, managing director of Premium Estates of Austria, and winemakers Fred Loimer and Fritz Wieninger, who have eponymous wineries.


Several aspects of winemaking were discussed, including their increasing reliance of field blends, a practice called gemischter satz that was once considered inferior winemaking to varietal wines but which makes very enjoyable wines today.


But much of the conversation was about Respekt, a new Austrian-based biodynamic movement endorsed by Weininger and Loimer that is at odds with an old Austrian-based biodynamic movement, which claims it is the true orthodoxy of founder Rudolf Steiner. It is credentialed through the Demeter certification process and considers Respekt a heresy. Respekt, which began in 2006, is small but growing, with members in Austria, Italy, Hungary, California and soon Germany.


After the meeting I posed some additional questions to Wickhoff by e-mail.


My first was whether Respekt was more a philosophy than a dogma, using Weininger’s example of not employing local cow manure for his vineyard compost, since there are no local cows.


Wickhoff:  “Your assumption regarding Respekt as being more of a concept/philosophy rather than a pure certification body is absolutely correct. And with the example you pointed out regarding Fritz and the cows, you see that it is a more pragmatic approach, less so a ‘religious’ one.”


I asked then about whether Respekt considered Steiner its spiritual leader.


Wickhoff:  “The Steiner principles are certainly the ones that the group looks at most, less so to Maria Thun and others. Yes, we use all essential Steiner preparations, such as 500 & 501 plus the teas.”


Will there be a distinguishing logo or bottle label?


Wickhoff: “Yes, there is a Respekt logo that we use for 100% certified wines, not for the ones that are still in transition to.”


Is any campaign being planned to publicize Respekt?


Wickhoff:  “No major Respekt PR or marketing campaigns are planned so far. I think once we have further international members as it is currently planned (Germany), then maybe you will see more Respekt – related events.”


Except for the confusion they may cause consumers – and not a few of us industry professionals – the various green movements are generally positive, and it probably doesn’t make must difference, except to the practitioners, which orthodoxy is used.  Although they may lead to religious wars among their true believers, Demeter bio, Respekt bio, the various sustainability movements, the organics and the naturalists are all arguably good for the environment.


And they are probably doing good things for us consumers as well, as long as we wine lovers can “respekt” the facts that alcohol is fattening, toxic in excess to our organs and addictive to some of us.

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