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In Austria, the legal classification of vineyards will be possible from the 2025 vintage. Alois Höllerer from the "Glückliche Lage" initiative explains in an exclusive interview why there is massive resistance to this.

In Austria, the legal basis for classifying vineyards into "Erste" and "Große" sites from the 2025 vintage onwards was created last year with a collective regulation. Private associations such as the Österreichische Traditionsweingüter (ÖTW) and the Steirische Terroir- und Klassikweingüter (STK) worked towards this step. However, opposition to the classification formed at the end of 2023: opponents of the project networked via the website gluecklichelage.at. They want to have the legal basis for the new rating system examined in court. Winegrower Alois Höllerer from Kamptal has recently become the official spokesperson for the initiative. He explained to Alexander Lupersböck in an interview what he and his fellow campaigners are all about.

Alois Höllerer


Why did you volunteer to be the spokesperson for the initiative?

Alois Höllerer: As one of the initiators of "Glückliche Lage", I used ProWein in Düsseldorf to talk to colleagues and other people involved in person. This meant that anonymity was no longer a given. It was therefore an obvious choice to take on the role of spokesperson.

Who else is behind it apart from you?

Alois Höllerer: At the start of our initiative, we were a group of around ten people. However, we now have feedback and support in the three-digit range.

How many winegrowers have joined you at the moment?

Alois Höllerer: We are still receiving new contacts, so we can't give any information about that yet, but the declarations of intent are well above our expectations. It was overwhelming to see from the first e-mails we received how our opinion is shared among the winegrowers. We have written to many of them from the heart and with every email we receive, we feel encouraged to do the right thing.

Why was gluecklichelage.at anonymous for so long?

Alois Höllerer: We were advised by our law firm not to use names right from the start and to sound out the mood first. The legal drafting of the individual application turned out to be somewhat more extensive than initially thought and took a little more time. However, it was clear from the outset that an individual application could not be submitted anonymously and every individual who submits such an application also stands by it. And because the accusation was made that there was no legal notice on gluecklichelage.at, I can quote the statement from our lawyers: "There is no obligation to provide a legal notice because this website merely serves the private exploration of an interest in the topic in question and therefore does not constitute commercial communication."

Are you against a site classification per se or against the way it is organised in Austria?

Alois Höllerer: We take a critical view of site classification, but above all because, according to our legal experts, it is not compatible with existing laws and fundamental rights in Austria. The individual points that we criticise are well explained on the gluecklichelage.at website. We do not wish to comment on classification regulations under other legal frameworks, such as in France.

You fear that classification will have a major impact on the price of vineyard plots. What is the reason for this? Doesn't the categorisation interest far too small a number of wine lovers to have a major impact?

Alois Höllerer: Any intervention in free competition must be considered in relation to the possible achievement of the objective. If the classification really had hardly any impact, then the intervention in free competition and land ownership would be even more disproportionate - and should be rejected for this reason alone.

The ÖTW argue that they therefore designate their vineyards with the additions "Erste" and "Große" to emphasise steep slopes and manual labour and to distinguish them from mechanically cultivated, flat vineyards. Can you take anything away from that?

Alois Höllerer: There are wine-growing regions in Austria that are very strongly characterised by steep slopes and manual labour. We have found that resistance to site classification is very strong there. Against this background, the argument is therefore incomprehensible to us. We and our supporters agree: winegrowing is an individual craft. A good end product is not only the result of the vineyard site, it is about much more, as you can read on our homepage.

What else is important to you?

Alois Höllerer: Another problem caused by the constant changes is that we have to change the labels every few years. At first, vineyards were merged, supposedly to be able to market them better. Now these vineyards are too large for the classification and are to be separated again. There are also efforts underway to ensure that all grape varieties that are not authorised for DAC in the future are no longer allowed to have a vineyard designation on the label. Our customers - and also our importers - shake their heads in disbelief when we come up with another change to the labelling. We believe that we winegrowers need legal certainty, especially in uncertain times. We want to make a contribution to this.

You come from a family with a tradition of political involvement. Is that one reason why you yourself are involved here?

Alois Höllerer: No. Our approach is not a political one, but a legal one. I would like to emphasise that our initiative is not affiliated with any kind of political movement or party, but acts completely independently.

Every wine-growing region is free to apply for classification in the region via the regional committees. This is discussed beforehand in the committees. Do you accept it if, for example, the majority of winegrowers in your region, Kamptal, are in favour of a classification process?

Alois Höllerer: If it turns out that a classification can be harmonised with the existing legal system and a democratic, transparent, objective and value-free implementation is guaranteed, we are of course open to it as convinced democrats. We would be very pleased to finally be able to vote on this option, as a majority can only be determined by a ballot vote. One thing is important to me: we are all still neighbours and colleagues. That's why we want to have this legally clarified and hope that everyone involved will continue to treat each other sensibly and respectfully afterwards.

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