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02.10.2011

The Dumbest Austrian Imaginable

It never ceases to amaze me how stupid human beings can get. The latest example of the nadir of our sense and sensitivity? Someone took an axe to one of the world's oldest grapevines, a singular vine thought to be at least 500 years-old and the likely ancestor of the grape variety we know as Gruner Veltliner.

This is the first I've heard of this vine, which was apparently discovered in 2000 outside the village of St. Georgen. As the news story which related it's destruction notes, it had survived several wars, the scourge of phylloxera, droughts, and who knows what else, only to fall victim to some asshole with an axe.

As an aside, I find it a little humorous that someone bothered to estimate the value of the vine at $136,000. Doesn't that imply that someone might have been willing to pay that much for it? Short of one of those silly "adopt-a-vine" programs that thankfully most people have realized aren't worth anyone's time or money, I have a hard time figuring out how you might put a price on what seems to me to be a priceless thing.

On the one hand, we shouldn't get too sentimental about a plant. On the other hand, this thing was definitely a piece of botanical and cultural history. Why anyone would want to destroy it is hard to fathom. It didn't seem to belong to anyone in particular, so the idea that this was the rural Austrian equivalent of slashing someone's tires seems unlikely. It will be interesting to see if they catch the perpetrator, and what the motivation ends up being.

Chances are, however, it was some young drunkard from the region who decided to take out his own personal problems on a symbolic piece of wood that could offer no resistance and the personal satisfaction of having appalled a lot of people.

I'll be drinking some Gruner Veltliner in solidarity shortly.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud