"You feel like you're in an old war movie," says Matthias Baltes, managing director of the Mayschoß-Altenahr winegrowers' cooperative, in an interview with WEINWIRTSCHAFT, two and a half weeks after the devastating flood in the small German Ahr valley. The locations of the world's oldest winegrowers' cooperative are in the worst-hit part of the flood disaster, the upper Ahr valley from Walporzheim to the west.
It is still unclear how much wine the Mayschoß-Altenahr cooperative lost in the flood. The cellar masters are still salvaging and checking whether barrels have remained intact. The three vinotheques of the winegrowers' cooperative have all become unusable. At the headquarters in Mayschoß, which was not accessible via official roads for a long time, parts of the building had to be demolished for safety reasons.
Two weeks after the disaster, the administration was able to move into a two-person emergency office at a Raiffeisen company in Gelsdorf, so that sales and accounting could resume their activities. Baltes himself switches between the locations and coordinates the clean-up work.
Securing the harvest
Top priority is given to restoring the grape reception area, which was completely flooded. The technicians are confident in getting it operational again by autumn, but the six-week time window is tight. But even if the workers manage to repair the facility in time for harvest, external problems remain. Will the electricity and drinking water supply be guaranteed by then?
Despite all the efforts in the vineyard, with winemakers from other growing areas helping out with the foliage work and helicopters with a special permit taking over the spraying, there are question marks behind the harvest. Realistically, the harvest will have to go through the grape receivers of the Dagernova and Mayschoß-Altenahr cooperatives. Both cooperatives manage about 150 hectares vineyards and are the largest wine producers of the Ahr. Together their production makes more than half of the Ahr’s output. For the Mayschoß-Altenahr cooperative, there is almost no alternative to their own grape reception, as this is the only way to carry out the measurements relevant for the payouts. Dagernova on the other hand has been lucky as one of the slightly higher situated and lesser affected companies – still having to rebuilt their vinotheque in Dernau completely.
The collapsed infrastructure makes the clean-up work even more difficult. Now, at least, the mobile phone network is working, so that residents no longer have to drive 10 km up a mountain to make a phone call, but many roads will remain impassable for a long time. "What used to take 10 minutes to travel now sometimes takes 90," Baltes clarifies. The best means of transport is the tractor.
Given the destruction, rebuilding will certainly take years. The residents' concern is that the focus that the Ahr valley currently has will be lost in this long span.
The positive sign in the disaster is solidarity. Work in the vineyard is organised pragmatically, so that cultivation is carried out under aspects of efficiency and not according to whom a parcel belongs. The winegrowers also help each other out with equipment because some of them have lost everything. Baltes is also happy about the cooperative support: "We have received massive help from other cooperatives. They have provided cages to store the silted bottles, as well as machines and people who contribute themselves."
The winegrowers of the Ahr valley are also pleased with the public’s willingness to donate. The association AHR (A wineregion needs Help for Rebuilding) was created especially for the winegrowers.
IBAN: DE 94 5775 1310 0000 339507
KSK Ahrweiler MALADE51AHR
In addition, the #Flutwein campaign (www.flutwein.de) also helps to bring funding to the winegrowers. Here, supporters can purchase bottles centrally salvaged from the mud from vintners in the Ahr Valley. An overview of numerous help options can also be found at the German Wine Institute. CG