How Germany’s Ahr region found a way to sell wine after a devastating flood
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Previously we explored how devastating summer floods in the western part of Germany changed the course of the nation’s general election. Now we’re taking you to a vineyard high in the hills of the Ahr valley to meet a winemaker who, despite suffering huge losses to his business during the floods has found a way to make the best of a bad situation.
BBC’s Victoria Craig spoke with Peter Kriechel, the owner of Kriechel Winery, which, along with many vineyards along the Ahr region, were practically annihilated by the summer floods. The following is an edited transcript of their interview.
Victoria Craig: We’re standing at the moment in part of your vineyard that’s been destroyed by the floods, just looking around, the vines have been cut down, there’s really nothing, there’s not a whole lot left. What happened to your vineyards during the floods?
Peter Kriechel: Yeah, around 10% of our vineyards are completely destroyed by the flood. So, the next vintage we get here is in 2026.
Craig: What does that mean for your business – 10%, that’s a lot.
Kriechel: That’s a lot … also yeah, we’ll miss the 10% also for the next four or five years. We are thinking so that business here from Ahr have a damage around €400 million, and my winery I think around €4 million. That’s the cost for rebuilding and also because everything is destroyed, every machine is destroyed.
Craig: I mean, aside from the vines that are still viable, do you have any wines that you can sell?
Kriechel: So yes, we have sold the last weeks after the flood our wines as FlutWein, the latest marketing, and also it’s wonderful for us and for our wine region here.
Selling flood wine
FlutWein, or flood wine in English, was a way to make use of thousands of bottles of wine that would otherwise have gone to waste after the floods. The bottles have been sold online as is – covered in dried mud with labels that are no longer able to be read. It’s a marketing dream for the wine producers of the region. The campaign sold more than 175,000 bottles from local vineyards and raised more than $5 million. As Kriechel said, many of these wineries had grape vines that were weeks away from harvest when the flood struck in mid-July.
This campaign has been a way to salvage something from the rubble. All the proceeds raised from online sales will go toward rebuilding vineyard infrastructure on many of these family-run businesses, while also supporting the local restaurant and tourism sectors vital to the Ahr Valley. Daniel Kollar is one of the founders of FlutWein.
Craig: How did you guys get the idea for FlutWein?
Daniel Kollar: Yeah, well basically we found the wines in the cellar of Linda Kleber, my auntie and probably, you see a bottle like this when it’s found under the ground in a ship and we wanted to use this as a statement of solidarity unifying 50 different labels with the mud and the floodings, they got all hit with.
Craig: It’s been very successful. You’ve raised millions of euros. Did you sell every bottle that you set out to sell?
Kollar: We sold heaps of bottles, and I think the most important number is not the €4.5 million we raised with this campaign. It’s more the donators behind it, because in the end, we achieved 1% of the total damage for the wine industry. But 47,500 new clients and people who never tried, never tasted an Ahr wine. And this is great. This gives hope for the region.
Craig: And where does the money that you’ve raised go, how will you use it now?
Kollar: Yeah, the money goes to NGO called “Ahr–A wine region needs help for rebuilding.” It is an NGO we founded within days with the money we will help for the rebuilding. This could be by helping out winemakers who struggle to get money for buying machines and so on. This could also be building up this region on a touristic way to focus on next year and the years later, selling the vintage 2021 … and the tourists [can] come for the wine or for the wine views.
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