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Weingarten guardian

This temporary wine-growing profession or function was previously common across Europe, but is now almost extinct (the author has experienced such vineyard keepers in Lower Austria in the 1950s himself; see picture below). There were different names for each region and country, such as Bannert, beer keeper, corridor guardians, Shepherd (in Austria "Hiata"), keeper, century, Saltner (South Tyrol), Schütz or Wengertschütz, vineyard keeper and winging keeper. The guardians had the task in the "hat time", from the time of the ripening of the grapes - that is, before the start vintage - guard the vineyards and protect them from theft.

Vineyard keepers in traditional costumes from Merano (South Tyrol) and Hirterhütte in Mühlbach am Manhartsberg Lower Austria

In addition, they had to face the vineyards Schad birds (still practiced today) and game damage preserve. Some of these guards also had police violence against human grape thieves. They were ordered and paid for by the local authorities. The activity was limited and ended at the end of the harvest - in some wine-growing regions that was October 16 (commemoration day of St. Gallus). This is going to be an old one Bauernregel announced as follows: On Sankt Galles, everything should be at home .

The oldest wine-growing regulations in Austria in this regard came from the Habsburg Duke Albrecht II (1298-1358) from 1352. It contains detailed regulations on tenancy, harvesting regulations, remuneration and also guardianship. Anyone who entered a vineyard armed could be killed. The law provided for severe punishment for the theft of grapes or wine crimes. Anyone who stole even the modestly small amount of three grapes, or perhaps even only ate locally, has already been described as a "harmful man" and declared "bird-free" if they object to an arrest.

The "Lower Austrian Guardian Statute" from 1707 threatened, depending on the extent of the crime or theft, to cut off the ears or even cut off a hand. In the municipality of Bernkastel on the Moselle, you can still admire the chain that adorns the pillory of the city on the market square. There the grape thieves were publicly chained and allowed to be spat upon and insulted by passers-by. The "punitive violin" was used in other communities. The thieves were clamped in this board with three holes with their heads and hands and had to walk around with them for a while.

Weingartenhüter - Hirterhütte in Radlbrunn (Zierdsdorf) in the Weinviertel (Lower Austria)

For surveillance, there were mostly huts built on small heights, from which the keepers had a wide overview of the vineyards and ensured that this prohibition was observed. Some of the vineyards were surrounded by wooden slats or thorn fences and the surveillance was indicated by putting up so-called "hat signs". These were so-called "guardian bushes" (thistles, wormwood, blackthorn or sorrel), which were attached to poles or conifers peeled off to a small top.

In order to be able to communicate with the other keepers in the area, they carried a "guardian horn" (also called "Buhler" from Rinderhorn) with them or did this by whipping their whips. They were also armed (rifle, ax, saber, whip, bull pest). At the end of the harvest, the guardians were then solemnly overtaken by the village community, which was mostly associated with the harvest or harvest festival. See also other traditional customs under the keyword Customs in viticulture such as viticulture training,

Picture below: © ÖWM - Anna Stöcher

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