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Weingarten guardian

This temporary viticulture profession or function was once widespread throughout Europe, but today is almost extinct (the author has such vineyard keepers in Lower Austria in the 1950s, but still experienced, see picture below). Depending on the region and country, there were a variety of names such as Bannert, Beer Guardian, corridor guardians, Shepherds, year-watchers, Saltner (South Tyrol), Schütz or Wengertschütz, vineyard keepers and Wingerthüter. The guardians had in the "hat time" the task, from the time of the grape maturity - that is, before the beginning of the vintage - guard the vineyards and protect against theft.

Vineyard keeper in costume from Meran (South Tyrol) and Hirterhütte in Mühlbach at Manhartsberg Lower Austria

In addition, they had the vineyards before Schad birds (some still practiced today) and game damage preserve. Some of these guardians also had police violence against human grape thieves. They were ordered and paid by the local authorities. The activity was temporary and ended with the conclusion of the harvest - that was in some wine-growing regions the 16th of October (memorial day of Saint Gallus). This will be after an old one Bauernregel as follows: On St. Galles, everything should be at home .

The oldest wine-growing order in Austria comes from the Habsburg Duke Albrecht II (1298-1358) from 1352. It contains detailed rules on tenches, crop regulations, pay and just about the guardianship. Anyone who entered a vineyard armed could be killed. The law provided for severe punishment for the theft of grapes or wine lees. Anyone who stole even the modestly small amount of three grapes or even consumed them on the spot was already described as a "harmful man" and declared "outlawed" in the case of opposition to an arrest.

The "Niederösterreichische Hütersatzung" from 1707 threatened, depending on the extent of the crime or theft, the cutting off of the ears or even the chopping off of a hand. In the town of Bernkastel on the Moselle, you can still admire the chain on the market square, which adorns the pillory of the city. There the grape thieves were publicly chained and were allowed to be spit on and insulted by passers-by. In other communities, the "penalty violin" was in use. In this board with three holes, the thieves were clamped with his head and hands and had to run around it for a while.

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

For the monitoring there were mostly small huts (guardian huts), from which the guardians had a wide overview of the vineyards and paid attention to the observance of this prohibition. Partially, the vineyards were fenced by wooden slats or thorn fences and the monitoring by setting up so-called "Hutzeichen" displayed. These were so-called "guardian bushes" (thistles, wormwood, blackthorn or sorrel), which were attached to poles or peeled to a small treetop peeled conifers.

In order to be able to communicate with the other guardians in the area, they carried a "Hüterhorn" (also called "Bühler", from Rinderhorn) with them or accomplished this by whip crack. They were also armed (rifle, ax, saber, whip, ochsenziemer). At the end of the grape harvest, the guardians were solemnly summoned by the village community, which was usually associated with the harvest or harvest festival. See also other traditional practices under the keyword Customs in viticulture such as viticulture training,

Picture below: © ÖWM - Anna Stöcher anna@schauen.at

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