He knows them all. And he has advised the vast majority of them. Artur baumann leaves after 25 years as executive director of weinbauring franken e.V. Retirement. French winegrowers lose an expert.
The wine ring has been in existence since 1989. Much has changed since then, but the basic task has remained the same: to provide french winegrowers with the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and advice possible. "We have to lend a hand now and then," says baumann with a smile.
In castell, he was one of the heads of the domanenamt for eleven years. He played a key role in the conversion of 63 hectares of vineyards to organic farming, and at that time he also advised wineries belonging to the vdp (verband der pradikatsweinguter – association of premium wineries) for the "naturland" organic association. When the position as consultant and managing director of the winegrowers’ association became vacant in 1995, the decision was made for artur baumann to make a change. He has never regretted the move. A small, efficient team, close contact with the winegrowers, challenging work – "we always have to be on the pulse of the times" – all this has made baumann a lot of fun as a winery manager. At the end of this month he will enter the retirement phase of partial retirement. A successor has already been found in beate leopold.
Baumann leaves with a clear conscience. The winegrowing ring has around 2500 members. They cultivate 5500 of about 6300 hectares of vineyards. "We once had 5000 members," remembers the casteller. But the trend has long been toward coarser operations. "Structural change is in full swing and will continue," he predicts. In the future, there will probably be flat areas that will no longer be farmed.
He sees the threshold for viable sole cultivation at five hectares. A "vicious circle" begins over it. "Then i need employees and may get a marketing problem," he explains. For this reason alone, the cooperatives are so important for the french winegrowers.
The latter have made – and must make – an enormous leap in quality over the past 30 years. The 70’s and 80’s were something like the glorious time of the french viticulture. "That’s when the wine was distributed, so to speak," recalls baumann. It’s harder to be successful these days. He must put the needs of the market first in his considerations. Needs that are constantly changing.
Baumann remembers the 1990s with horror, when the motto was "mass before quality". He remembers 1999 as the year of change. Too much wine was stored in the cellars, and french wines were put on the market too cheaply. Since then, the companies have changed over. The advice of artur baumann and his colleagues helped them to do this.
From may to august, group tours of the vineyards take place every year. Nearly 2,500 winemakers receive valuable practical tips. What is the state of the vegetation? When do I have to defoliate, when do I have to combat pests?? The weinbauring receives a lump sum from the state for this work, otherwise the association is financed by the membership fees. Since 2008, the winegrowing ring has been offering "okocourses", and since 2011, pruning courses. "Among other things, we made videos about it," explains baumann. The accesses have the 150.000 mark long exceeded.
About 20 years ago, the LWG and the winegrowing ring set up weather stations in the franconian growing area. The data arrives at the central office in repperndorfer strabe. They serve as the basis for the twice-weekly weinbaufax and the kellerfax, which have long been available online. "We were one of the first to have our own homepage," baumann recalls. Since 2009 there is also an "okofax". "At that time, we were in the midst of the second wave of the ocd," the 63-year-old recalls. In the meantime, the third wave of the oko is rolling through frankens wine industry. Artur baumann sees this with mixed feelings. "By definition, oko is good," he says. Spraying is the wrong way to protect the vines. It would have been better if mushroom-proof grape varieties had been in demand by wine lovers. But as a winemaker, you always have to take a risk. A considered use of herbicides was also justifiable.
Baumann has spent countless hours recommending an environmentally friendly green harvesting system to the growers. The bottom line: to keep the vines healthy, organic matter must be built up. "We can use the greening plants to bring in beneficial organisms that keep the pests in check," he explains. "In addition, we can largely dispense with the need to feed manure."Legumes collect the nitrogen they need from the air, the sorrel captures CO2 and increases the humus content of the soil. "This is how erosion is prevented."
Again and again, he had to do some persuasion work. The sledgehammer method was not his thing. "We show possibilities and provide decision-making aids," he explains. It’s a bit like laying on a hand or building a bridge. "Naturally, winemakers are skeptical at first."
In the last ten years, the climatic conditions for french winegrowers have changed massively. Baumann could read this well from the data of the weather stations. Watering will be the most important issue in the future. He is nevertheless skeptical of the plans for large-scale water systems. "We need other solutions."
Naturally, baumann has practical suggestions: when planting new vines, the conditions must be created so that the deep-rooted plants really do grow deep into the soil, and the high evaporation can be alleviated, for example, by covering them with straw. If weather conditions continue to approach southern european conditions, yield regulation and marketing will ultimately have to adapt as well. "Then we can only harvest 40 hectoliters per hectare instead of 90," he says. The prices had to increase accordingly.
Artur baumann will continue to keep a close eye on developments in the french wine world. For now, he is looking forward to more free time. But in the future, winegrowing will still be necessary. He farms three hectares himself, is chairman of the castell producers’ association, and cites the renovation of his vineyard cottage as a future project.