We want to get back to nature

We want to get back to nature

Since January 1, 2023, Rebhalde has been allowed to call itself an organic winery. We have managed the conversion with all its ups and downs. But what does this ominous word "conversion" actually mean and what does organic viticulture involve in practice?
The last two years have been eventful and special. In the next few lines, we will try to catch up on this time and also reminisce a bit. We will start this journey through time not with the plants, not with the soil, but with us - with the Hohl family, who are the fourth generation to run the Rebhalde organic vineyard. Because the cornerstone of any conversion is the person, the entire environment, simply everyone who supports us year after year. And our conviction is clear and definitely of global relevance: We want to find our way back, back to nature. We want to see nature again with both eyes, smell it and feel it. In short: we want to strengthen our senses for nature again.
It is obvious that the vine is very important for a winery. So we have tried to put ourselves into nature, into the vine. What does nature need? What doesn't it need? How does it react to stressful situations? How can we relieve nature? How can we act in the most environmentally friendly, resource-saving and yet efficient way? And this is exactly where we believe organic viticulture begins: it is ecological, forward-looking, flexible, preventive and effective.

Completely without herbicides and insecticides
Does an organic winery actually use sprays? A question that we are asked over and over again. The answer is: Yes, but... And that is precisely why we would like to address this issue with the much-needed transparency and explain what is contained in our pesticides. The Swiss Organic Wine Ordinance contains clear specifications, which we have strictly adhered to since the start of the conversion in 2020. By definition, we have committed to refrain from using any herbicides as well as most insecticides. However, the Rebhalde organic winery goes one step further: We not only do without herbicides, but also completely without all insecticides.

By way of explanation: 
Herbicides are products that include, for example, glyphosate. Products that are used to spray the soil under the vines in order to remove the competitive growth of the vines. However, this process not only affects the plants, but also all kinds of insects. Insecticides, in turn, control pests and at the same time have a negative impact on beneficial insects.

What remains are the fungicides that are effective against fungi. Products in this category combat powdery mildew as well as downy mildew - the two biggest challenges in viticulture.

We rely on biological fungicides
Fungicides are chemical or biological active ingredients. Biologically based, they are products that do not penetrate the plant but act on the leaf surface. This means they can be washed off more quickly by rain. Copper and sulfur are among these fungicides. However, the issue of copper is controversial because it is a heavy metal. Unfortunately, there are currently only limited alternative products. In addition, these - unlike copper - are washed off very quickly by rain. Sulfur, on the other hand, can be replaced. Our sulfur substitute is called baking soda. Thanks to this ingredient, we can reduce the sulfur content by almost half.
In organic viticulture, there are other guidelines. As far as the use of copper is concerned, the rules are clear: 4 kilos of pure copper per hectare and year are permitted. In concrete terms, this means that a maximum amount of 20 kilos is permitted over five years. However, our goal is to use as little copper as possible each year, i.e. only the amount that our plants really need at any given time. 
Besides copper, sulfur and baking powder, we also use other products. Plant-based active ingredients have a very high priority at the Rebhalde organic winery. These products include plant strengthening agents, horsetail and pine oil. We also rely on other protective broths of a completely plant-based nature. For several years we have been collecting plants such as yarrow, nettles, St. John's wort, lavender and dandelion in our vineyards. We also work with ivy, chamomile, willow and valerian. We dry these plants and also use them as a basis for a kind of plant protection broth.

The "Rebhalde mix" makes the difference
Organic viticulture does not only mean plant protection. For the general protection and promotion of flora and fauna, we put our heads together years ago and put together a seed mixture that we sow every fall after the grape harvest. Half of the "vineyard mixture" consists of grains, the other half of fifteen different flowers and herbs that bloom in spring and summer. These serve as food sources and shelter for insects as well as other animals. The effect is obvious: a large number of bees, butterflies, and other insects cavort in them year after year, which in turn has an effect on the harvest. In addition to this seeding, we have also created various woodpiles as shelter for hedgehogs, mice or weasels. In addition, there are rock piles that serve as a place of retreat or as a sun bed for reptiles. Further similar projects are in planning.

The wine as a natural product
Are there also regulations in wine aging? Yes, there are. However, we go much further on our own initiative. Since the 2020 vintage, we have completely dispensed with the addition of pure yeast. In this way, we want to give the wine back its naturalness. We also do not use chaptalization to artificially increase the alcohol content, acidification and deacidification, or fining. Our goal is to position wine as a natural product once again. Since 2021, all red wines and three white wines from the Rebhalde organic winery have been bottled unfiltered and with minimal sulfur. We made this decision out of deep conviction. Every filtration intervention takes not only turbidity but also aromas out of the wine and thus breaks the harmony of the wine structure - and it is exactly this harmony that we want to preserve. 
Our primary goal is to preserve and strengthen the cycle of nature. Everything we take, we give back to nature. Only if we take care of plants, animals and soils, the next generations will have the chance to continue our tradition - in harmony with nature.