from Gregor Sieböck
This year was a dry summer at lake Neusiedl: Not one drop of rain in two months. On my way to Frauenkirchen I passed withered corn fields, saw how the grass was burned and finally ended up in the vineyard of Umathum. At the entrance, I was greeted by the stony sculpture of an angel, which had melted together with the body of a woman. The grapevines bore juicy, dark blue vines and in-between, rose bushes bloomed. I discovered a small pond with water lilies, walked past a bed of sunflowers and then stepped into the cool building of the winery. Josef Umathum met me with a smile and invited me to spend as much time as I wanted looking around the wine cellar. When I quickly told him about me Zotter world trip, he said spontaneously: "I'd love to come along. Do you need an assistant to accompany you?"
Umathum is a very special vineyard. Josef Umathum has been farming biodynamically, according to the findings of Rudolf Steiner, since 2006. Rudolf Steiner acquired his knowledge from Goethe, who in turn got it from the Greeks, and the Greeks from the Persians. Thus this is an ancient, continuously handed-down store of knowledge.
The switch to biodynamic cultivation was a big step for Josef Umathum, for which he has been mentally preparing himself for a few years, because it meant mainly a spiritual challenge for him. He learned to work with vibrations, to use small parts to bring movement and change to larger parts.
To sustainably and vitally preserve the healthiness of ground, plants, animals and people, this method of cultivation follows the rhythms of nature. Only compost out of what is left after the grapes have been processed and cow manure are used as fertiliser. In addition, the grapevines are treated with homeopathic mixtures of teas made from stinging nettles, camomile and horsetail to mobilise their defences.
During the periods of drought last summer, Josef frequently sprayed camomile or valerian tea, which calmed the plants that had been under a lot of stress due to the heat. 800 litres of tea for the entire cultivation area will do to achieve a noticeable effect with the vines. During the course of the year it is important that the vine fully develops its strengths in vegetative growth in spring, orients itself towards ripeness in summer and then concentrates its strengths in the ripe grapes in autumn. This leads to grapes with a full fruit potential and balanced sourness and is thus the basis for distinct, wholesome and long-lasting wines. Different cycles interlock here: the day (the day's hour of birth is midnight, where the night is at its darkest, morning is the expansion and afternoon the concentration), the moon cycle (waxing and waning) and finally, the yearly cycle of spring (expansion), summer (ripeness), autumn (concentration and harvest) and winter (peace, quiet).
Biodynamic cultivation works on several levels, the mineral, the botanical and the animal level. Then there's also the "I" - the personal change - and the spiritual and divine component. While rocks have a very long time horizon, plants can develop where they grow in a short time. Animals are even more adaptable because they can move and have their own free will. Finally, the connection with the spiritual component happens with humans. Josef Umathum quotes the old Sanskrit text: "Watch your thoughts for they become your words; watch your words for they become your actions; watch your actions for they become your habits; watch your habits for they become your character; watch your character for it becomes your destiny."
For a biodynamic cultivation, the connection with the ground is very important. This connection has been almost completely lost in conventional farming because the farmers work in big, fully air-conditioned tractors and the chemical additions often aim to exploit the soil even further. But it's all about the cooperation of earth, man and cosmos!
The animals act as bridges between ground and plants by fertilising the ground and supplying the plants once again with the necessary nutrients. The dunghill of a farm is its life impulse. The vibration of the dun can be changed with compounds. For example, for the horn dung compound, cow dung is put into a cow horn and buried in the ground for a while. In doing so, the horn conveys to the dung the knowledge of the past, because it reflects the memory - just as there is lots of information about our being and lifestyle stored in our hair. The memory informs the plant to become what it has once been. The dung, in turn, activates the life force of the vine. The compounds, the dung and also the tea sprayings contribute to a build-up of clay compounds in the ground. Clay releases the nutrients slowly and stores water - an effect that significantly contributed to the fact that this year's months of drought did not harm the grapevines.
And yet, every now and again Josef Umathum doubts his path - especially because he often has to walk it alone because he is the only one in his vicinity who works biodynamically and in unison with the earthly and cosmic forces. But doubts also continue to push him further and he learns to continuously improve his methods. He changes his standpoint and already he looks at things differently. The world acts the way we see it. We are the creators of our reality and thoughts create matter. That's why it is important to start with one's thoughts and consciousness because they are the source from which new things unfold.
This year, the vintage will turn out smaller because of the drought, that's for sure, and yet there are juicy grapes on these vines. There is great abundancy on our planet, but first we have to discover this abundancy in ourselves before we can notice it in the outside world. During our meeting I felt as if Josef Umathum had already recognised the abundancy within himself and now wants to share this abundancy with the Earth and his fellow men. The vineyard supports people and projects that break the mould when it comes to agriculture and it helps them to develop their talents. Together with five other locations, the library of the region was brought into being. Collected knowledge from the surroundings is preserved here, changes are documented and new trends are revealed. The slogan for Josef Umathum's library is "Come and Go" and so he bought a sculpture for the building entrance only one day before I showed up: the Wanderer.
I immediately felt at home at the winery Umathum and yet the moment to say good-bye still came as it always does. I packed my thinks and moved on; but one thing is for sure, I will come back here and we will tell each other stories, those that we will be allowed to experience on our life's journey... coming and going and maybe, some time, even ... arriving!