ORGANICWINE[pure] / BIOWEIN[pur] Hartl (Ursula and Erich Hartl) is a family-owned business situated in Mössingen, in the southern part of Germany.
My wife Ursula and I, Erich Hartl, didn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but in 1983 we did establish Germany's first company, the Bioweinhaus Hartl, which imports and sells wines produced using ecological methods.
I grew up on a typical Bavarian combination of a farm and a hotel, served an apprenticeship in the catering and food services industry, following which I worked for several years in the international upscale restaurant and catering business. After I had spent some time working in a managerial position for several large catering companies which supplied up to 20,000 meals daily, we became aware of the negative effects of industrial agriculture, the need to constantly produce more, faster and cheaper, using artificial fertilizers, chemical pesticides and herbicides on the fields and concentrated feed, hormones and antibiotics in the barns.
Subsequent experiments regarding taste and productivity
proved that organic food was much superior to the conventional products.
It was possible to transfer these findings to viniculture
without any restrictions. Due to our increasing environ-
mental awareness and our professional and private
interest in wine, which had been growing for some time,
we decided to start importing and selling organic wines
as self-employed persons, a job which to us made more sense than what we had been doing.
It was with this intention that we began our many travels
in 1980, our trips into the blue so to speak, first of all to France and Italy, in order to find vintners who grew wine
using ecological methods. At that time there no
directories and scarcely any fairs where it would have
been possible to find "organic wines." We were
dependent on more or less reliable recommendations.
Hardly anyone was familiar with terms such as "organic
wine," "wine produced using biological or ecological
methods." These terms were also not provided for or
allowed in wine law. In any case, a great many people mistrusted them. Anyone who got involved in this field was polically left-wing, an oddball or a dreamer. In order to comply with the legal stipulations and at the same time to call attention to our wines, we called them "wines made in the old way," since ecological viniculture is not new and thus can be seen as conservative in the way it dispenses with the "modern" achievements of chemistry. Today we know that the chemicals used in conventional viniculture are poisonous, to some extent carcinogenic or are suspected of causing cancer.
Almost one decade later the EU rules on organic farming defined the terms and prerequisites for ecological products. This directive did make it easier to import and sell organic products and wines, but the new market for these was not at all stable. Our small company grew very quickly, as did the market for organic products. We sold mainly to health food stores (at that time there were no other customers for organic wines) and to so-called organic regional distribution companies throughout Germany. However, when these companies began to suffer economic problems and to declare bankruptcy (from 1989 on), we had to cope with a considerable number of payment shortfalls for several years. As a result of this, we stopped supplying to the retail trade (small profit margin, large risks) almost completely. In order to compensate for this, we organized a cooperation with Greenpeace, which lasted for many years (many Greenpeace members will remember this), and many of their members still buy their organic wines from us. At the same time we opened a second store in Karlsruhe (no longer in existence) and intensified the shipment of our organic wines to private customers.
The fact that we import our European organic wines ourselves and not through other channels means that we are constantly in touch with our organic winegrowers, all of whom we know personally, and we are also familiar with their vineyards, their strengths and their weaknesses. We visit them regularly and speak their language. In this way we have been able to learn a great deal during the time we have been working as organic wine merchants, which means that we receive first-hand information which we can pass on to our customers.
All this experience has made it easier for us to choose
our organic wines with care. It is my wife's exceptionally well-trained sense of smell which is often the crucial factor in deciding whether or not to purchase a wine. Due to this special
aility, which is a good supplement to the wine analyses we
are given, we are often able to avoid purchasing flawed wines.
We do not however go to such lengths that we would abandon
a vintner if he has had a bad year due to unfavorable weather.
If we were to do so, we would be forcing him to manipulate
the somewhat weaker or lower-alcohol wines, and this would
no longer be a naturally produced wine.
If our approach to wine appeals to you, we would be happy to receive your order and we promise that we will be a reliable
partner and supplier of good organic wine.
serving wine at winetasting-event