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Austrian group calls for red wine grape to lose ‘Nazi’ name

A group of artists in Austria have launched a campaign for the Zweigelt grape variety to have its name changed from that of the Nazi party member who created it.

Zweigelt grapes (Credit: Wikipedia)

The Austrian wine-scene has become embroiled in a debate concerning the country’s recent history: whether “Zweigelt” should change its name, called as such after its founder, who is believed to be an anti-semite by the group of artists leading the campaign.

Fritz Zweigelt (1888-1964) created the grape in 1922 from a cross between Saint-Laurent and Blaufränkisch.

It is by far the most popular red wine grape in Austria, making up 13.8% of the total wine production in Austria, more than double its nearest competitor Blaufränkisch, according to 2015 figures compiled by Austrian Wine.

It had initially been called ‘Rotburger’ before being renamed in 1975 to honour its late creator.

An artists’ collective launched a campaign last week for the variety to be renamed a second time, due to Fritz Zweigelt’s early membership of the Nazi party.

The group states: “No other sector in Austria which was implicated in the Nazi system of terror has stayed as silent as the wine industry.”

Growers and restaurants are already taking note, with wineries and a Vienna restaurant pledging to market the wine under the name “Blue Monday”, an allusion to what one might experience after a weekend enjoying too much of the wine.

The Austrian wine promotion body Österreich Wein Marketing has said it is open to this debate and a name change, but that Fritz Zweigelt’s personal history must face more rigorous interrogation.

The names of other German-language wines have caused controversy in the past.

A white grape named “Dr.Wagnerrebe” after a Nazi politician was renamed following the Second World War.

In Germany it is now called “Scheurebe” after its creator Georg Scheu, but in Austria it is sold under the name “Sämling 88”.

88 refers to the serial number of the seedling Scheu chose for the variety. This has caused further outrage for some though as 88 is a code for used by many neo-nazis for “Heil Hitler”, coined as such because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

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