Italians fear wine drought after Germans eat all the grapes

Italians are fearing a wine drought after last year’s dismal harvest, thanks mostly to grape-munching German tourists.

Italians fear wine drought after Germans eat all the grapes
Italian winemakers say too many wine tourists are eating their grapes. Photo: Emily Jones.

Italy’s northern vineyards have been particularly hard hit due to their proximity to the Swiss and Austrian borders, crossed by a record number of campervanning Germans last summer.

Among them were the Trubenfressers, a retired couple from Hamburg who were caught eating grapes stark naked at a vineyard in Langue, a hilly area in Piedmont that is famous for its wine.

The area became even more popular in 2014 after it was inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list, prompting a surge in visitors, especially Germans.

“Last year a record number of German tourists visited the area to take advantage of our flourishing vini-tourism trade,” Tomasso Vite, a spokesperson for the Langhe tourist board, told The Local.

“But as we all know, Germans also love to have a picnic, and nothing is more idyllic than laying your blanket down in a vineyard.”

The region is expecting even more German wine tourists this year but many winemakers are up in arms, blaming them for last year's poor harvest.

Not only does Italy, and the world (Italy took over from France as the world's biggest wine producer last year), risk a wine shortage, but winemakers' livelihoods are also at risk.

“Across the region, yields for 2015 were down 10 percent on the previous year,” Valentina Sughero, from the Lange winemakers' co-operative, Cogli, said.

“We can't say for certain that wine tourism is behind it, but we have received hundreds of complaints from winegrowers who have found German tourists in their fields eating grapes.”

Michele Rosso, whose family has been producing the famous Barolo red wine since the 18th century, told The Local he was convinced that the increase in wine tourists was behind the poor harvest.

“People are quick to blame climate change for poor harvests. But last year I threw twelve groups of German wine tourists off my land for eating the grapes,” Rosso explained.

“Some of them weren't even with an official tour, but had snuck through a hole in the fence. As far as I'm concerned that's theft!”

Rosso's complaints were echoed by Marta Bianchi, whose 10 hectares of green Areneis grapes go towards producing some of the region’s most iconic DOCG white wine.

In fact, it was Bianchi who found the naked Trubenfressers having a picnic between two rows of beautifully hung grapes.

She said wine-tourists were becoming ever more “brazen”.

“They were wearing nothing but sandals and socks and had stripped about four metres of the vine,” she added.

“We're now all bracing ourselves for this summer's inevitable influx. I've been to several Cogli meetings and we are trying to develop strategies, such as scarecrows, to try and counteract the rise of grape-eaters.”

The Local managed to track the Trubenfressers down at their home in Hamburg. The wine-lovers told us they’re returning to Italy this year, and insisted they will make the most of their holiday – irrespective of the winemakers’ complaints.

“This smacks of classic Italian exceptionalism,” said 64-year-old Ara.

“We can't wait to roll up in our VW camper and sample the grapes we've been reading so much about.”

“As far as I'm concerned,” added husband Horst. “If we've paid for a wine tour, we should be allowed to eat as many grapes as we like – with or without our clothes on.” 

In vino veritas? Not always. This article is entirely fictitious and was written to observe the journalistic tradition of publishing nonsense on April Fools' Day.

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German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident

Thirteen people, including German tourists, have been killed after a cable car disconnected and fell near the summit of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident
The local emergency services published this photograph of the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was announced by Italy’s national fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, at 13.50 on Sunday, with the agency saying over Twitter that a helicopter from the nearby town of Varese was on the scene. 

Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps confirmed that there were 13 victims and two seriously injured people.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that German tourists were among the 13 victims.

According to their report, there were 15 passengers inside the car — which can hold 35 people — at the time a cable snapped, sending it tumbling into the forest below. Two seriously injured children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin. 

The cable car takes tourists and locals from Stresa, a resort town on Lake Maggiore up to a panoramic peak on the Mottarone mountain, reaching some 1,500m above sea level. 

According to the newspaper, the car had been on its way from the lake to the mountain when the accident happened, with rescue operations complicated by the remote forest location where the car landed. 

The cable car had reopened on April 24th after the end of the second lockdown, and had undergone extensive renovations and refurbishments in 2016, which involved the cable undergoing magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to search for any defects. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Twitter that he expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims, with special thoughts for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini told Italy’s Tg1 a commission of inquiry would be established, according to Corriere della Sera: “Our thoughts go out to those involved. The Ministry has initiated procedures to set up a commission and initiate checks on the controls carried out on the infrastructure.”

“Tomorrow morning I will be in Stresa on Lake Maggiore to meet the prefect and other authorities to decide what to do,” he said.