Flutwein: Winegrowers don’t get donations – Panorama

The “Flutwein” initiative showed that people in the Ahr Valley did not give up after the flood. In return for a donation, she offered wine bottles, “limited and original with mud”, as stated in the campaign was called. The idea was good, the implementation quick, the marketing efficient. About 175,000 bottles were sent, they went all over Europe, to Japan, to New Zealand, now there are hardly any left.

Almost 4.5 million euros came together on the account of the non-profit association founded especially for this purpose. And there they are, months later, still. Along with the 2.5 million euros added through donations and solidarity wines from other regions. So far, the winegrowers have not received a single euro.

After the heavy rain and the flood last July, some winegrowers offered muddy bottles as flood wine for donations.

(Photo: David Young/picture alliance/dpa)

The donations should help with the reconstruction and support the family businesses in viticulture, gastronomy and tourism to rebuild their houses and to get new equipment. “But a non-profit association is not allowed to provide economic aid,” says Martin Georgi, chairman of the German Fundraising Association. This means that donations may not go to companies. This is what the tax code and the disaster decree of the state government of Rhineland-Palatinate say. The latter creates the possibility for those affected to receive emergency aid of up to 5000 euros, but only for individuals. “Even if the wineries receive some money from insurance companies and the state, most of the damage is significantly higher than 5,000 euros,” says Georgi.

One of these winegrowers is Peter Kriechel from the winery of the same name in Ahrweiler, his family has been cultivating wine since 1555. He estimates that half a million euros would remain for his business as damage after payments from insurance and the state. Kriechel not only co-founded the “Flutwein” initiative, but has also become a kind of spokesman for the winegrowers in the Ahr Valley. He still gives interviews all the time, after a few minutes on the phone he has to change the phone, the battery is dead. He himself still seems to have energy, although he has been struggling for months to get himself and his colleagues back on their feet.

“There will be more disasters”

Together with the restaurateur Linda Kleber, who lost her restaurant to the flood, and Daniel Koller from SevenOne Entertainment, who is familiar with marketing and communication, he collected the mud bottles from around 25 colleagues so that the cellars were empty again for the new one Reading.

Now Kriechel wants to ensure that the donations finally reach the winegrowers. He is demanding what politicians promised immediately after the flood: “unbureaucratic, direct help.” He and Georgi from the fundraising association are fighting to ensure that donations can also go to affected companies. “Politicians should make an exception here: It’s just not everyday life when entire villages are washed away,” says Georgi. And in the long term, the laws should also be adapted nationwide. “There will be more catastrophes,” says Kriechel. “Then you have to be better prepared.”

The problem does not only affect flood wine, but also other, sometimes larger organizations, such as Aktion Deutschland Hilft, which collected 278 million euros in donations for people in the flood areas. “The flood disaster made it clear again that the legal basis in Germany unfortunately does not allow quick action,” says the executive director of the action alliance. She advocates the new purpose of “disaster relief” in non-profit law. “Here one could state that – up to a certain amount – private individuals and companies can equally participate in donations.”

Are the wines “minor thank yous” or merchandise?

The “Landsaid” aid organization, which has also collected for the Ahr Valley, has shown that it can work on a small scale: a tax office checked their project applications separately and granted special permission for them to pay out donations to winegrowers.

But the flood wine also raises the question: Are the mud bottles “small thanks” for a donation, as Kriechel sees it, or are they purchases, as the authorities see it? Then they would have to be taxed, and a good half of the money would go to the tax office. That cannot be in the interests of politics, says Georgi. “If the companies hold out now, also thanks to these donations, and can soon start their grape harvest again, then far more can be expected from the tax than from this bickering over a few donations.”

Had the companies already planned the donations? “Sure,” says Kriechel. And the 4.5 million are far more than they ever expected. But the campaign brought something much more valuable: 47,500 supporters. “There are people who think of us, who give us hope, who don’t forget us,” he says. “That was even more valuable to us than the hard euro.” Unfortunately, he cannot use it to buy new machines.

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