In Perchtoldsdorf, the vintners have a centuries-old tradition to
express their gratitude for a rich harvest. On the first Sunday after
St. Leonhard’s Day (6 November), Perchtoldsdorf celebrates the
procession of the Weinhüter, the central aspect of what is most probably Austria’s most well-known wine-growers’ festival.
The appointment of the Weingartenhüter (or vineyard keepers) which is still conducted following an old ceremony dates back to the 16th
century. In the past it was necessary to keep close guard over the
vineyards at the time when the grapes were ripe. Although grape theft is
nowadays virtually unknown, the traditions are still observed. The
small Hüter cottages are painstakingly maintained, the decorated
tree poles symbolising their vigilance are still erected, and on St.
Leonhard’s Day the Hüter ceremoniously enter the town on their decorated horses.
Austria’s best known wine-growers’ festival
The vintners’ association which is in charge of wine related matters
ensures that the procession is held according to the old ritual. Three
of the Hüter lead the procession on festively decorated horses to the parish church, followed by the brass band, the other Weinhüter and the heavy Hiatapritschen
– a wooden pyramid hung with grapes and decorated with a heart made
from gold-plated nuts - that is carried and kept constantly rotating (or
“dancing”) on a pole by a particularly strong young vintner.
After the church service they sing a song in honour of the priest.
Then the procession moves on to the town hall where the town VIPs are
gathered on a podium and a large audience observes the proceedings.
After a welcome speech by the chairman of the vintner’s association, the
mayor gives a short speech and then it’s time for some humour. The
crowning highlight of the event is the singing of the so-called Gstanzeln, a kind of good-natured “popular tribunal”. The Hüter
perform four-liners they penned themselves in which the weaknesses of
many a well-known local personality are affectionately satirized.
Although several historical records mention the fact, there is no
real explanation for why the procession is held on St. Leonhard’s Day,
given that Leonhard is not a patron saint of vintners but of cattle
breeders and prisoners.
For more information
´The The Vineyard Guards´ Procession in Perchtoldsdorf:
> Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria