Glycol wine scandal

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As a glycol wine scandal , adulterated wine became known to the public in 1985 .


At that time, it was common (and still allowed today) to add sugar to increase the alcohol content by one to two percent through this artificial addition of sugar to the fermenting grape juice ( chaptalization ). Sugaring was not only an option when there were too few sunny days, but was generally used to compensate for the earlier harvest. Almost unripe grapes were picked for fear of future crop failures due to pests or starlings , and the lack of sweetness was compensated for by sugar.

Course of events

Some Austrian winegrowers , contrary to the legal provisions of wine law , had added diethylene glycol to wines instead of only sugar , some of which were mixed with other wines and marketed by large German wine bottlers.

Spätlese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines and ice wine , whose pressed juices naturally have a high sugar content and high residual sugar content after fermentation , but because the berries dry out to a raisin- like consistency, only deliver low volume yields and therefore high prices , were "adulterated" in this way and enable good profits. Because of the demand for sweet wines at the lowest prices, cheap bulk wines were "refined" to make these select wines, and profits were significantly increased.

No health damage or impairment to wine consumers was known. The term glycol wine scandal was coined by the German-speaking mass media and linked to the food scandal . This immediately led to a loss of confidence on the part of consumers , a sharp decline in the sales market for Austrian wines to almost zero, damaged their reputation worldwide and, in addition to years of legal disputes, had medium and long-term effects on the Austrian wine industry.


Adulteration of wine was discovered when a winemaker tried to claim large amounts of antifreeze for tax purposes, even though he only owned a small tractor. Above all in Austria and also in Germany , adulterated " quality wine " was produced by individual winemakers . They used diethylene glycol as a sweetener and flavor enhancer . This made the wine feel sweeter and more aromatic . At the same time, however, the official sugar tests with which the official wine control checks whether an alcohol-sugar proportion without adding sugar, acid or brandy is possible from the grapes of the respective year with a natural must sugar content were not influenced.

As a result, two winemakers in Burgenland were sentenced to several years' imprisonment. The majority of the wine complained about was produced by some winegrowers on the Wagram , assisted by the chemist Otto Nadrasky . Karl Grill, the owner of the Gebrüder Grill company, committed suicide after his conviction. As a side effect of this scandal, it became public that larger German wine bottlers from Rhineland-Palatinate had illegally adulterated German wine with Austrian (glycol) wine.

Diethylene glycol is much less toxic than the monoethylene glycol used in radiator antifreeze . In the concentration usually found in wine, diethylene glycol can not cause long-term health damage to the liver , kidneys and brain . A healthy person would not have been immediately poisoned even if they had consumed plenty of wine, so the defense. The maximum value found was 48 g diethylene glycol in one liter of wine. A Welschriesling Beerenauslese from 1981 from the Sautner company in Gols in Burgenland was affected .

In the Federal Republic of Germany the case turned into a media event when it became known that German companies were involved with the help of state ministries. In particular, the Pieroth company was targeted by the investigative authorities. Diethylene glycol was detected in wines from the company in which the Berlin Senator for Economic Affairs Elmar Pieroth was involved with other shareholders. Pieroth said at the time that he did not know anything about it. He did not hold an operational role in the company and an investigation against him was closed after a short time. Several former managers of his company contradicted him, however, claiming that he had made discreet agreements with both the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Agriculture and Viticulture and the managers to keep the name "Pieroth" out of the whole affair. The Rhineland-Palatinate state government is said to have put pressure on the law enforcement authorities to put down the case. An investigative committee set up in the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament could not prove that the Pieroth family had any knowledge.


Media coverage

The numbered banderole has been mandatory for all Austrian
quality wines since 1985

The wine adulteration was a topic in the media for weeks and seriously damaged the reputation of Austrian and German viticulture . As a result, wine exports from Austria almost came to a standstill. Millions of bottles had to be taken off the market. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the Federal Ministry of Health went public on July 9, 1985 with the warning that Austrian wines had been partially contaminated with the antifreeze agent diethylene glycol. As a result, since German wine bottlers had mixed local wine with the Austrian wine complained of, contaminated wines were also discovered in Germany. Four million liters of wine were confiscated in total. In Belgium all Austrian wines were withdrawn from the market.

Economic consequences

As a direct consequence, the marketing of Austrian wine collapsed. Above all, many small, uninvolved winegrowers got into economic difficulties and had to give up.

Trial before the German Federal Constitutional Court

A German winery went to the German Federal Constitutional Court against the publication of the warning, which took the form of a list of wines containing DEG . The constitutional complaint was rejected in a fundamental decision : the German Federal Government could, due to its task of state management ( Art. 65 ) of the Basic Law, carry out information work with overall state responsibility. There was no violation of Article 12, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law, provided that the market-related information was correct and factual as well as the requirements for state information activities, in particular the existence of a state task and compliance with the jurisdiction.

The argument of the German Federal Constitutional Court has not remained undisputed in the legal literature. With the formulation that the legal limits of the information trade are preserved, encroachment and justification tests are mixed up.

Criminal proceedings

Years of trials went on, with some of the convicts receiving up to eight years in prison. The damage that these processes were based on was put at up to 124 million schillings (9 million euros). However, the greatest damage was caused by the media presence in the medium term on the image level, as consumer confidence was damaged.


As a direct consequence, however, the glycol wine scandal in Austria led to one of the strictest wine laws in the world and the strictest controls in all of Europe. So z. B. each bottle must be marked with a state banderole before it can be sold.

A new generation of winemakers also broke with traditional sugar treatment and allowed the grapes to ripen longer so that they contained enough sugar themselves, so that there was still enough residual sugar after fermentation.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Günter Vollmer, Gunter Josst, Dieter Schenker, Wolfgang Sturm, Norbert Vreden food guide. ISBN 978-3-527-62587-1 , p. 225 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  2. The Tricks of the Wine Mixers Die Zeit 34/1985, August 16, 1985.
  3. ^ GF Fuhrmann: Toxicology for natural scientists. Vieweg + Teubner Verlag, 2006, ISBN 3-8351-0024-6 .
  4. Sour Grapes, Sweet Sins. Time - Online August 2, 1985.
  5. a b Unrelated influences . In: Der Spiegel . No. 14 , 1990 ( online ).
  6. Mother of all panhandling world online July 9, 2010.
  7. a b Message from the sick bed . In: Der Spiegel . No. 11 , 1990 ( online ).
  8. AFFAIRS: “Hardly negotiable” - DER SPIEGEL 37/1998. Retrieved June 19, 2020 .
  9. Frost protection selection in German cellars . In: Der Spiegel . No. 29 , 1985 ( online ).
  10. Poison Wine makes the trade routes visible . In: Der Spiegel . No. 32 , 1985 ( online ).
  11. BVerfGE 105, 252, Heading 2 and Rn. 49 f. ( Judgment on official website )
  12. BVerfGE 105, 252, Heading 1 ( judgment on the official website ).
  13. BVerfGE 105, 252, Rn. 62 ( judgment on official website ).
  14. ^ Schwabe, Winfried / Finkel, Bastian: General administrative law and administrative procedural law . 9th edition Stuttgart 2017, p. 229.