Grapes of wrath

Police are helping keeping a watch on a 500-year-old grape vine after it was dug up – and hacked into pieces – in an  attack suspected to have been carried out by a jealous vintner.The vine had survived wars, droughts, fires and finally the abandonment of the vineyard where it was growing bringing the arrival of weeds and insect pests.Scientists had heralded the discovery of the vine as a major breakthrough after DNA tests revealed it was the last known surviving vine of the type that eventually gave rise to the gruner veltliner.But it also caused bitter resentment in the village of St Georgen east of the capital Vienna where the grape-grandfather vine was found, and police believe that locals excluded from the project decided to extract revenge in February – when scientists arrived for work to discover the vine had been dug up, and hacked to pieces.Vintner Hans Moser said: “After it was found vandalised we carefully replaced as much of the plant as we could in the soil and gave it round the clock care – and now it seems that effort has been rewarded, as this week we saw the arrival of the three new shoots. It has been a very tense wait but this vine – that is the “missing link” for oenophiles  – will now probably survive.”The gruner veltliner has become one of the world’s most popular wines and it is believed that offshoots of the St Georgen vine were crossed with the traminer grape centuries ago to produce the first drops of the acidic and tangy white gruner veltliner, one of the most common harvests of vintners in Austria.Scientists said it was impossible to put a value on the St Georgen vine because of its unique status but confirmed it was valued at over 100,000 GBP for insurance purposes.Now that it’s showing new signs of life the vine is being checked by police patrols and locals are planning to put up a security fence as long as the vine vandal remains at large.Burgenland where the St Georgen vine is located is one of the country’s main wine-growing regions. An increasing number of columnists and magazine critics have ranked red and white wines from the small Austrian province among the finest in Europe.