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Babo August-Wilhelm

Johann Lambert Gregor Reichsfreiherr von Babo (1725-1799), court official of the Electoral Palatinate and Bavaria, was town clerk in Mannheim and Weinheim in Baden-Württemberg. He was the founder of the family of Barons von Babo, which produced several important wine experts. His son Lambert Joseph Leopold von Babo (1790-1862) first studied law and then chemistry. After attending the 1st secondary agricultural school in Moeglin a. d. Oder, his agricultural inclination was promoted. After agricultural study trips he settled down as a landowner in Weinheim. In 1832 he founded the agricultural association garden with the pomologist Johann Metzger (1789-1852). Here mainly seeds were bred and tested. As an agronomist and oenologist, he wrote some important works such as "Die Wein- und Tafeltrauben der deutschen Weinberge und Gärten" (1836 with Metzger), "Der Weinstock und seine Varietäten" (1844) with the grape varieties of the time, and "Die Hauptgrundsätze des Ackerbaus" (1851).

Lambert Joseph Leopold von Babo / August Wilhelm Freiherr von Babo

His son August-Wilhelm Freiherr von Babo (1827-1894) is certainly the best known of the Babo family. He followed in his father's footsteps, enjoyed a comprehensive agricultural education at several universities (e.g. Heidelberg) and took over the management of an experimental vineyard in Karlsruhe. In 1860 he followed the call to Klosterneuburg close to Vienna and became the first director of the Klosterneuburger Weinbauinstitut in Lower Austria, founded in the same year. In 1861 Babo developed the Klosterneuburger Mostwaage (KMW) based on the saccharometer invented by Carl Joseph Napoleon Balling (1805-1868). This plummet scale is still the official instrument for determining the must weight in Austria today.

In 1869 he founded the first regularly published wine magazine in Austria, "Weinlaube". It still exists today as "Österreichische Weinzeitung". Later he brought out a wine calendar, which is also still published as "Österreichischer Weinbaukalender" today. He became known and famous for his lectures, called "field fairs" and often held in vineyards, where he passed on his extensive knowledge to the winegrowers. On his many journeys through the countries of the monarchy he collected practically all the grape varieties of the time (in 1869 there were over 60) and made many experiments with them. Between 1881 and 1883, together with his son-in-law Edmund Mach (1846-1901), he wrote the "Handbuch des Weinbaues und der Kellerwirtschaft", which, with five editions, became the standard work for several generations of winegrowers.

In 1867 Babo received from his friend Jakob Ludwig Schiebler, formerly Ebermann (1810-1882), the horticultural director in Celle-Hannover, an assortment of American grape varieties as a true Danaer gift. Babo immediately began to experiment with it. At that time there was already the first alarming news from France about phylloxera, but nobody knew at that time that the pest had crossed the pond with American vines. In January 1870 a first report about the phylloxera appeared in the "Weinlaube" and in the same year the first damage occurred in Klosterneuburg vineyards (one even knows the location, it was at the Liebertsacker, at the so-called "Gelber Bankl"). Later - when the fact of the contaminated American vines causing the plague was recognized - Babo was wrongly accused of this and accused him of having introduced the phylloxera into Austria.

There were almost "winegrower revolts" against him and his institution when the first vineyard clearances were ordered by the state and many tusks perished. At times he had to make the journey from his home to the institute under gendarmerie protection to be safe from the fury of the enraged winegrowers. Babo took up the fight against phylloxera. But all measures, such as injecting kerosene and carbon disulphide into the soil or stretching fine-meshed nets over the vineyards to trap the flying aphids, were unsuccessful, or were far too complex and costly. By 1880 almost all the vineyards in Klosterneuburg were already infested by the pest and most of them had to be cleared.

As an alternative Babo suggested the cultivation of tobacco plants and tomatoes (Austrian tomatoes). But this failed because tomatoes were not yet known in Vienna at that time. Another initiative was very successful, Babo promoted the cultivation of currants (Ribisl) and cherries for the production of wine. In 1874 the situation was already so bleak that a "phylloxera commission" was founded to track down the phylloxera flock. It was around this time that the solution to the problem finally came from France, namely the grafting of European scions onto American rootstocks, known as grafting. In 1876, Babo or the Klosterneuburg Institute recommended that local winegrowers should generally apply this procedure. At the institute, 2,000 cuttings of the American variety Taylor were planted and propagated and these documents were made available to the communities.

In 1889, false mildew appeared for the first time in Klosterneuburg. Besides phylloxera and powdery mildew, this fungal disease was also introduced from North America. Two years later this deserving man died, who was duly honoured with a bust erected in 1927 in the garden of the Klosterneuburg viticulture school (see picture above). Finally his son Baron Max von Babo (1862-1933) is also worth mentioning. As Austrian consul in China, he played a decisive role in the founding of the Yantai Changyu winery, which still exists today. See also under winegrowing personalities.

Picture left: Society for the History of Wine
Picture middle and right: Klosterneuburger Kultur-Gesellschaft

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