Karl-Peter Huff is a vintner through and through – it’s his passion. “Is there anything more wonderful than getting to enjoy a view like this one when you’re working?”, he asks rhetorically as he gazes across his hilly home region. The 68-year-old is currently rolling through the vineyards of Schwabsburg in his Astra Caravan. This former municipality, which counts just under 1,600 inhabitants, was incorporated into the town of Nierstein in the German state of the Rhineland-Palatinate in 1970. The local steeple and the imposing fortified tower of the former fortress still have an air of proud independence about them, however. For centuries, Schwabsburg has also been home to a romantic union between the Rhine river and vineyard vines. Karl-Peter Huff’s family has been working in viticulture and agriculture for six generations now.
In 2017, the annual grape harvest came to a close in September. “It comes earlier and earlier each year. I think that’s because of climate change,” explains Huff.
THE PETERSHOF WINERY
The name ‘Huff’ is well-known around Schwabsburg, and has been associated with a number of large wineries. The family’s legacy in this region started with a member who came to Schwabsburg from Aspisheim in 1784. Today, the Petershof vineyard is led by two qualified master vintners, Karl-Peter and his son, Peter. Together, they cultivate a good eight hectares of vineyards in one of the loveliest parts of Rhenish Hesse, a renowned growing area. The Huffs cultivate a total of 12 varietals, including ones for the dry white wines typical of the region, as well as ones for robust red and sweet wines. They are happy to take visitors on tours of the vineyard to provide insight into their work – and, naturally, provide a few samples.
Over the next few months, the vintner will mainly work in the yard and the cellars – but there’s always something left to do in the vineyard as well. Karl-Peter Huff never suspects for a moment that his Astra, which is now 17 years old, might break down on him during his daily trips to the surrounding district, particularly during the cold, wet season. After so many years together, the two have formed an unbreakable bond of trust.
“CARS ARE A TOOL WE USE FOR OUR WORK”
“Our mechanic, Josef Müller, has only had to replace the usual wear parts on our Astra so far. He’s never had to carry out extensive repairs,” Huff recounts. “The engine and transmission have always run smoothly.” Josef Müller also ensured Huff that he’d be able to drive this Opel “until it falls apart from old age someday.” And that’s exactly what Huff plans to do. “We’ve always seen cars as tools we use for our work.” Extras for added comfort, such as air conditioning, aren’t his thing. As he sees it, “If it’s not in the car, it can’t break down.”
Three generations of Huffs – out of a total of six generations of Huff vintners – have been driving Opel cars now. Huff’s father, Karl, acquired the first one. It was a P4 “…and that must have been back in 1952 or 1953. I was still a kid,” the 68-year-old recalls. “Before that, we rode horses around the vineyard and crops.” Back then, the P4 cost 250 Deutschmarks. It had around 15 years on it by the time the Huff family purchased it, “…and then we got years of good use out of it.” The Huff siblings have always remained true to Opel in the intervening years. Marlies Eisen currently drives a Corsa that has 15 years on it. Her first was an Ascona, at the end of the 1960s. “I could ride that one to Munich in three and a half hours. Back then, the autobahns were pretty empty.”
AN UNCONVENTIONAL PHILOSOPHY:
DIRT ALSO PROTECTS AGAINST RUST
Leafing through the Huff family album reveals a range of Opels pictured off to the side or in the background. There’s no photographic evidence of the P4, unfortunately. “We never had the idea to put one of our cars front and center in a picture,” the pair admit. Multiple generations of Rekords and Kadetts can be seen in the albums, in nearly every caravan variety. “We were always happy with Opel, so why switch?” At present, the family fleet also includes a 15-year-old Zafira as well as a Meriva. The latter, which is the youngest of the bunch, just turned ten, and was financed with the help of a scrappage premium.
Josef Müller has a good handle, technically speaking, on all the vehicles with lightning bolts – hardly surprising, given that he once worked for Opel in Rüsselsheim, Germany. “He also advised us against washing the cars too frequently, since dirt acts as a kind of protection against rust.” That may be a somewhat unusual theory, but Josef Müller does know his stuff.