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Warning letters for wineries

Do vineyards violate personal rights?

1 April 2024
Werner Elflein

weingueter-abgemahnt.jpgPhoto: Pixabay
Feels insulted by wine bottles: Munich low voltage electrician Marco Brunn (38)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Theodor Fontane already praised the wine from the Marcobrunn vineyard in Erbach. Marcobrunn was the first Rheingau single vineyard to appear by name on a wine label. That was 1726. The Rieslings produced in this renowned vineyard are among the great classics of German Riesling culture.

But now disaster is on the horizon. On behalf of a client from Munich, the Starnberg law firm Beuger & Winkel sent warning letters to several Rheingau wineries. The reason: 38-year-old low voltage electrician Marco Brunn believes his general personal rights have been violated.

Brunn's lawyer Rex Beuger on the facts of the case: “Mr Brunn is a self-confessed beer drinker. He has published photos on his Facebook profile that show him chugging beer during the Munich Oktoberfest. Mr Brunn is not familiar with wine. So he was all the more surprised when he saw by chance a picture on the internet of a wine bottle bearing his name.”

The lawyer is not convinced by the fact that it is a vineyard whose name can be traced back to the Middle Ages. “The depictions of our client as a bottle are undoubtedly to be seen as dishonouring. In addition, many of the wines are labelled with the abbreviation GG. Here, under the guise of an alleged association classification as Großes Gewächs, even a further insult is levelled against our client. The lettering GG can be interpreted as abbreviation for ‘Gernegroß’ (the German word for braggart). In addition, the abbreviation can also be understood as a malicious double grin, as is common on the Internet, which reinforces the disparaging character of the overall presentation.”

The affected wineries are defending themselves and are being represented by the renowned Wiesbaden constitutional lawyer Berthold B. Bieger. “We have informed the other side that we do not comment on conspiracy theories and are calmly awaiting a legal dispute. We consider the allegations to be fabricated and unrealistic. What motivation should drive Rheingau wineries to insult an unknown Munich electrician?”

Lawyer Beuger replies: “Mr Brunn's publication on Facebook has made him appear in public as an influencer for Bavarian breweries. Therefore he is a thorn in the side of the wine industry, which is currently seeing its fortunes dwindle. We realise that Rheingau wineries are making deliberate attempts to discredit him as a public figure.”

Moreover, the case of Marco Brunn is only the tip of the iceberg.

Rex Beuger: “Unfortunately, we have to assume that this is a large-scale insult campaign initiated by top German wineries. These wineries are shamelessly and brazenly exploiting their fame in the international wine scene for their own purposes.” The Starnberg lawyers are currently examining the extent to which they will take action against numerous wineries in and around Forst an der Weinstraße. “In addition to Mr Brunn, we also represent the former top athlete Claudia Pechstein. In the Google image search, a photo can be found that shows her at the Anuga food fair in Cologne in 2005 with a glass of beer in her hand. Now she is being insulted by Palatinate winegrowers by having her name on wine bottles in the same way as Mr Brunn. Nobody can seriously claim that there is no connection here.”

According to the Starnberg lawyer, another case in which the same Palatinate wineries are often involved is particularly serious. This concerns the Ungeheuer vineyard. In the interest of the heirs of a well-known actor who died in 1989, of whom an old black and white photo is said to exist showing him near a brewery sign attached to a pub, the law firm is even considering filing a criminal complaint for defamation of the memory of the deceased. “This reflects the increasing level of brutalisation in our society,” says Beuger.

Within the next four weeks, in all cases mentioned above a civil action is to be brought before the competent Royal Bavarian District Court.