Jasmin Hack (45) is a winemaker who has dedicated herself – together with her husband Rainer – to the making of organic wines. She also runs a ‘Buschenschank’ (traditional Austrian wine tavern where they also serve local cold dishes) in Kitzeck/ Southern Styria with her parents-in-law. She is a mother of three (Maximilian (14), Ferdinand (10), Theresa (5)).
Is being a winemaker your dream job?
Not really. I think it is something I have grown into. My dream job would have been something in arts, some job where I can be creative. Yet, in the meanwhile, I am really interested in what I do because the wine business has changed a lot and has become a really exciting profession. I have never identified myself with the image of the frumpy winemaker who serves wines wearing a Dirndl (traditional Austrian costume) – this is not what I am. Still, the young winemaking community has a lot of great ideas that I can identify with.
Actually you come from another background – is that right?
Yes. As a matter of fact, I studied architecture but I grew up with the topic of wine as this house had been the weekend cottage of my family for a long time and we spent a lot of weekends in the vineyards. There were always people making wine at this place. Then, I married a winemaker, had three children with him and did not manage the balancing act of doing a job out of the house and having a family. I finally decided to support my husband, to find myself in this job and do all the other things as a hobby.
What is important for you when it comes to your wines and the food that you offer?
The most important thing is that we enjoy drinking/ eating them. We would never offer anything that we do not like ourselves. We need to be able to stand behind it and have a good feeling selling it. Further, it should be produced in a fair way, be local and should be – as far as possible – sustainable.
Are organic wines and products the future?
I really do think that ‘organic’ is the future. We need to deal with the topic of soil and must reduce the toxic substances that are used not only in winegrowing but in farming in general. I do not want to demonize traditional winemaking because there are enough businesses that work in a sensible way. Still, for us, it was the only option to continue working. Also for the sake of our children who run around over here and of course also spend time in the vineyards. I would not want to have to put up fences and tell them, ‘Watch out, you are not allowed to enter here because we have just sprayed something that is bad for you.
Did you also want to differentiate from other winemakers and what can you tell us about the ‘Demeter-Movement’?
First of all, the most important thing for us was that we did not want to work with substances that are harmful for our kids. Then, it was an experiment if organic winemaking would actually work in our region, which luckily was the case. Now we are about to convert to the ‘Demeter Philosophy’, which actually involves tremendous restrictions. The Demeter winemakers work on bio-dynamically cultivated soils which are treated only with natural composts. You have to apply to become a Demeter winemaker and if you are selected, you need to do different trainings and your company is constantly controlled. There is an annual check in the course of which they inspect your spraying records and test your wines. Now there are several colleagues who also do organic winemaking.
How does it feel to work with your husband and his family?
It has not always been easy to tell you the truth, especially when there are more than one generation. Still, somehow you overcome your differences and makes compromises. It is always good to focus on the things that you like to do and not interfere with the work of the others. In our case, my husband and I care more for the wine and my in-laws more for the Buschenschank and renting the rooms. I have learned to hold back with certain things and not offend others. I participate, help and sometimes I just keep quiet (laughs).
Which challenges did you, especially being a woman and a winemaking-unrelated person, have to face?
In the beginning I had to fight the prejudice of coming from the city and being snobby. Of course I was different and thus suspicious. By now the people know me. I do not know if they take me or what I do serious but honestly I do not care. I try to get on well with everybody – actually you cannot satisfy everyone.
Do your children grow up at the Buschenschank or do you separate your work and your private life?
It has always been extremely important for me to have a separation. We used to live at the Buschenschank but I found this very exhausting because we did not really have any private space over there, especially not in terms of outdoor areas, which made us and especially the kids common property. We have been living over here for five years now (about 5 km from the Buschenschank) and I really enjoy it. Also the kids – although they like to go to the Buschenschank, especially, when there are other kids visiting. Still, they are happy that their home is a private place. We are, anyhow, surrounded by vineyards, so they do experience our working life every day.
What can you tell us about this house? What history does it have?
The house is about 500 years old and used to be part of the Gleinstaetten Castle. My great grandfather bought it in 1921, together with the vineyards, and used it as a holiday cottage. When he died in the 1950s, my great grandmother started to make wine over here and I think a pretty good one as she got a couple of awards for it. Then my grandmother took over the business. She had a restaurant in Graz that she ran with her husband and where she sold the wine. In my family it has always been the women who did things because they were strong characters. This actually had an impact on me as I learned that you do not only settle for things but take care of them yourself. Also as a woman.
When it comes to your home, what is important for you to feel at home?
The energy and the materials have to be perfect. In here everything is made of natural materials like wood, stone and we even have clay covered walls. What is really great about this house is the fact that it has a very particular atmosphere. We had it measured one day and were informed that it is a geomantic place where different power lines converge. When you enter the house, you immediately feel the energy that fills the whole place.
You do live in a beautiful environment but originally you come from the city. Do you miss urban life?
Sure. It is true that I am from Graz and I need some city air once in a while. Due to the children, I am of course not that flexible anymore but whenever there is a chance, I like to go to Graz and consume the things that I am missing here: coffee bars, shops, old friends. Still, I am not lonesome as we are extremely open and hospitable. People can stop by anytime and have a glass of wine with us, sometimes as early as the late morning. At the moment I would also not want to live in the city anymore but I could image living in a city flat when we are older.
Which traits do you admire in other women?
I love women who do compliment other women and are not bitchy. I think it is great to praise other people and show appreciation. Further, I like women who are self-determined and have an opinion of their own and a sense of beauty – in which way ever.
Which superpower would you like to have?
To be able to split up into ten pieces and do all the things at the same time (laughs).
What is still on your bucket list?
To travel much more. Maybe, when the kids are older, see more distant places.
Who would you like to interview?
My great-grandmother who passed away too soon.
Relationship: Being tolerant and not taking everything so serious.
Challenge: Not agreeing to everything and sticking to my opinion.
Respect: Very important, not putting myself in first place. I respect honest people.
Pain: Death – losing someone that I love.
Failure: As I am addicted to harmony, if people are mad at me.
Womanliness: Appreciating yourself but also making yourself pretty. To feel comfortable as a woman. Using the privilege to change optically (men are restricted in this way).