More than 1,000 mourners filled the large parish church of Illmitz, Austria, to overflow capacity on Friday for the funeral of Alois Kracher.
The world-renowned sweet wine producer died at the age of 48 on 5 December from pancreatic cancer. Kracher´s widow, Michaela, his son Gerhard, and parents Alois and Maria, were consoled by the throngs of friends, neighbours and wine colleagues from all over Austria and abroad. Underscoring Kracher´s status as a national treasure, the Chancellor of Austria, Alfred Gusenbauer, also was in attendance.
In accordance with the Kracher family´s wishes for as much discretion as possible, there had been no official announcement of the funeral, which was held just two days after the producer´s death.
Dark, grey clouds and rain marked the afternoon, with the salmon hue of the onion-domed baroque church lending practically the only light colour to Illmitz. This Burgenland province town, where Alois `Luis` Kracher grew up and produced his internationally acclaimed wines, was virtually silent but for the ringing of the church bells before and after the funeral service.
The Catholic ceremony, conducted by several priests, was kept short and simple. No eulogies were given. Both Austrian folk songs and spiritual hymns, including ‘Nearer My God to Thee’, were sung by the church choir.
Immediately after the service, Alois Kracher´s wooden casket was carried to the Illmitz cemetery, not far from his vineyards. Following behind were producers of every generation from every wine region of Austria, including Anton Bodenstein (Prager) and Emmerich Knoll V from the Wachau, the Kamptal´s Fred Loimer, and Josef Umathum, Gernot Heinrich and Josef Pöckl and his son, Rene, all from the Neusiedlersee.
Producers from abroad included Manfred Krankl from the Sine Qua Non winery in California, Ernst Loosen from Germany´s Mosel Valley and Switzerland´s Daniel Gantenbein.
Before Alois Kracher was laid to rest, Paul Achs Sr, whose son now runs the family winery in Gols, Austria, said, ‘No one can replace Alois Kracher. Austria will just never be the same.’
Written by Darrel Joseph in Vienna