Pöllauer Hirschbirne (Pöllau pear)
The designation g.U. Pöllauer Hirschbirne applies only to unprocessed fruit obtained from the perry pear variety ‘Hirschbirne’ (old regional variety) and the dried pears and unfermented fruit juice obtained from them.
‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ is a perry pear which ripens very late and is consumed fresh only very rarely. In the production area it is harvested when ripe for consumption and then immediately dried or processed into juice, because when ripe for consumption it is barely suitable for storage.
As a fruit, the ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ has the following characteristics — though natural variations must be taken into account:
—Shape: similar to a bergamot, a fruit on average wider than it is long (average length/width index 0,94), round in cross-section
—Size: fruit small to medium-sized, length 35-68 mm (average: 50,4 mm), width 38-78 mm (average: 53,9 mm)
—Weight: 26-203 g, average weight: 80,5 g
—Skin yellow-green in colour, with a red colouration (often missing) on the side exposed to the sun; yellow when fully ripe; skin has numerous medium-sized, light brown lenticels which on the side exposed to the sun are often ringed with cloudy red
—Fruit flesh cream-coloured, firm, non-melting (‘creamy’), juicy
—Core calycifloral with open axis; seeds well developed, large, black
—Stone-cell ring around the core coarse-grained, spherical or short spindle-shaped; hardly any stone cells outside the ring
—Sepals on the fruit have felty hair
—Fruit ripe in the autumn: from the last week in September to the third week in October, depending on altitude
—Taste: for a perry pear, when ripe for consumption not very astringent, harmonious
—Smell: cinnamon-like (not detectable in every case).
Dried ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ is characterised by the following:
—Shape: pear-shaped, but with very wrinkled surface, irregularly distorted by the drying process
—Fruit size: length approx. 23-47 mm (average: 36,4 mm), width approx. 24-44 mm (average: 32,5 mm)
—Weight: 7-27 g, average weight approximately: 13 g
—Skin dark brown in colour, with characteristic light blue-grey frosting
—Fruit flesh: hard, dry and firm on the outside, stringy-soft and sticky on the inside, medium to dark brown
—Core: characteristically hollow
—Smell: characteristic of the variety, slightly spicy, fine dried-fruit smell, without extraneous smells
—Taste: caramel-like dried-pear taste, sweetish.
The juice from ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ has the following characteristics:
—Colour: light golden-yellow to deep golden-yellow, rarely almost bronze-coloured
—Clarity: depending on the production method, clear to naturally cloudy juices can be made
—Smell: like dried fruit, slight hints of acetaldehyde and spice (marjoram) may be present
—Other characteristics: a deposit of tannins in the form of partially spherical lees is possible.
Only fruit of the perry pear variety ‘Hirschbirne’ is used as the raw material for producing ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’. As fruit it is characterised by the features of ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ described above
The propagating material (comprising seeds from the fruit of wild pear trees [wild pears] and/or of suitable perry pear trees [bearing small fruit], grafts and/or grafting material as well as trees which are suitable for planting out) must originate from the geographical area.
‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ is grafted only on seedling foundations as half standards and standards, in order to obtain characteristic large-crown tree shapes with strong growth. ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ must not be cultivated in a spindle shape on foundations with weak growth, since this form of cultivation alters the characteristics of the variety and in particular the variety’s typical taste.
Only fully ripe fruit is suitable for further processing, since only at this time does the ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ attain its typical harmonious taste which is key to the properties of the processed products described above
Specific steps in production that must take place in the identified geographical area
In order to ensure the high quality of the product, all the production steps — from producing the propagating material up to and including the juice production and the drying process — must take place in the defined geographical area. Since it is harvested when ready for consumption (fully ripe), ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ can be stored only for a short time and is susceptible to mechanical damage (e.g. during transport). Processing into products which are not susceptible to damage must therefore take place in the same defined geographical area.
Concise definition of the geographical area
The Pöllau Valley (nature park) is the traditional central area for growing ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ trees and processing ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’. The production area comprises the following administrative districts of the Provinces of Styria and Lower Austria:
— Province of Styria: Districts of South-east Styria (only the part comprising the former district of Feldbach), Hartberg-Fürstenfeld, Graz, Graz-Umgebung, Hartberg, Weiz
— Province of Lower Austria: Districts of Neunkirchen, Wiener Neustadt-Land
The area of origin of the raw materials is identical to the production area.
Link with the geographical area
The defined geographical area includes parts of the two Styrian climatic areas of ‘Steirisches Randgebirge’ and ‘Vorland’, as well as the comparable climatic areas in Lower Austria. The prevailing mild climates allow ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ to grow, bloom and bear fruit in the optimum way, thus enabling the best possible development of the fruit’s key qualities and characteristics.
Crucial factors for this are the low number of frost days in the production area’s favourable locations suitable for this form of cultivation (approx. 80-110 days) and the length of the growing season (approx. 185-245 days). Since the ‘Hirschbirne’ blossom is vulnerable to late frosts, the most suitable locations in the production area are on slopes and ridges at about 300-800 m above sea level, away from the areas with inversions and/or cold-air pools in the valleys and basins. Above that area, the fruit ripens fully at altitudes of up to 1 000 m above sea level only in definitely favourable locations.
Ideal conditions for growing ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ are to be found in the soils of the designated geographical area, which are not too heavy, are fresh and are predominantly low in lime, provided that they do not have any water-retaining zones. The soils are skeleton-rich and contain little humus or loam. Although ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ is considered to be undemanding as regards soil nutrient content, supplying the soils with basic nutrients is, however, a precondition for its successful cultivation and that precondition is adequately met in the designated area.
The growers’ specialist know-how is a decisive factor in the production process, based on traditional knowledge of how to cultivate and process ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ in the geographical area. The specialist know-how required was developed over centuries (evidence of this dates back as far as the nineteenth century: growers from the production area presented the ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ at the German national fruit exhibition in 1888), and has been passed down the generations. Such know-how concerns technical knowledge and experience as regards cultivation (traditionally using only regional foundations, also regarding how to procure the necessary seeds), the grafting of ‘Hirschbirne’ trees, and selecting the most appropriate location as regards altitude, climate (temperature, risk of frost, length of growing season) and soil suitability. Moreover, the success of ‘processing Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ closely depends on knowledge about the fruit ripening process, and therefore about the right time to harvest for the production of juice and dried fruit.
Specificity of the product
The typical characteristics of ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’, produced from the old ‘Hirschbirne’ regional variety and the last pear variety to ripen in the autumn (explaining the etymology of ‘Hirschbirne’, meaning ‘Herbst-birne’ (autumn pear), ‘Hi(a)rscht’ being the vernacular term for ‘Herbst’ (autumn)), are its typical taste (a caramel-like dried-pear taste, sweetish), and the variety-specific aroma of the fruit, juice and dried fruit. ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ fruit achieves the necessary sweetness and the typical ratio of sugar, acid and tannin only at favoured locations in the geographical area, and only on account of the regional growers’ expertise in knowing when to harvest the fruit.
Harvesting and processing take place when there is still significant existing tannin (polyphenol) content present, which is essential for the juice to clarify. Nevertheless, the tannin content is already so low, because of the time when it is decided to harvest, that the juice has a pleasant, harmonious taste and a balanced sugar-acid-tannin ratio. This significantly sets ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ juice apart from other pear juices.
The dried pears also develop a discernible caramel flavour and a stringy-soft, sticky consistency. The ideal harvesting time (i.e. when a harmonious sugar-acid-tannin ratio exists) is traditionally determined organoleptically. The specific features of ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ include its high polyphenol content (0,83-2,2 %, depending on ripeness) and its high fibre content (7,9-10,5 g/100 g), which is in the same range as whole wheat flour (10 g/100 g), i.e. five times greater than the fibre content of dessert pears. The producers’ experience in judging the aesthetic and taste qualities of the fruit is therefore a key part of the traditional knowledge of how to process ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’.
Causal link between the geographical area
The special quality of ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’, which developed as a Styrian chance seedling in the geographical area and which is produced only from fruit from trees of the old ‘Hirschbirne’ regional variety grafted from seedling foundations as half standards and standards, guarantees its particular suitability for cultivation in the defined geographical area. The large-crowned trees with strong growth have varietal properties which have come about through natural and human selection over centuries in the geographical area, and which guarantee the typical taste and aroma of the ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ variety.
The climate and soil conditions in the geographical area enable the cultivation of ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’, which is the last pear variety to ripen over the course of the year and which therefore needs the long growing season available in the geographical area in order to develop the variety’s high-quality features. The ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’ fruit attains the required sweetness and the aforementioned balanced ratio of sugar, acid and tannin only at favoured locations.
The combination of these climatic and edaphic factors and the knowledge passed down the generations by regional producers as regards the choice of location for planting (as regards altitude, appropriate climate, soil conditions), cultivation, crop-tending, the method and time of harvesting (only pears ripe for consumption, organoleptic analysis of the degree of ripeness), the storage technique and their experience in production and traditional processing are key to the quality of ‘Pöllauer Hirschbirne’. This combination therefore contributes to retaining the regional, old ‘Hirschbirne’ fruit variety, which is renowned for its good quality.