Nikolaihof Wachau is Austria's oldest winery, with a history dating back almost 2,000 years. While the winery is internationally awarded and known for its quality wines, the youngest son of the family, Martin Saahs (pictured left), is interested in the previously untapped raw materials from the estate's own vineyards, such as grape seed oil, lime blossom or saffron. Fascinated by the effect of the farm's own regional raw materials, he developed the world's first Demeter-certified grape cosmetics line "dieNikolai". All products are based on Demeter grape seed oil from the Nikolaihof, which is processed with biodynamic raw materials from the farm's own vineyards.
The encyclopaedia of ingredients used by dieNikolai
The grapevines provide a particularly large amount of substances for dieNikolai's organic grape cosmetics. Early in the year, the precious "tears of the vine", also called vine water, are collected. Where the cultivated vine is cut, sore juice comes out at the beginning of spring. Hildegard von Bingen already knew how to use these drops for skin diseases, and today the tears are used in dieNikolai's eye serum.
But the grape seed is particularly fascinating. It contains a particularly high proportion of antioxidants to protect its genetic material against harmful influences. Antioxidants are also valuable for the human body because they can help neutralise harmful free radicals and prevent cell damage. Today, grape seeds are taken to dry daily, directly after the pressing process, and cold pressed a few weeks later, which produces the precious grape seed oil. But the pressed seeds also find another use. They are finely ground and processed into grape seed flour.
Water-soluble antioxidants can be dissolved from the grape seed flour. Together they moisturise and preserve the skin, help protect it from damage and can counteract existing signs of ageing. In addition, grape seed oil acts as a transport medium for oil-soluble active ingredients.
Even the grape skins are used. In order to preserve the valuable ingredients, the grapes are carefully peeled by hand, dried and processed into a strengthening extract. The entire cosmetics line is preserved with the company's own spirit of wine. "For us, the spirit of wine is the most natural form of preservation and so we can do without synthetic preservatives. Due to the low dosage, the undenatured spirit of wine also does not have a skin-drying effect," explains Saahs.
Superfood from the vineyard
There are many more fascinating plants in the vineyards of Nikolaihof Wachau. A few years ago, saffron was started to be cultivated. In the past, saffron was widely used in the Wachau, due to its mild climate, and was used as a spice and dye. But harvesting the individual threads is laborious and so it fell into oblivion. In dieNikolai, saffron is mainly used for its soothing and antioxidant effects. It is boiled in cream or oils and, in order not to irritate, processed in homeopathic doses.
The blossoms of the 110-year-old lime tree in the courtyard of the Nikolaihof (see picture below) also feature in the cosmetics line. Linden blossom tea has been used since time immemorial to cleanse wounds, and so even today the linden blossoms are processed into an extract and used in skin care products for sensitive skin.
Biodynamic: dieNikolai is certified by Demeter
Demeter is considered the oldest and strictest organic certification worldwide. The seal for biodynamic products not only covers the raw materials but also certifies the processing and packaging. The most important distinguishing feature for Demeter cosmetics is that no conventional ingredients are allowed. At least 90% of the raw materials must meet the Demeter criteria, only 10% may be of organic origin.
What is not inside
At least as important as the ingredients is what is not contained in the skincare products. While most natural cosmetics certifications allow additives that have not been proven to be harmful, Demeter cosmetics have a "positive list". This list contains all additives that have been proven to have no negative effects on humans, animals or the environment and have therefore been approved for the production of Demeter cosmetics.
The sustainable Demeter grape cosmetics from Austria are available in the Saint Charles online shop and in the Saint Charles Cosmothecary in Vienna.