September 3, 2015 – THE QUALITY THIS YEAR IS PARTICULARLY HIGH, AND YIELDS WILL BE IN THE AVERAGE RANGE – ‘This year’s crop of wine grapes has made it through a blisteringly hot summer, with desert-like days and tropical nights, in good condition. In terms of quantity, growers are anticipating a very satisfactory harvest, one that moreover is expected to yield material of high quality. Following the difficult vintage of 2014, estates are reckoning with a volume of 2.4–2.5 million hectolitres,’ according to Austrian Winegrowers’ Association president Johannes Schmuckenschlager, commenting upon the prospects for the vintage year 2015.
The weather conditions in 2015
After a problematic vintage and diminished harvest in the previous year, wine producers saw themselves off to an optimistic start in this year’s vegetation period, thanks to adequate moisture during the winter and a lovely springtime. After a nice flowering, significant precipitation fell in many regions before the vineyards, like other crops, were confronted with a hot and dry summer. Arid conditions and long periods of heat with temperatures well above the 30°C level brought vineyards to the edge of their endurance, particularly those planted on shallow soils and the parcels of young vines. Irrigation systems, where extant, found themselves in constant operation and growers took viticultural steps to counter the drought stress, removing many clusters in the younger plantings in order to preserve the vitality of the vines.
The long-awaited rain finally fell in mid August; most regions received amounts that could be considered adequate. The vineyards, which in many cases had been ‘running on pilot lights’, were then able to swing the vegetation process into high gear and propel their still-healthy clusters dramatically forward into development. The hot period of the last weeks could then exert the optimum effect on the ripening process, while the recently cooler nights provided a very positive influence upon the developmentof aromaticity in the grapes.
Schmuckenschlager concluded by saying, ‘If the weather continues to smile upon us so favourably, we have a very good, fully ripened vintage in store, with somewhat higher alcohol content and milder acidity than we had last year.’
Yields and Expectations by Region
The anticipated volume seems to be significantly greater than the previous year. In the Steiermark (Styria), which was not so severely affected by drought conditions, growers are looking forward to a very good vintage, in terms of both quality and quantity. Burgenland is expecting a normal-sized harvest, with great hopes for the quality of the red wines. Niederösterreich and Wien(Vienna) are expecting a good harvest of normal size – in any event significantly larger than in the previous year. One uncertain factor concerns the volume of grape-must expected, because the prevailing dry conditions led to the growth of rather smaller berries.
Based upon the forecasts for the individual growing regions, this year should bring in a good average-sized vintage with a volume of some 2.4–2.5 million hectolitres, which is in line with initial estimates of the national office Statistik Austria.
Neusiedlersee: the harvest is already underway
Growers around Lake Neusiedl have already begun picking grapes for their Sturm and Most. The main harvest is scheduled to begin in Burgenland in the first half of September, while Niederösterreich and the Steiermark look to begin picking in the second half of the month.
On a bitter note: hail damage
And we must acknowledge one negative bit of news: at the beginning of May, very early in the vegetation period, hailstorms wrought significant damage in the area of Kremstal, Kamptal and above all in Wagram, where some 3000 hectares of vineyard were affected. Certain localised hailstorms left damage in the Steiermark and in Mittelburgenland as well.