The 2013 vintage was a tricky year for Austria’s winemakers. More recently it was the predictions for the small harvest, which at 2.25 million hectolitres is approximately seven percent less than the five year average. Before this, fluctuations in weather conditions caused vineyards to develop at varying stages. This left winemakers faced with the challenge of determining the optimal time of harvest and still achieving the desired amount of sugar in the berries. This also meant that the grapes had to be handled accordingly in the cellar. The harvest will be a slightly smaller one but the vintage is of highly satisfactory quality and is characterised by fruitiness and drinkability.
The moderately cold and damp winter meant that bud break occurred later than in 2012. Fortunately frost did not cause any significant damage this year, however some areas felt the repercussions of last year’s frost on their yield. Flowering took place roughly two weeks later than in previous years, which corresponds with a “normal” flowering time if one considers the long term average. Unfortunately, the weather conditions at that particular time in June were rather unfavourable: wet and cold weather followed a heat wave which caused fertilisation problems and coulure. This hit Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s flagship variety, particularly hard. Especially the regions along the river Danube such as the Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal, but also the Pulkatal and the northern part of the Weinviertel were affected, which led to a smaller yield in those areas.
SUMMER SWELTER AND DROUGHT
The summer of 2013 was one of the five hottest summers of the last century. The prolonged dry spell delayed the ripening process, as vines assimilate far less during very hot periods. Young vineyards with a poor supply of water faced big problems this year. The rain came just in time at the end of August which finally increased the amount of sugar in the berries, albeit rather slowly. Thankfully hail caused less damage than last year, although 2,500 hectares of vineyards were hit this year, primarily in Burgenland and Lower Austria, causing approximately € 5 million worth of damage.
WHEN TO HARVEST – A QUESTION OF NERVES
Following the onset of rain in September, Austria’s winemakers were faced with a difficult decision: should they start harvesting early in the hope of avoiding the bursting of the compact grapes, or wait and hope for the grapes to develop more sugar? Both options were dependent on the meticulous work in the vineyard and the winemaker’s decision to take a risk on the weather. As it turned out, sugar levels only increased slowly, but the cool start to October helped keep the grapes healthy. The warm, damp and foggy weather at the end of October provided ideal conditions for botrytis, which meant that enough noble sweet wines were harvested.
When asked to comment on the 2013 vintage, Willi Klinger, Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, said:
“The 2013 vintage will bring us great, tight wines that will still delight in 20 years, as well as wines with crisp acidity that will challenge in their youth. I’m particularly excited about what looks like an outstanding sweet wine year.”