The Austrian Wine Vintage 2007 - Fine and Fruity
This year’s wine harvest in Austria has turned out to be a fine and fruity one. The following summary of the 2007 vintage provides some of the important highlights. The harvest was, for the most part, complete by the end of October. In fact, a major portion of the grapes were already picked by the middle of that month. In some regions, though, top quality grapes to be used for Prädikatswein remain on the vines.
Overall, the high quality of the grapes has proven ideal, revealing at full ripeness moderate sugar levels and good acidity structure. And all of the diligent work in the vineyards has been repaid with very fruity wines of beautiful body, and that will lay easily in the cellar - thanks to all that nature has done so well. Winemakers are enthusiastic about the good harvest yields: after the first, rather pessimistic estimates, nature once again had the final, positive word in many wine-growing areas.
Weather Conditions in 2007
After very mild temperatures and little snowfall at the beginning of the year, winter nevertheless showed its icy power in March – unusually high amounts of new snow in southern and western Austria were the result of particularly cold conditions. Still, bud break in the vineyards began very early, and the rainfalls were extremely good for water storage. April was, again, unusually warm and dry: the temperatures were 2 – 4.5 °C above the yearly average, and the amount of sunshine – up to 317 hours - was nearly record-breaking. In some areas, the number of sunny days was even double the yearly norm.
Also in May and June, the temperatures were higher than the average, and there was ample moisture supply. However, rough storm conditions were damaging to some areas. Because of heavy hailstorms, large portions of the expected harvest yields were lost in areas of Krems and the Thermenregion. Losses were also recorded around the Leithagebirge.
July began with slightly above-average temperatures, but a heat wave in eastern Austria between the 15th and 20th of July caused not only the tourists to sweat: at times, working in the vineyards became practically impossible. With 39.5 ° C reached in Andau, in the Seewinkel, the all-time Austrian record of 40° C was just missed. The extreme heat in some regions was related to very dry periods that lasted for up to two weeks, vigorously affecting the vines. Fortunately, opportunities for watering the vines significantly helped maintain good quality.
August delivered varied temperatures and rainfall conditions, but overall, it was not an unusual month. The quantities of rain, though differing from region to region, were all in the usual range.
September was rather cool, which meant that an anticipated early harvest required much patience. Still, there were no gradational increases recorded. Rain at the beginning of the month caused various problems: in some parts of Niederösterreich and the Seewinkel, rainfalls measured were more than four times the norm. Fortunately, the Steiermark, in a practically complete turnaround from last year, was exempted from these conditions. Low temperatures with just the right moisture levels were ideal for damage limitation.
A beautiful Indian summer followed, and October obliged with fine harvest weather as well. Fresh morning temperatures and pleasant daytime temperatures favoured the good development of grape aromas and flavours.
Vegetation and Harvest
Early Bud break and Flowering
The mild winter led to an early bud break, and already on April 10th, the vines began their quick and continuous development. Flowering began in May, making this the earliest flowering on record, except for that of the 2003 vintage. However, late frosts that occurred on May 2nd caused some damage. But the brief cool phases at the beginning of June were relieved through above-average temperatures, which were clearly positive for the vines.
Heat Wave and Sunburn
The massive heat wave during the second half of July caused sunburn damage to the grapes. Therefore, leaf removal had to be postponed. Yet, even some grapes protected by leaf coverage suffered some damage. This meant that more intensive work efforts were required in preparation for the harvest. For optimal harvest results, damaged grapes had to be eliminated.
What Does Sunburn Mean to the Winemaker?
Too much heat and sun can result in a higher concentration of tannins in the grape skins. This can, in turn, lead to a rough and bitter taste in the wine.
Therefore it is important – should sunburn occur - to eliminate rigorously all damaged grapes during the harvest so that no less-than-quality contents are allowed in the wine.
With the grapes becoming soft and ripe in the early days of August, the main harvest began – as expected – two weeks earlier than usual. Early harvesting of grapes for Sturm was already in full swing at the beginning of August.
Due to the major rainfalls at the beginning of September, the harvest was divided into two phases with important effects in between. Winemakers could take advantage of a kind of calm period between the first and second harvests in order to work further on the wines from the first harvest. Also, it became evident who had done proper and meticulous work in the vineyards. Because of a cool September, rot damage was limited. Still, there was no ripening development of note. Limited yields of quality grapes were a highly positive result of the harvest this year.
The outstanding fruitiness of the grapes this year comes also from the sequence of warm daytime temperatures and very cool temperatures throughout the nights. Finally, very accurate weather forecasts were highly advantageous when it came to harvest planning.
In almost all wine-growing areas, the harvest was finished by mid-October. Those who still had grapes on their vines for higher gradation wines had to work all the harder because of rain during the last week of October. Any rot that began to appear had to be eliminated in more than one grape picking.
In general, a good vintage is expected, thanks to, above all, the excellent work put forth in the vineyards by the growers, as well as the blessings from heaven. With a harvest carried out with a quality-conscious focus, only a bit of additional work in the cellar is likely necessary.
Evaluation of the Vintage in the Wine-growing Areas
Wine lovers looked forward to this very fruity vintage, especially as the vineyards were cared for right through to the appropriate yield reduction. The big change in day-night temperatures strongly favoured the development of aromas and flavours in the wines for which the Steiermark is famous. As the grapes were spared from excessive rainfall, their quality was excellent right up to the end. This allowed for plenty of grapes from specific sites and for Prädikatswein to be harvested, with picking complete by the middle of October. In fact, the yields of this vintage overall were above average, although the amount for Prädikatswein was a bit lower than usual.
Finally – a plentiful harvest! And the winemakers are pleased not only about this, but also because the wines are showing very good varietal characteristics. Fruitiness and pleasant acidity, together with alcohol levels that are not too high, are the positive factors which consumers will appreciate at the Heurigen as well as in the restaurants.
In the Wachau, many grapes for Smaragd level wines were still hanging on the vines at the end of October. All across Niederösterreich, there is satisfaction with the quality of this year’s harvest, with the very positive evaluation based on markedly better acidity - especially when compared with that of the 2003 vintage. Also, there was very little dryness damage.
Despite the good ripeness levels, there were no extremely high gradations. Therefore, wines in the Classic and Steinfeder / Federspiel quality levels could be harvested in satisfactory amounts. The fruitiness is outstanding, accentuated by good acidity structure and body that is not overly opulent. The rains at the end of October of course meant more work for the producers, who were holding out for Prädikatswein. Significantly more pickings were necessary in order to eliminate damaged grapes. It is interesting to note that, this year, some later-harvested sites have performed as the better ones.
The feedback coming from all wine-growing areas of Niederösterreich is harmonious: producers are pleased about the good harvest yields - especially of Grüner Veltliner - and the particularly special fruitiness. Good and even mid-range sites with ample water storage capacity bore the best wines this year. The distinct varietal aromas and flavours reveal pleasant acidity backed by character as well as durability. This was a result of healthy grapes, which were – somewhat similarly to last year - harvested until the third week of October via good planning and calm picking. Only those areas that experienced hailstorms - Kremstal, Traisental und Thermenregion - were particularly affected. Some site wines will certainly be missed.
The dry, hot summer with a sufficient water supply helped create very fruity white wines here. Early-harvest varieties as well as grapes from later-harvested sites delivered seductive varietal aromas and flavours. The red wines are very intense in colour, and Blaufränkisch in particular is revealing a very distinct fruit and spice character. Also Zweigelt and Pinot Noir are giving impressive fruit tones. Hail damage – especially from the Leithagebirge to Mittelburgenland – did not allow for any compensation; the somewhat lower yields had been expected. The harvest was finished on October 20th, with the healthy grapes indicating that 2007 could be a very good vintage – one to be enjoyed for a long time.