The Vintages 1999 - 1990
The 1999 wine harvest of almost 28 million hl was 4% higher than that of the previous year. The reason for this increase was the absence of serious frost damage in the main growing areas as well an adequate supply of water during the vegetative period. Flowering lasted from the middle to the end of June. It resulted in excellent setting without serious coulur. The warm, rainy summer promoted good development of the leaves. However, there was hail damage in both Lower Austria and Styria over an area of about 1000 ha. A variable August was followed by an unusually mild, sunny September, which promoted ripening and created the conditions for an excellent vintage. Optimal weather conditions in October with mild, sunny days and cool nights promoted the formation of aroma in the grapes. The long vegetative period produced grapes rich in extracts, and powerful, well-structured white and red wines were the result. Clear fruit typical of the variety and character typical of the region were other logical consequences of an entirely successful vintage year. This also applies to Austria’s famous sweet-wine regions, such as Seewinkel and Rust. The noble rot caused by Botrytis cinerea created optimally concentrated grapes at the right time.
In 1998 Austria harvested c. 2,700,000 hl of grapes. Compared with the previous year this was an increase of more than 900,000 hl (+50%). This can be attributed to the smaller losses due to frost damage in comparison to the previous year and the favourable climatic conditions during the summer months. Flowering lasted from early to mid-June and was completed about 14 days earlier than in an average year. The grapes set very well without significant losses due to blossom drop. The rainy but warm July encouraged good foliage development. It was followed by a hot, sunny August, which favoured ripening, and expectations were extremely high. Following several rainy days at the beginning of September the early varieties were harvested right on time during a spell of fine weather. After that the weather was variable and, despite a fairly long sunny spell in all the wine-growing areas and good harvest conditions, growers found it difficult to find healthy grapes ready for harvesting. Both the white and red grapes profited from gains in maturity made during the hot weather of August. In November extremely sweet grapes for Prädikatswein were still being harvested, making 1998 a great year for such sweet wines, reminiscent of the ‘89, ‘91 and ‘95 vintages.
In 1997 Austria harvested 1,801,747 hl of grapes. The winter was marked by extreme temperatures as low as -30 C. Following late budding and average flowering, the first vegetative phase – and July in particular – was marked by heavy precipitation (120-240 mm of rain). Any delay in vegetative development, however, was quickly corrected by magnificent weather in August (260-300 hours of sunshine). The health of the foliage and grapes was above average. In September the unusual period of fine weather continued, permitting the main harvest to start in Burgenland by the end of the month. Beginning in mid-October, concentrated Spätlese wines were harvested. Apart from sweet wines (e.g. Eiswein) the harvest was over by the end of November. Throughout Austria, quality was very high. The 1997 vintage is not only considerably better than the previous year, it is considered one of the finest years for dry white wine. The share of completely ripe grapes was above average. The wines are particularly pure and typical of the variety. Naturally, acidity levels are lower than in the previous year, for example, but in most cases they are considered satisfactory to adequate. There were ideal conditions for great red wines. But the highest levels of Prädikatswein, especially Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, were lacking because the autumn was very dry and there was no Botrytis infection to speak of. Only a very short time span was available for harvesting Eiswein.
At 2,110,000 hl the grape harvest was considerably lower than the long-standing average (2,609,000 hl). White wines accounted for 73% of the total, while red and rosé wines accounted for 27%. The average harvest per hectare was 4,348 litres. Wien (Vienna) was highest with 5,226 l/ha, followed by Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) at 4,784 l/ha and Steiermark (Styria) at 3,870 l/ha. Burgenland was the lowest at 3,559 l/ha. Wine inventory dropped again. Shoots and buds appeared several weeks later than normal, but this vegetative deficit was soon corrected. Flowering began very early and in many areas was optimal; it was generally complete within only a few days. The weather in the summer months remained within the long-term average; there was grape must by mid-August. At the end of August and in September it was rainy and unseasonably cool. The vegetative advantage lessened; in the case of sensitive varieties, corrective foliage treatment and early harvest were essential. The quality was largely dependent upon the winegrowers’ skills, dedication and willingness to take risks. Where these were present, a magnificent vintage was the result. The spectrum ranges from Tafelwein to Trockenbeerenauslese, with an emphasis on Qualitätswein. Red wines did not attain the greatness and power of the preceding vintages.
Following a mild winter and late budding, the vegetation quickly got back on schedule. The setting of flower clusters was only slightly poorer than in the previous year, but in all wine-growing areas flowering was considerably less favourable. In July there was a prolonged hot period with well-spaced precipitation, but August saw unfavourable weather conditions and there were problems with the powdery mildew. The cold and wet weather period in the first half of September led to widespread grape rot. The harvest size was about 30% smaller than in the previous year. Nevertheless, the sugar content developed well and there were also good values for acidity. At the beginning of October, when there was a sufficient primary infection with Botrytis cinerea, followed by a period of dry, warm weather. The fine, long “Indian summer” again produced Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Ausbruch wines. There were great differences between the regions. A report by the Austrian Central Statistical Office (Statistik Austria) judged the musts to be of average quality. The generally excellent levels of acidity gave the wines firmness, and all the areas produced wines of rather good quality. In Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) the Grüner Veltliner was fruity with refreshing effervescence. The grapes grown in Burgenland were often of high sugar content and suitable for making Prädikatswein. In Styria (Steiermark) the magnificent, almost cloudless October compensated to a large extent for earlier problems. Volume was extremely low (about 30 to 40% less than in the previous year), but quality was high with fine, fragrant bouquets, lots of fruit and good acidity. At 2,228,000 hl the 1995 harvest was 15.8% lower than that of the previous year. Of the total, 81% was white wine (1,809,000 hl) and 19% red wine or rosé (419,000 hl). This led to a further decline in the total storage inventory of 3,953,000 hl. All in all, the 1995 vintage can be considered an outstanding vintage year for Prädikatswein.
The vines wintered well and budding began at the normal time. Following favourable early summer rains, flowering occurred under advantageous conditions, resulting in outstanding pollination. The hot summer would have resulted in a very early harvest had drought not come into play. In the early days of autumn there was a bit of precipitation, allowing the vines to make up for lost time. Sugar levels quickly rose, but acidity dropped, often to quite low levels. The vintage made great demands on the wine-makers; there were many Kabinett wines. The quality of the vintage was high. These are wines with lots of fruit, elegance and a fine finish. In particular, white wines with a dominant primary bouquet can be outstanding. The depth of colour of the red wines is good; they are fragrant and velvety.
The vintage year 1993, and thus its wines, were marked by the extreme weather, which for the most part was favourable for wine. Initially a prolonged winter retarded vegetation, which quickly caught up, however, when the weather rapidly improved in April. This resulted in strong vine growth. A dry May favoured early flowering. July was cool with only a few sunny days. There were more, however, in the wine-growing areas of eastern Austria than in the rest of Western Europe. At the end of August a short period of rain arrived just in time. Grape maturity was about 14 days ahead of normal, and harvesting could legally begin in Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) and Burgenland. In Styria (Steiermark) the harvest began on 4 September. In contrast to the previous year there was high-quality Prädikatswein. Compared with the powerful ‘92 vintage, which was low in acidity and high in alcohol, the new wine had more fruit than power, more elegance than substance, accompanied by a harmonious acidity. Red wines showed similarities to their counterparts of the unusual ‘92 vintage. At 1,865,000 hl the harvest was some 723,000 hl lower than in the previous year. With 1,438,00 hl, white wine accounted for 77% of the total harvest and red wine (428,000 hl) for 23%.
Following a mild winter, early budding and good flowering, the summer was extremely hot and dry. Expectations for the harvest dropped, the must weights were generally above average. Due to a lack of Botrytis, grapes for fine Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines could not be harvested. The harvested volume was not quite 2.6 million hl. Towards the end of the year there were ideal conditions for Eiswein production. Wonderfully high quality sometimes contrasted with low volume.
The good quality of the harvest was similar to the previous year, while quantities were only a bit smaller. Volume and quality were in fairly good balance in all the wine-growing areas.
Favourable weather conditions resulted for the most part in a good grape harvest in terms of both quantity and quality. While there were often large differences, the wines had harmonious acidity and pleasant fruit. The red wines were dense and of intense colour.