Austrian winegrowers and devotées of their wines can find plenty to be glad about in the 2015 vintage. Wines already tasted are impressive for their deep and ripe fruit, complex aromatics and sense of equilibrium, while wines still maturing in the cellars nurture expectations of top class and great potential. Winegrowing regions endured significant hail damage only in very isolated instances. The 2015 vintage leaves no doubt: very promising!
Vineyard Weather over the Course of the Year
After a period of fair weather in springtime and good conditions during blossoming, an uncommonly hot and dry summer set in. As we all know, one heat wave followed on the heels of the latest... In some places the vegetation process came to a standstill, especially affecting younger vines that could not be irrigated, which suffered from stress. Fortunately, in most growing regions the rains arrived toward the middle of August – just in the nick of time.
Then came a marvellous, even-tempered autumn; numerous sunny days, but with relatively cool nights – this is one basic difference between 2015 and years like 2011 and 2006. The rains arrived punctually this year in September as well and then came again in the middle of October; except for this last, somewhat humid period, the beautiful autumn weather held well into November. So in general, grapes could be harvested at the ideal point in time without hurry or stress, since afflictions from parasites and fungi occurred very seldom – even noble rot developed only in infrequent instances.
Ripeness, Fruit and Elegance
In general, the white wines of 2015 are characterised by solid extract and generous body. While from an analytical standpoint acidity lies in the lower range, this factor is rarely perceived in sensory examination. The characteristics commonly expected from such a hot vintage – for example, high and fiery alcohol with relatively little fruit – are most often not to be found. On the contrary, the white wines show complex and fully ripened fruit aromas, with remarkable concentration. The varietal characteristics expected from individual types of grape are mostly well articulated. And the red wines? A brilliant vintage, one that combines the elegance of 2006 with the opulence of 2011. Almost all regions produced intensely coloured, uncommonly ripe and concentrated wines, which are further distinguished by deep and dark nuances of fruit, confident elegance and a velvety background of tannins.
In Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), the only bitter drops in the sweet cup of 2015 were provided by an unusual nighttime hailstorm at the beginning of May. The hail proceeded from the eastern Kremstal and Kamptal over a wide portion of the Wagram, causing dramatic losses to the harvest, primarily in the latter region. The growers there were only able to somewhat make up for the volume lost at basic quality levels with purchased grapes from neighbouring districts. Any appreciable problems with fermentation or the emergence of off-flavours were an exception in this vintage. Acidification was indeed permitted, although cellarmasters made only sparing use of the option.
The most important variety Grüner Veltliner consistently yielded very juicy, nicely rounded wines with a rather mild structure of acidity. One striking aspect: the lighter and leaner wines in the entry levels can be as convincing as the powerful premium bottlings. With the Rieslings, waiting as long as possible before picking repaid the growers’ patience well; these are wines of power and substance, wines that moreover demonstrate a remarkable sense of balance between the fruit components and the background of acidity. And one would not anticipate things being otherwise in such a ripe vintage: the Weissburgunder and Chardonnay are very convincing for their concentration and harmony. Wines made from the fashionable aromatic variety Gelber Muskateller are lovelier than they have been for some time, as are the specialties Zierfandler, Rotgipfler and Roter Veltliner.
The situation in Burgenland was similar to neighbouring Niederösterreich (Lower Austria); here they are anticipating fruit-forward white wines, varietally typical and rich in extract with a slightly reticent acidity. Particularly good results are reported from the Pinot family, and the lighter Welschrieslings are also successful. Beyond their aforementioned opulence, red wines are showing a great sense of balance, which imparts elegance and long term cellar-potential – also very well suited for the possibility of vinification in barriques. All things considered, the red wine vintage shows signs of at least matching the standard of the great 2011. After the minuscule quantities of Prädikat wines produced in the previous year – and despite the late and tentative onset of botrytis – 2015 offers a satisfying quantity of consistently luxuriant and generous dessert wines.
A hailstorm visited the Steiermark (Styria) relatively early in the year, but growers were able to manage the consequences. One aspect in common to all of the Styrian growing districts is the great ripeness of the clusters and the pristine quality of the material harvested – a powerful and harmonious vintage with medium acidity, which shows on par with the great vintage 2007. Styrian specialties Gelber Muskateller and Sauvignon Blanc are extremely successful and available in quantities that are satisfying as well. The Sauvignon Blancs of this vintage are characterised by rather ripe fruit aromas and great concentration – green or grassy undertones are almost entirely absent. Weissburgunder and Morillon are benefiting as well from the ripe vintage, where the so-called „hot-year character” just does not appear, thanks to the favourable distribution of rainfall. In Weststeiermark as well, Schilcher producers are expecting superb quality, similar to that which was so pleasing in the 2011 vintage.
Also in Wien (Vienna) – which this time was spared any destructive hail damage – clusters of loose berries could ripen fully and then be harvested at the optimum point in time. For the city’s specialty Wiener Gemischter Satz, sumptuous wines with fitting acidity are expected, impressive for their deep fruit aromas and intrinsic concentration – true for the more modest categories as well as the grander wines. We are happy to say, without reservation, that this is also the case with Veltliner and Weissburgunder from the Vienna vineyards. The year’s Rieslings from top sites like the Nussberg are resplendent in their intensity of fruit and extraordinarily successful; the more substantial examples also show potential for long and steady development in the cellar. And in the red department, vintage conditions were simply ideal for vinification of powerful and complex, long-lived wines.