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Austrian Winemakers Expect Smaller, High Quality 2012 Harvest

Earlier this year, frosts and hailstorms caused millions of euros worth of damages. Josef Pleil, president of the Austrian Winegrowers' Association (Österreichischer Weinbauverband) and vice president of the Provincial Chamber of Agriculture of Lower Austria (Landwirtschaftskammer Niederösterreich) stated: “Because of the severe natural events, such as the Winter frost, the late frosts and massive hailstorms that occurred this year in all of the wine-growing areas, we are predicting that the harvest will yield a below-average volume - between 2 and 2.2 million hectoliters. In the vineyards that were unaffected by the natural disasters, grapes of especially high quality - based on the present state of vegetation - can be expected.”

A picture shows the wine harvest in Austria, Copyright AWMB, Committee Kamptal
Wine Harvest, © Austrian Wine / Committee Kamptal

High Grape Quality

According to Josef Pleil: “Where there was no damage by frost or hail, a grape harvest of exceptional quality can be counted on. The rapid bud break, the dry conditions in Spring - and finally enough rain - and then the Summer heat all have been responsible for the well-advanced vegetation, especially compared with the harvests of previous years, even the early harvest of 2011.
Because of the earlier ripening of the grapes, it is anticipated that the harvest will begin very early this year in the first week of September. In the Seewinkel, in Burgenland, picking of the early varieties, which are mainly used for sturm, is already in progress. If there are no massive changes in the weather, we can expect that the 2012 vintage - like any early hot and dry vintage - will deliver wines that express full ripeness and are characterized by higher alcohol content and lower acidity.”

Major Frost Damage

A Winter frost and late May frosts were significantly problematic for the wine growing sector. Major damage was caused especially by the late frost throughout the night of May 17th -18th, with temperatures dipping to -5° Celsius. The northern Weinviertel (around the Pulkautal region) and other parts of Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) as well as northern and central Burgenland were affected.  Altogether, more than 6,000 hectares of vineyards suffered from frost damage; of these, 4,000 ha were a total loss. According to the  Österreichische Hagelversicherung (Austrian Hail Insurance), damages from the frosts have been put at approximately € 14 million.

Also Heavy Hail Damage

The vineyard soils had very low moister in Winter due to the lack of rainfall – so the heavy rains in the early Summer were most welcome. Unfortunately, there were heavy storms as well – with massive hail damage in many vineyard areas. Of particular note was the early hail on May 5th in the Thermenregion in Niederösterreich, where damage to the young buds was quite severe. Other damaging hailstorms occurred on July 5th in the Mittelburgenland and on July 19th in the Poysdorf area of the Weinviertel. Several other hail storms were recorded in the Steiermark (Styria). According to the Österreichische Hagelversicherung, the costs from hail damage amount to more than € 8 million.

Further Information

Austrian Winegrowers Association:
Josef Glatt MBA, Tel: +43 1 534 41 85 53; j.glatt@lk-oe.at

Provincial Chamber of Agriculture press office:
Josef Siffert, Tel: +43 1 534 41 85 21; j.siffert@lk-oe.at

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