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The Vinicultural Year and Vintage 2002

The beginning of this otherwise capricious year was unspectacular. A mild, dry winter was followed by an amiable and equally dry spring marked by several warm, sunny days as early as March and April. The resulting early budding and flowering at the end of May was unproblematic. After several very hot days in June, which remained the warmest of the entire year, a variable July followed.

This picture shows grapes
© Austrian Wine/ committee Weinviertel, Haiden Baumann

Continued warm weather interspersed with thundershowers brought a lead in fruit maturity that appeared to rival that of the hot 2000 vintage. The flooding catastrophes of August caused an abrupt change and the threat of rot required urgent attention from vintners in vineyards all over Austria. Certain parts of the wine areas Wachau, Kamptal, and Kremstal suffered disastrous damage from the tremendous precipitation volume during the second and third week of August.

Some wet, variable weather continued in September, but precipitation was distributed among the wine areas unevenly. While the weather in Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland (central and south Burgenland) was predominantly pleasant, Donauland and Wien (Vienna) continued to suffer from rain. Although October began warm and dry, rain soon set in once again and often delayed harvest until mid-November with the exception of a few ideal black grape vineyards around Lake Neusiedl and Steinfeld. The entire harvest stretched over an exceptionally long time period.

Considering all the pranks of the weather, the wine quality shows quite encouraging results. A good to very good year has been announced for the producers of quality wines. Equally surprising is that this appears to be true for all three major sectors of Austrian wine: dry white and red wines as well as the sweet wines. This result can be attributed only to the pedantic work in the vineyards. All rotting or acetic berries and bunches were cut away starting in July. The result is logically a reduced harvest volume.

The dry white wines show high sugar-free dry extract, exceeding that of the very different previous 2001 and 2000 vintages. The structure of the refreshing, racy acidity is similar to that of the 1999 and 2001 vintages. Primary fruit and varietal character are clearly expressed in the young wines and seem to be best exemplified in the typical Sauvignons from Steiermark (Styria) and the spicy, peppery Grüner Veltliners of Niederösterreich (Lower Austria). The best Rieslings and Chardonnays convince even the most discerning palates. Whether or not the quality of the vintage can truly be classified between that of 1999 and 2001 can only be decided by the development of the wines once bottled.

A considerable volume of noble sweet wines could be produced because of the early development of botrytis. Tasted during the last stages of their fermentation, these wines can be expected to have good tension and a piquant play of acidity.

Enthusiasts of Austrian red wine will be thrilled to know that they can anticipate an unexpected pinnacle. The quality level of the 1999 vintage was not only achieved, but also in some cases exceeded. The very best growths were even able to equal the 2000 vintage. The reds show good depth of color and even at this early stage show intensive fruit and a relatively soft tannic structure. Particularly exciting are the Blaufränkisch wines of Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland (central and south Burgenland) which show such marked character and depth of fruit that there are hopes of these wines exceeding the excellent quality of the 2000 vintage. Excellent balance is distinctly apparent.

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