The unusual weather conditions during the 2022 growing season certainly put Austrian winemakers through their paces. Initially, it seemed that it would be a very dry year, were it not for the occasional showers of rain – which not always came at the best of times. However, the great dedication and hard work of Austria’s winemakers were recompensed with ripe, well-balanced white wines with a fine display of fruit. The red wines are outstanding, showing power, structure and velvety tannins.
The 2022 vintage was a little more differentiated than 2021, for example, depending on the grape variety, microclimatic conditions and soil characteristics. Overall, however, the wines display a pronounced ripeness, fine fruit and harmonious acidity. With a harvest volume of 2.5 million hectolitres, 2022 is slightly higher than the long-term average (2.4 million hl). Repeated rainfall before the main harvest resulted in a higher harvest volume than was initially expected because of the drought.
Weather conditions in 2022
After a mild winter with very little precipitation, the vegetation initially developed similarly to the way it did in 2021. Budding didn’t occur until the end of April, which is relatively late. As a result, the dreaded late frosts posed no threat. After a long spell of dry weather, the vines blossomed relatively early, brought out by the warmth. In most regions, however, this was accompanied by repeated rainfall, together with the damaging effect that this can have during this sensitive period. Vintners in these wine-growing regions had their hands full, trying to keep the threat of fungal diseases, especially Peronospora, at bay. Coulure, which occurred in certain regions, also had a natural thinning effect on the clusters. Then came the summer months, which brought numerous hot days and, above all, extreme dryness – the likes of which had hardly ever been witnessed before. Naturally, young vines suffered most from these conditions, but so, too, did vines growing on meagre soils, which had to survive without water. Fortunately, there were no severe hailstorms, nor was there any widespread, heavy rain.
However, conditions changed significantly just before the main harvest, around 20 August. Precipitation, which was relatively heavy in some regions, was followed by two more periods of rain before the main harvest. This is not usually a good time for rainfall, but it was welcomed with open arms in most of the wine-growing municipalities. Until then, sugar ripeness was still relatively low, but this rain came at just the right time to trigger a final burst of ripening. At the beginning of September, winemakers suddenly began recording gradations like those in the outstanding 2019 season. Although acidity dropped in comparison to the two previous years, it still corresponded to the levels of 2017 and 2012 – also two very good years for wine. In general, the 2022 growing season had all the makings of another remarkable vintage. However, the unexpected rain meant that winemakers had to tend to their vines quickly to prevent the risk of rot and Botrytis.
These vagaries of the weather caused most grape varieties to ripen almost simultaneously, which also meant that rapid action was needed. As a result, in many wine-growing areas the harvest was completed in record time and already over with by the end of September. Of course, this was not the case for all regions and grape varieties; Riesling, for example, which is primarily grown north of the Danube, was allowed to ripen for as long as necessary on the vine here, although this did result in lower volumes. A beautiful Botrytis was also able to develop in the sweet-wine strongholds alongside Lake Neusiedl, which enabled the production of first-class Prädikatswein. In the run-up to Christmas, certain nights were sufficiently frosty for the highly coveted Eiswein to be harvested in both Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) and Burgenland.
Niederösterreich (Lower Austria): whites with varietal typicity, ripe reds
The weather conditions described above essentially applied to the whole of the region, yet some of the autumnal precipitation in the western part of the Niederösterreich wine-growing regions was heavy, which necessitated a rapid counteractive response. In general, the wineries in Niederösterreich are expected to deliver ripe white wines with fine fruit aromas and a little less acidity than in the previous two years. Dense single-vineyard and Reserve wines could also be produced without complication.
The flagship variety Grüner Veltliner expresses a pronounced varietal typicity, albeit slightly less peppery than usual, as do the surprisingly racy Rieslings and the Pinot family, which has benefited from the season’s conditions. Although the wines have slightly less acidity, there was no reason to fear flat or flabby wines. The undesirable effect of the heat, which was seen in the 2000 and 2003 vintages, as well as in certain wines from 2011 and 2018, was not encountered anywhere, regardless of the region or grape variety.
Aromatic varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Muskateller and Traminer also showed their true colours. This was also the case for regional varieties such as Roter Veltliner in Wagram and Rotgipfler and Zierfandler in the Thermenregion.
Red-wine growers also have reason to be delighted. In the red-wine centres of Carnuntum and the southern Thermenregion, winemakers turned unusually small-berried grapes into powerful reds with good structure and mature tannins. These wines should have a promising future ahead of them.
Several cold nights in December also enabled the rare Eiswein to be harvested.
Burgenland: powerful reds and sweet wines with pronounced fruit
In Burgenland, the precipitation that preceded the harvest was not as pronounced as it was in Niederösterreich and Wien (Vienna), but it was still extremely welcome and benefited the ripening process, which put on the desired spurt here, too. Very dry conditions prevailed, especially in the wine villages alongside Lake Neusiedl. There were no late frosts or hail damage, and winegrowers were ultimately able to harvest very healthy grapes with the desired level of acidity.
The majority of white wines have unusually deep, distinctive notes of fruit and clear varietal characteristics, with Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc having come off particularly well.
The season had all the makings of an outstanding red wine vintage, especially due to the optimal ratio between the flesh and skins of the very small grapes. Furthermore, the main harvest period was accompanied by some very cool nights. Powerful and dense red wines with a fine structure and mature tannins, which have also retained a lot of pigment, can therefore be expected in all red-wine strongholds. This meant that the prerequisites for high-quality rosé wines were likewise met in full.
Repeated rain in late August and early September also provided perfect conditions for the development of noble rot. Botrytis formed slowly and constantly, much to the delight of winegrowers as it ensured a good juice yield and the resulting Prädikatswein was juicy with a pronounced display of fruit. Finally, a few ice-cold December nights enabled an unexpectedly early Eiswein harvest.
Steiermark (Styria): harmonious whites with fine fruit, concise Schilcher
All three wine-growing regions in Steiermark seem to be heading towards a very good vintage – probably one that will frequently be compared to the outstanding 2021 vintage, although they differ slightly. The amount of precipitation was average by Styrian measures. Repeated rain shortly before the main harvest was considered essential here, too, so that grapes could continue developing. However, the grapes needed some picking over as a result. The harvest period was relatively short and, for the most part, already over in September – which is almost unprecedented. The main reason for this was the fact that most grape varieties reached perfect ripeness almost simultaneously.
Sauvignon Blanc, which has now become the flagship variety in Steiermark, is expected to have fared particularly well, but Gelber Muskateller, Morillon (Chardonnays), Pinot Blanc and Welschriesling wines should also satisfy the most discerning palates. High must weights have enabled white wines to develop plenty of juice and strength, while also displaying impressive fineness and structure. All components are in perfect balance from the outset this year, which means that even the young wines are juicy, rounded and harmonious. The rare Traminer variety in Vulkanland also benefited from the very good conditions, while the Schilcher rosé from Weststeiermark displays a clear texture and distinct aromas of red berries.
Wien (Vienna): well-balanced and rounded Gemischter Satz
The Viennese vineyards located on the outskirts of the city (e.g. on the Nußberg, in Grinzing, Neustift as well as on the Bisamberg and in Mauer) produced grapes with good sugar ripeness and lower acidity. After an unusually dry period, the much-needed rain finally arrived in this region, too. This was good for the ripening process, which meant that grapes were harvested a little earlier than the previous year and the harvest was already over by the start of October.
Today’s forecast predicts rounded, well-balanced Wiener Gemischter Satz wines as well as harmonious, fruit-driven Rieslings that will be ready to drink a little earlier than in recent years.
Bergland: ripe wines with early harmony, good PIWI varieties
Wineries in Kärnten (Carinthia) are delighted with an outstanding year, where the climatic conditions were almost identical to those in Südsteiermark. Precipitation also arrived in early September, which meant that it made sense to delay the harvest a while. The grapes reached very high must weights in October, which subsequently led to ripe wines with a deep, fruity mellowness and early harmony. This holds true for all the region’s grape varieties, which means that 2022 could prove to be the best vintage since 2011.
In Oberösterreich (Upper Austria), the blisteringly hot summer and accompanying drought was followed by a cool and humid period in September, which created difficult conditions for winegrowers. However, by meticulously picking over the clusters and harvesting quickly, winegrowers were able to obtain good quality grapes. The trend towards PIWI (fungus-resistant) grape varieties is continuing: Donauriesling and Cabernet Blanc – to name but two – have once again proven that they can deliver good results despite difficult conditions.
Winemakers from Vorarlberg and Tirol (Tyrol) can look back on a thoroughly successful vintage. The autumn precipitation was less pronounced here; the much-needed foehn periods gave the ripening process a final boost and resulted in more than satisfactory must weights. As a result of these favourable conditions, white and red wines produced equally positive results.
Overview of the 2022 vintage
Further information about Austrian vintages from 1992 is available here.
- A dry, mild winter
- Relatively late budding, no damage caused by late frosts
- Early blossoming; repeated rain increased risk of fungal disease
- An extremely hot, dry summer with no extreme weather incidents of note
- End of August: much-needed period of rain brought on a spurt in the ripening process but necessitated a rapid response to protect grapes
- Harvest already complete by the end of September in many regions
- December: frosty nights meant that Eiswein could be harvested in Niederösterreich and Burgenland
- Harvest volume: 2.5 million hl (average: 2.4 million hl)
- Sugar gradation comparable to 2019
- Acidity values similar to 2017 and 2012
- White wine:
- Ripe white wines with fine fruit aromas and slightly less acidity
- Denser single-vineyard and Reserve wines
- Grüner Veltliner with varietal typicity
- Racy Riesling with varietal typicity
- Pinot varieties benefited from the weather conditions
- Superb aromatic varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Muskateller, Traminer) and native Austrian specialities (Roter Veltliner, Rotgipfler, Zierfandler)
- Red wine:
- Powerful, with good structure and mature tannins
- Good future potential
- Sweet wine:
- Eiswein could be harvested in December
- White wine:
- Deep, distinctive fruit notes
- Pronounced varietal characteristics
- Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc fared particularly well
- Red wine:
- Sweet wine:
- Harvest has rarely been completed so early
- Sauvignon Blanc turned out particularly well
- Very good Gelber Muskateller, Morillon (Chardonnay), Pinot Blanc and Welschriesling wines
- Schilcher with distinct texture and concise aromas of red berries
- A thoroughly successful vintage
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