Austria evaluates one of the earliest harvests on record

Friday, 8. March 2019 - 12:45

Kremstal Gaisberg (ÖWM/Marcus Wiesner)

Austria’s 2018 harvest—the earliest in the modern era—has produced a bumper crop, despite the challenging conditions.

“Following a warm January, February and March,” conditions were very cool and vines budded late, according to a statement from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. “One positive effect of this is the fortunate fact that late frosts, like those which occurred in the previous two years, did not threaten the vineyards in 2018.”

Austrian winegrowers faced the second-warmest spring on record, which led to early flowering. The summer was also dry and hot. This stressed the vines, particularly those growing in places such as terraces, where irrigation wasn’t possible.

The hot, dry weather resulted in the earliest harvest in memory, with Burgenland submitting its first Qualitätswein to federal inspection on 2 August. To complicate matters, heavy rain fell on many of Austria’s wine regions at the start of autumn, though the rest of September and October was mild and sunny. The appearance of botrytis resulted in intensive selection, which led to “significant losses of volume in many Riesling vineyards” in lower Austria.

The results?

According to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, the 2018 “white wines exhibit a high degree of maturity” and harvest volume is “well above the long-term average” despite the weather.

“Happily, it can already be predicted that the grand white wines will show no ‘hot spots’ in their makeup, despite the unusually warm weather during the vegetation cycle,” says the report. “Learning from the experience of recent particularly hot years, Austria’s top wine growers were able to hold off the dreaded sunburn and resulting tannin overload through meticulous vineyard work.”

As for reds, they are looking good. “There is euphoria all the way around among Austria’s red wine producers,” says the report.