High expectations of this year’s vintage – a slightly lower must yield anticipated due to the dry summer – current level of ripening very satisfying
The president of the Austrian Winegrowers’ Association Johannes Schmuckenschlager sees the 2022 vintage as promising, albeit with a somewhat lower harvest volume, in a season that has been challenging in terms of both climate and costs. “Austria’s winegrowers are already busily preparing for this year’s wine harvest. In places where grapes typically ripen earlier, such as the Seewinkel in Burgenland, harvesting has already begun. Due to the weather conditions, the harvest has begun slightly earlier than last year. In the best-case scenario, we can expect wine volumes to match the average of previous years at around 2.4 million hectolitres,” said Schmuckenschlager at a press conference in Vienna last Friday.
However, it is difficult to give a precise prediction for this year as the proportion of juice in the grapes is slightly lower due to the dry weather. The situation could, nevertheless, still improve significantly in regions where rain has fallen, or is due to fall. “After a period of economic turbulence due to the Coronavirus, our winegrowers are looking back on a year of strong wine sales. This is also a reason why they are hopeful about the promising 2022 vintage. However, winemakers are concerned about the massive increases in production costs, especially in relation to energy and packaging materials,” explained the president of the Winegrowers’ Association.
Vines needed extra care due to weather conditions in 2022
“The weather conditions in 2022 were challenging for a variety of reasons. Spring saw cool phases alternating with periods of warmth, but it was too dry overall. Budding took place relatively late again this year, towards the end of April. However, this is definitely a positive factor in terms of the risk of late frosts, which normally persist until mid-May. Thanks to the warm weather, the vines blossomed relatively early. And then came the long-awaited precipitation, which roughly coincided with the period that the vines were blossoming. As this is a very delicate stage in the growth cycle, the rain resulted in a higher risk of fungal attack. In order to avoid damage, the winegrowers had to take extra special care of their vines,” Schmuckenschlager reports. “In July and August, by contrast, the vines had to cope with extreme drought. A lack of rain and temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius constituted a considerable challenge for the vines. In young vineyards in particular, wine-growing families had to cut back the number of grapes in order to reduce the stress on the vines. Irrigation systems really proved necessary this year. Luckily, hail and heavy rain only occurred in particular areas or in isolated cases.”
Harmonious wines expected, some particularly fuller-bodied
“Just when most vineyards were reaching their limits due to the lack of rain, the much-awaited precipitation arrived at the end of August. The resulting humidity in the soil means that the ripening of the grapes is now progressing rapidly. Overall, however, the high summer temperatures throughout mean that the sugar content in the grapes is already relatively advanced. A comparison of the parameters for the ripening process interestingly results in a similar curve to the one that we saw for the exceptional vintage of 2019. However, choosing the right time for the white wine harvest will rely heavily on the winegrowers’ finely honed instincts. Expectations are running especially high when it comes to red wines, as the fact that the berries are on the smaller side means we can expect correspondingly dense, intensely coloured wines,” predicts the president of the Winegrowers’ Association confidently.
Average harvest volumes, yet harvesting at the right time is key
“In the best-case scenario, we can expect an average harvest volume. Based on estimates from the individual wine-growing regions, we can reckon on 2.4 million hectolitres. The fruit set was good everywhere, but the dry weather means the berries have remained on the small side and we will therefore get a lower juice yield than in other years. The point at which they are harvested will be key to producing harmonious and fruity wines,” says Schmuckenschlager. “In the wine-growing regions around Lake Neusiedl, especially in the Seewinkel area, this year’s harvest is already underway. In most other regions, the harvest will start in mid-September – except in the case of early harvesting to produce grape juice and Sturm (partially fermented grape must). The main harvest will take place in the second half of September and early October in most regions,” was the forecast from the president of the Winegrowers’ Association.
High expectations regarding grape prices
“The high level of demand for Austrian wine both at home and abroad is also reflected in the heightened interest from buyers in the grape market. As a result, it should be possible to cover the higher costs involved in production. There has not been any significant dislocation on the wine market because of the diversity of players, which range from small estates to large wineries. The additional costs will also be passed on, but we do not anticipate any extreme, speculative increases or doubling of prices like we are seeing in other areas. Austrian wine-growing families are continuing to produce wine despite the difficult current situation and remain reliable partners for the wine trade. This is why I’m confident that there won’t be any pressure on grape prices this year,” says Schmuckenschlager.