Persistent rain and fewer hours of sunshine during the first weeks of September have left Austrian winemakers with even more work to do in the vineyards. The harvest volume estimate of 2.5 million hl made at the end of August can no longer be expected.
Austrian winemakers’ hopes for an Indian Summer so far have not been fulfilled. Above-average quantities of rainfall in all of Austria’s wine regions during the first half of September – for example, in Steiermark, 300 ml more than in 2013 – increased the chances of rot in the vineyards even further. For the most part, the harvesting of early-ripening varieties such as Müller Thurgau, Frühroter Veltliner, Neuburger, Blauer Portugieser, Muskat Ottonel and Muskateller has been completed. So far, the sugar-ripeness of the grapes is distinctly lower than levels reached in the previous few years, because the hours of sunlight have been – in contrast to the amounts of rainfall – lower than average. According to many winemakers, the grapes still hanging on the vines will likely require a higher level of care and effort than is taken in normal years. Any unclean grapes must be cut from the vines before the harvest or else have to be meticulously sorted out following the picking so that no off-flavours make their way into themust and, later, in the wine. Before the main grape variety, Grüner Veltliner, is harvested, vintners are waiting for higher sugargradations to be reached. Blauer Zweigelt with satisfactory ripeness levels has been picked already in some wine growing areas of Burgenland. Due to occurrences of coulure (bad fertilization), some Blaufränkisch clusters are featuring looser berries – which ultimately can be beneficial. And until now, Sauvignon Blanc is yielding good ripeness, and the harvesting of this variety will take place in the next weeks.
Presently there is no firm estimate of the total harvest volume for 2014, but it will likely be lower than the 2.5 million hl estimate made at the end of August. The motto now in the Austrian wine regions is clear: “wait – and sort out.”
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