The Austrian Wine sector enjoyed a positive year in 2010 despite the difficult market conditions. The low harvest volume in 2009 resulted in a sharp drop in Austrian barrel wine exports in 2010. However, exports of bottled wine continued on a successful course and reached the highest ever price average of more than € 2 per liter. And this trend is expected to continue because of the small harvest again last year – probably the smallest since the frost vintage of 1985. Because of the quantity shortage, a fall in export revenues is expected for this year.

Wine Export Revenues Again Reach a Record Level

The small wine harvest in 2009 had a significant impact on wine exports in 2010. According to  Statistik Austria export figures for January-October 2010 and projections from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB), there was a sharp decrease in exports of barrel wine (quantity: – 44%;  value: –34%). At the same time, the high quality bottled wine exports showed a positive development with a 10% increase in volume and a 9% value increase. Overall, the AWMB is predicting that the export volume will total 60 million liters (-13.7%) with a record export value of € 122 million (+ 2.6%).

“The share of the bottled wine exports increased to 91 percent, which is an essentially important development for the domestic wine sector,” said Willi Klinger, general manager of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. “And with this, we reached for the first time ever an average price of more than € 2 per liter.”

The strategic goal of the AWMB, to convert – over the long term – the cheap barrel wine exports into the sustainable export of bottled wines with a higher added value for the winemakers, seems to be partly reached.  But Willi Klinger is not yet satisfied.

“Our bottled wines have been showing a continuous upward trend for ten years now,” stated Klinger.  “And the average price has risen continuously as well. So our goal for the next three years must be to further increase the exports of bottled wine. Overall, we think that, theoretically, an export value of

€ 142-148 million is possible.”

Germany remains the most important export market (for January-October : volume -7.3%; value +4,4%), and is followed by Switzerland – including Liechtenstein (for January-October: volume –1.1%; value – 1.2%); the USA (for January-October: volume +9.5%; value +9,8%); the Netherlands (for January-October: volume:+19.3%; value +15.5%) and Sweden (for January-October: volume +6,8%; value +4.6%). Of strategic importance for the Austrian wine sector and for Europe overall are the development and building up of new markets outside the European Union –  for example, Russia, China and Singapore, because high added value in these markets is expected. The European Union has been supporting, for two years so far, the high costs for opening these markets by promoting exports in countries outside of the EU.

Low Volume Wine Harvest in 2010 Will Dampen Exports

The wine harvest of 2010 delivered – according to Statistik Austria – an estimated harvest volume of approximately 1.76 million liters (a decrease of 30% on average), which will put a damper on wine exports this year. “This vintage was difficult from the beginning,” explained Josef Pleil, president of the Austrian Viticulture Association  (Österreichischer Weinbauverband). “Besides the frost damage, it was very cold and rainy during the flowering. And the result was, in general, low fruit set. Also, because of the ongoing rain practically throughout the entire year, high infection was a primary concern, and this demanded the utmost skill from the winemakers for obtaining healthy, ripe grapes.”

Some of the lowest harvest volumes in Austrian history were recorded especially in the Niederösterreich, Burgenland and Vienna wine-growing areas. Based on a five-year average,     Niederösterreich experienced a volume drop of 32%; Burgenland, a drop of 27%; and Vienna, down 30%. The Steiermark registered a decrease of “only” around 12%.

“For the time being, the estimates from Statistik Austria are very cautious,” commented Pleil about the situation. “It seems that we could have decreases of up to 40%.”

Despite the difficult vegetation, the quality of Austrian wines is very pleasing. The 2010 vintage presents a special fruitiness and freshness.