Satisfying results despite problematic weather
This highly positive outcome was by no means a sure thing: Austria’s winegrowers were obliged to do their utmost to cope with capricious weather during 2017. The coldest January in the last thirty years was followed by the warmest March since meteorological records have been kept, resulting in a very early bud-break. With the devastating frosts of 2016 still very fresh in memory, a powerful spate of winter weather caused substantial anxiety in April and parts of May. Fortunately, this cold snap did not persist for long. In addition, Austria’s growers were able to employ all imaginable means at the right time, so that there was hardly any frost damage reported this year.
After very inconsistent weather in the month of May, the first heat wave installed itself over Austria in June, followed almost seamlessly by four more throughout July and August. All the way from southern Burgenland to the Weinviertel, growers struggled with persistent drought conditions. Above all, the young parcels and terraced vineyards that could not be irrigated were substantially affected. This ultimately resulted in reduced harvest volume in some areas – for example in the Weinviertel, which reported a harvest lower than the average figures.
The weather turned for the better in September; this month kept things cool and moist, bringing one week of abundant rain that initially gave winegrowers cause for concern. But it was precisely this precipitation coupled with the cool nighttime temperatures during September and October that contributed significantly to the high quality and satisfying quantity of the 2017 vintage. Under these conditions, the main harvest got underway some two weeks earlier than customary, and continued during the next five weeks with absolutely lovely autumn weather. Growers could easily choose their own optimum harvesttime, so that very ripe and fully healthy clusters found their way into Austria’s cellars.
Opulent and fruit-forward: The white wines of 2017
The precipitation in September and the relatively dramatic temperature-swings between day and night in the autumn had an appreciably positive influence on the development of aromas. Even from the initial tastings, it could be established with satisfaction that the heat-stress of the summer had left no negative traces in the young wines. The white wines are lively, fruit-driven and varietally typical. Analyses find acid levels in Niederösterreich’s leading variety Grüner Veltliner to be somewhat attenuated, but this is hardly apparent to sensory examination, and most of the GVs are characterised by a profound spiciness. Rieslings are remarkable for their racy acidic structure supporting a powerful presence: wines predestined for long-term development and aging. Despite advanced ripeness, Sauvignon Blancs project the desirable varietal attributes, which can also be said for Weissburgunder and Chardonnay. Two rather special varieties turned out so well as hardly ever before in 2017: the rare Roter Veltliner and the still-fashionable Gelber Muskateller. All in all, outstanding quality in the white wines can be reported, best compared with the more powerful expressions of 2013, and in some areas even with 2007 or 2006.
Excellent year for red wines
In Burgenland’s red wine centres and in the red-producing enclaves of Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), the mood with regard to the quality of the 2017 reds is nothing short of euphoric. Advanced ripeness of the grapes led to development of deep, dark-berry aromas and fully ripened, velvety tannins. This happy summary is true of all red wine regions and grape varieties: the moody divas Sankt Laurent and Pinot Noir turned out just as magnificently as the globetrotters Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah – not to forget Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt. Concentrated, vibrant and elegantly structured red wines are maturing comfortably in the cellars. In general, the promising red wine vintage 2017 can be readily compared with 2015 and 2009, and can put even a bit more on the table in terms of fruit aromas.
Where Prädikatswein is concerned, the botrytis that developed in 2017 made for impressive nobly sweet wines, in greater volume than 2016. The only downside was that Eiswein could only be harvested in isolated instances.