2019 – EXCELLENT VINTAGE
UNSTABLE WEATHER IN SPRINGTIME, HOT SUMMER & MILD AUTUMN
The warm winter of 2019, with its meagre precipitation – not much of a winter at all, actually – was followed by an inconsistent spring: April was again very warm, while the coldest May since 1991 brought a great deal of rain and retarded the development of the vines; fortunately there were no late frosts anywhere to damage the prospects. In retrospect, this wet period figured undoubtedly as a stroke of luck because it made a decisive contribution to ensuring that the vines and clusters survived the torrid summer months unscathed. Ultimately, it also contributed to a noticeably different sort of aromaticity than in the previous vegetation cycle, in which this ‘water reservoir’ was not available. The vines blossomed at a normal time and under favourable weather conditions, so that any losses due to coulure fell within narrow limits.
Summer got under way with the warmest and driest June since temperatures began to be recorded, and continued with a July and an August that were almost as hot, although the heat waves were not as extreme as in 2017 and 2018. Thankfully, there was no hail damage.
With the end of August a cooler period began, which above all brought with it pleasantly mild nocturnal temperatures, which also exerted positive effects on the fruit aromas and acidic structure of the wines. Autumn continued very mild and consistent, so that the primary harvest could be conducted according to plan and in an unhurried fashion, especially since there was no more significant rainfall. The grape material achieved full ripeness in all winegrowing regions and displayed the picture of perfect health, since hardly any fungal infections or development of rot had occurred, thanks to the summer’s high temperatures.
2020 – CLASSIC VINTAGE
A CHALLENGING, YET REWARDING YEAR
2020 will be remembered as a growing season of opposites, in which rain followed sun and cold followed warmth. Combined with the specific features of the regions, this called for a great deal of intuition and patience from winegrowers. And they have been rewarded – invigoratingly fresh whites, finely balanced reds and some sweet rarities.
Fresh, aromatic, lighter white wines with a vibrant structure are emerging this year. In other words, a classic “Central Europe” vintage. The picture is a little more nuanced for red wines, as high physiological grape ripeness in some red wine heartlands is raising hopes for very high quality with moderate alcohol content.
After a dry winter that barely earned its name, some areas experienced a slight delay in budding. A very warm and sunny April did little to accelerate development as it was accompanied in many places by extreme dryness that lasted for weeks. A few frosty nights caused damage in inconvenient locations but overall, this was insignificant. May saw great amounts of rainfall, and June was also very damp and changeable. Flowering occurred at the usual average time and was generally unproblematic, although there was occasional coulure in some grape varieties.
A good old-fashioned summer followed, characterised by alternating sunny and rainy periods, with neither long heatwaves nor temperature spikes. In any case, the frequent precipitation led to strong plant growth and high disease pressure, so careful pruning work and good aeration of the grape zone were important to combat the spread of fungal diseases. By mid-August, the vineyards were in very good shape.
September was also a month of contrasts. On the one hand, there were as many sunshine hours as in a summer month and equally high daytime temperatures; on the other hand, many places saw prolonged heavy rain towards the end of the month with record precipitation levels. Winemakers had quite a job on their hands to keep their grapes healthy in the warm, damp weather. Relatively low night-time temperatures had a positive effect on aroma formation and acidity. The main harvest began in early September and mainly continued in very good conditions until late October. Meticulous selection and the associated cost-intensive harvesting process was required.
2021 – A DREAM VINTAGE FOR CENTRAL EUROPE
AN INDIAN SUMMER RAISED EXPECTATIONS
After a winter that saw less precipitation than usual, spring kept us all waiting. April was cool and much too dry, while a gloomy, wet May was far from the traditionally expected warmer weather. However, it did at least bring with it the much-awaited precipitation, even if the amount varied considerably from one region to the other. This naturally delayed bud burst and flowering, which, however, was not without its benefits. Unlike the wine-growing countries to the south and west of the main Alpine ridge, Central Europe did not fall victim to late frosts.
June finally ushered in some sunshine and warmth.
Apart from the localised incidences of hail, July was the type of summer month that dreams are made of, but even this gave way to a dull, rainy and cool August. Thankfully, right on cue on 1 September, the weather took a sudden turn for the better. A bright, sunny phase took hold, lasting six whole weeks with only two days of rain. By the middle of September, the nights had already turned cool, which meant that there was a marked difference between daytime and night-time temperatures. This promoted the formation of outstanding aromas in the white wines and vitality in the reds. A period of föhn winds followed at the end of October, ensuring a final burst of ripening for the vineyards north of the Danube.
Oidium, Peronospora and unwanted Botrytis cinerea didn’t stand a chance against these perfect conditions, and in some regions, veteran winegrowers reported having never before seen such beautiful, completely healthy grapes at harvest.
2022 – GREAT QUALITY
GREAT QUALITY AFTER A CHALLENGING YEAR, EXTREME DRYNESS
After a mild winter with very little precipitation, the vegetation initially developed similarly to the way it did in 2021. Budding didn’t occur until the end of April, which is relatively late. As a result, the dreaded late frosts posed no threat. After a long spell of dry weather, the vines blossomed relatively early, brought out by the warmth. In most regions, however, this was accompanied by repeated rainfall, together with the damaging effect that this can have during this sensitive period. Vintners in these wine-growing regions had their hands full, trying to keep the threat of fungal diseases, especially Peronospora, at bay. Coulure, which occurred in certain regions, also had a natural thinning effect on the clusters. Then came the summer months, which brought numerous hot days and, above all, extreme dryness – the likes of which had hardly ever been witnessed before. Naturally, young vines suffered most from these conditions, but so, too, did vines growing on meagre soils, which had to survive without water. Fortunately, there were no severe hailstorms, nor was there any widespread, heavy rain.
However, conditions changed significantly just before the main harvest, around 20 August. Precipitation, which was relatively heavy in some regions, was followed by two more periods of rain before the main harvest. This is not usually a good time for rainfall, but it was welcomed with open arms in most of the wine-growing municipalities. Until then, sugar ripeness was still relatively low, but this rain came at just the right time to trigger a final burst of ripening. At the beginning of September, winemakers suddenly began recording gradations like those in the outstanding 2019 season. Although acidity dropped in comparison to the two previous years, it still corresponded to the levels of 2017 and 2012 – also two very good years for wine. In general, the 2022 growing season had all the makings of another remarkable vintage. However, the unexpected rain meant that winemakers had to tend to their vines quickly to prevent the risk of rot and Botrytis.
These vagaries of the weather caused most grape varieties to ripen almost simultaneously, which also meant that rapid action was needed. As a result, in many wine-growing areas the harvest was completed in record time and already over with by the end of September.