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Austrian grape harvest smallest in 25 years

Published:  10 November, 2010

This year's grape harvest in Austria is the smallest in 25 years, according to Austrian Wine's general manager, Willi Klinger.

The harvest is normally around 2.5 million hectolitres, but this year it has fallen to 1.7 million hl. "It is quite a concern for us," said Klinger.

There were particularly high losses in Niederösterreich, or Lower Austria, where the Weinviertel wine-growing area delivered an almost 25% drop in quantity.

The weather conditions proved challenging for Austria's winemakers - winter swung between cold and unseasonably warm, while April brought flooding to the wine-growing areas. Rain and cold during the flowering period in June caused problems with pollination and fruit set. Flowering was two weeks later than in the previous year - though it still was considered a "normal" flowering period. While there was relatively dry weather until the end of July, rain throughout August marked the rest of the vegetation period, resulting in a higher infection rate. To top it all, October's wet weather further complicated the harvest.

In Burgenland experts predicted a 40% lower than average crop, while Steiermark's crop increased on last year, but remained below average. According to viticulture director Werner Luttenberger, a total volume of 170,000 hectolitres would likely be harvested in the region. With this amount, and based on per capita wine consumption in the Steiermark, cellars in the region would be empty within six months.

But, he said, if the volume doesn't quite fulfill expectations - the quality of the vintage certainly will. The wines should be very fresh, have exceptional fruitiness and sufficient alcohol. According to Luttenberger, the acidity will be "crisper than in the previous years".

This year's early harvest time has meant wines will have moderate alcohol levels.