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Austrian 2020 vintage

A challenging, yet rewarding year

The 2020 vintage 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 – we can expect some invigoratingly fresh whites, finely balanced reds and some sweet rarities.

Despite the 2020 growing season varying significantly between the individual winegrowing regions, fresh, aromatic, lighter white wines with a vibrant structure are emerging this year. In other words, a classic “Austrian” 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.

 

EVER-CHANGING WEATHER CONDITIONS

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. However, some regions then saw localised hailstorms, which caused serious damage in certain areas of the Wachau, Kremstal and Traisental; some viticultural towns in Burgenland and Steiermark were also affected.

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. Even outside the winegrowing regions affected by hail, meticulous selection and the associated cost-intensive harvesting process was required.

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