Austria 2016: uncommon quality?

Traisental vineyard

See also Aged Austrians for notes on mature Grüners and Rieslings back to 1995. 

With the 2016 European grape harvest now picked (save perhaps a few crops destined for Eiswein), official reports of quality and quantity have started to be released. Austria's ever-efficient Wine Marketing Board is one of the first to paint a picture of the vintage, and it is as pretty as the Traisental vineyard photograph they also supplied. 

The style of 2016 Austrian wine is described as 'outstanding quality, characterised by particularly delicate fruit-driven aromatics and fresh acidity'. This soundbite implies a cooler than average year, but this seems only partially the case. Indeed, winter was fairly mild and spring had some hot spells, reaching 27 ºC (81 ºF) in some places in early April. However, a cold snap followed, bringing frost and even some snow to Steiermark and Burgenland. This is the first cause of the other theme of Austria in 2016 – reduced yields.

Like Burgundy, frost was followed by hail. This was catastrophic for Steiermark in particular, where yields are only one-fifth of the expected average. Other vineyard regions were more fortunate in avoiding this bad weather, with Niederösterreich actually reporting yields 20% higher than usual – but then rain throughout the summer caused widespread downy mildew, 'so that both winegrowers working conventionally and those working organically were equally challenged in matters of vineyard management'.

In late summer and early autumn, the weather was generally more kind across the country, providing warm days and cool nights to allow sufficient flavour development while preserving all-important acidity. Alcohol levels are reportedly moderate, and the mention of 'pleasant and enjoyable drinkability' suggests that this vintage is perhaps not destined for long-term maturation, even though quality levels are high.