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Austria set for small 2013 harvest after extreme weather

Austria's vineyards are facing their fourth consecutive small harvest in 2013, thanks to a combination of hail, drought and poor weather during flowering.

The Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) said this year’s crop was expected to deliver 2.4m hectolitres of wine, more than 10% up on last year’s frost-hit vintage, but still slightly below average.

Flagship variety Grüner Veltliner was particularly badly impacted by fertilisation problems – known as coulure or ‘shatter’ – thanks to a ‘drastic’ weather change from heat to cold and wet conditions during flowering.

Regions along the Danube river were worst affected, including the Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal, plus some parts of the Weinviertel and other isolated regions.

The AWMB added that vineyards have been ‘bombarded’ by hail throughout the year, with one storm on May 4th causing severe damage to vines in Mittelburgenland, the heartland of the Blaufränkisch grape.

By late August, some 2,500 hectares of vineyards had suffered hail damage costing about €5m – 1,200ha in Niederösterreich (lower Austria), 1,100ha in Burgenland and 200ha in Steiermark (Styria).

With the main harvest set to begin this week in Burgenland and in early October for Niederösterreich and Steiermark, the AWMB said very ripe grapes are expected, thanks to high temperatures during July and August.

But it warned, ‘many young vineyard sites with shallow, permeable soils have suffered greatly because of the prolonged summer heat and drought conditions.

‘Fortunately, the rainfall in the last days of August has been extremely important for the continuity of the rapid grape ripening process.’

Written by Richard Woodard

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