Austria’s 2009 Vintage – The Rule of 9 Series

(Ingezonden persbericht)

It’s almost eerie – the 9 series! The legendary Austrian “9er” vintages certainly live up to their reputation even in the new millennium.

It began in 1959 – the vintage that nature gave an outstanding performance in Austria (and in many other wine countries of Europe). Magnificent white wines and especially sweet wines are still living proof of the vintage’s legendary reputation. But a decade later – in 1969 – nature went even further. The most opulent Botrytis vintage of the century delivered a bountiful harvest of the highest Prädikat wines, catapulting Austria to fame as a sweet wine producer even outside the borders of the country.

The 1979 vintage was an all-rounder. Not only were there great white wines, but for the first time, there were “real” red wines with depth and noble structure, plus there were elegant sweet wines as well.  With the 1989 vintage, the noble sweet theme was again a focus, while 1999 went full circle with white, red and sweet all glowing with the highest quality.

Such an imposing series couldn’t simply come to an end. In fact, it has continued: although it is early on in the game, it can be said that the high expectations for the 2009 vintage have been met.

Topsy Turvy Weather

Statistically, the Winter was rather average. However, some “warm periods” were followed by icy, cold phases. There certainly was no lack of moisture. Spring had some of it as well. According to meteorological statistics, March was the wettest on record. This meant that the other extreme was needed in April: dry and warm was the capricious messenger of Spring. Therefore, it was understandable that the so-called “merry month of May” didn’t live up to its name. Much too cool and rainy, it gave in to the moods of nature. In some areas for the first time, hail brought on an unwanted thinning effect.

Early Flowering – Early Harvest

As the old farmer’s saying goes: there are 100 days from flowering to harvest. Because flowering in some areas began already at the end of May, an early harvest could be anticipated as well.  However, in some regions, the flowering period was hampered by cool weather, leading to inadequate fertilization and couloure problems.

Summer of Extremes

“To grow wine and grain, in June there must be rain.”

In the east of the country, more rain had fallen in 48 hours than what usually falls during the entire month. And in the Steiermark, even hailstorms raged. June did its best to deliver higher amounts of rain along with other mischievous weather. Floods and landslides were the result of the record rainfall.

The grapevine needs a certain amount of moisture during the vegetation period. But in 2009, the weather conditions were too extreme. Also July was marked by fluctuations between (short) hot periods and disaster alarms. In particular, the “end-of-the-world storm” on July 23rd will be long-remembered by many. The Summer of 2009 in Austria can be summed up: never before were the fire brigades called so often; never before did hail insurance record so much damage. It was a Summer of extremes – with storms, floods and mudslides, record lightning and hot tropical-like conditions. Indeed, these did not define average. “Much too wet and distinctly too warm,” the meteorologists noted dryly.

Fall Atonement – with Ripeness, Fruit and Plenty of Aromas

As if nature wanted to make up for the vegetation complications, the weather in September and even in the beginning of October, showed mostly its best sides. The beautiful Indian Summer conditions allowed the juice in the grapes to concentrate in a natural way.

In some areas, there were rain intermezzos; any rotten grapes had to be sorted out carefully during the harvest. Hot days and cool nights were ideal for Austria’s showcase varieties, ensuring that their characteristic aromas and flavours were preserved in the grapes. Although hot, late Summer temperatures reached up to 28 °C, there still was a race with the weather – those who did not finish harvesting by October 8th had to battle an early winter with snow, rain and wind.

Superb Quality in White, Red and Sweet

The white wines of the 2009 vintage express a perfect combination of ripeness, abundance of fruitiness, complexity and optimal structure. Careful selection of the red varieties is always a given, and this selection work in the vineyard as well as in the press house was necessary for obtaining top qualities. Additionally, the picture book Fall made it possible to unite concentrated colour and fruit with extract sweetness, tannins and density.

Also the sweet wine specialists did not come up short this year. Rainfalls at the right times allowed for ideal outbreaks of Botrytis, with the warmer temperatures during the second half of October adding quantity to quality. From Spätlese to Trockenbeerenauslese, each Prädikat wine wish could be fulfilled. Even ice winemakers were made happy with their holiday gift: an intense frost period before Christmas, and not only in the ice wine mecca of Grossriedenthal. Although the overall quantity was not that large, absolutely great quality was brought to the cellars.

Small, but Fine

At the end of December, the total harvest quantity was estimated at approximately 2.1 – 2.3 million hectoliters. While the official result will be announced by Statistik Austria no earlier than the end of February, the present estimate is distinctly below the long-term average. Nevertheless, we have been compensated with the best quality. Wines with structure and character, fruit and finesse, and ripeness and piquancy ensure that 2009 will take its place amongst the legendary Austrian “9er” vintages


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