A growing season that presented enormous challenges also harbored opportunities, on which Austria’s top practitioners of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling capitalized to make sleek, invitingly fragrant wines of intricacy, charm and alcoholic moderation. The best are often more exciting than their 2015 counterparts.
Germany, featured, Austria
The weather extremes experienced in so many recent vintages have been accompanied increasingly by years featuring remarkably similar meteorological and growing patterns that stretch from the Mosel to parts of Austria nearly 400 flight miles distant. In the end, ironically, the drama that preceded it led to a 2016 Riesling harvest as stress-free as many Austrian and German growers could recall, and to grapes whose very gradual ripening and modest eventual must weights would have seemed more familiar to growers of the mid-20th century.
Germany, featured, Austria
It seems as though the climatic changes that help explain so many 21st century Riesling growing seasons of unprecedented extremes in weather are having this additional effect: For the third year in a row, in 2017 one can characterize the growing season for Riesling in Bernkastel on the Mosel in very similar terms to that in Krems on the Danube, exactly 400 crow-flying miles distant.
Two thousand-fifteen, a stress-free vintage for growers, overflows with generous, lovely wines that belie mid-summer drought and record-setting heat.
At several stages, the 2014 growing season in Austria’s Riesling and Grüner Veltliner-dominated growing regions offered a near mirror image of conditions in 2013. Yet, meteorological opposites though they often seem when viewed on a month-by-month basis, each ended-up delivering wines comparatively high in dry extract, pronounced in acidity and low in alcohol. The deviations from the norm in 2014, though, were extreme. And only very selectively could growers achieve ripeness and depth of flavor—not to mention aromatic and textural allure—that could be compared with the norms of downright sensational 2013.
Despite a growing season marked by a dry summer that was statistically among the five hottest of the last century, Austria’s 2013 Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners display exceptionally bright acidity, clear flavor definition and uncanny complexity.
I found growers in high sprits when discussing their 2013s. After extremely low yields in both 2012 and 2010 caused commercial difficulties for many estates, the more bountiful 2013 also brought relief in terms of production levels. Given that 2014 will again be very short in volume and largely mediocre in quality, consumers should carefully scout the available selection of 2013s at their local wine shops in order to buy the best bottles while they are still to be found.
Although he prefers cooler vintages, Lucas Pichler from Oberloiben in the Wachau is pleased with 2012
Verticals & Retrospectives, Austria
Listening to Gerhard Kracher talk about his family can only be described as emotional. Kracher’s grandfather, Alois Sr., was chronically undernourished and was thus mistaken for a boy and spared by the Nazis during World War II. Kracher’s father, Alois Jr. ‘Luis’, was one of the most beloved figures in the world of wine. Luis Kracher put his estate on the map with a series of stunningly beautiful and rich dessert wines that showed the world what was possible with meticulous viticulture and inspired winemaking.