Austria and Germany harvested early to beat the heat while frost and heat hit vines in both the UK and Greece, but Hungary and Croatia could deliver impressive wines. Find out more in the fifth and final instalment of Imbibe’s northern hemisphere vintage harvest 2017 round-up for Germany, Austria, the UK, Greece, Hungary and Croatia:
The Overview: No one escaped the weather, so this year’s harvests will be small, which could inflate prices for the lucky few with good vintages.
The Good News: Expect excellent German dry wines and memorable vintages from both Hungary and Croatia.
The Bad News: Frost, drought or both reduced crops and demanded early harvests across the continent.
Early vintage, small vintage is (as elsewhere) the message from Germany. The Riesling harvest usually takes place in October, but many vineyards had already been picked before rain came at the end of September. While there won’t be much Eiswein, there should be some good noble sweet wines from those vineyards that were able to recover after the rain. But for dry wines, this looks like it will be an excellent year.
While the spring frosts seen in much of Europe affected Austria, they weren’t as severe as they had been in 2016, especially in Styria in the south. Moreover, the subsequent summer weather was warm and dry, so despite sporadic hailstorms and heat-stress in some of the younger vines, the harvest was of average size, with ripeness levels higher than normal. This will be a vintage where those growers and vineyards able to cope with the heat stress (irrigation systems were often pressed into service) will have produced some very good wines, but quality will not be uniform.
In the April frosts, some UK vineyards lost more than half their crop while others were unaffected. What is true throughout the country is that the vintage was the earliest on record, with some grapes being picked in the first week of September. Most 2017 sparkling wines won’t hit the market for at least three years, but with quantities set to be small, the next few years will see wineries doing some juggling of wines from earlier vintages in order to guarantee continuity of supply.
Not everywhere in Greece suffered frost damage, but the intense summer heat restricted yield and proved challenging for early-picked red grapes. However, later varieties such as Xinomavro benefited from a cooler September. On Santorini, the best wines will be those from basket-trained vines, where the branches on the outside of the plant have protected the grapes inside from the worst effects of the sun.
In Tokaji in Hungary, prospects look good for both dry and sweet wines, and some are comparing the vintage with 2013, one of the best in recent years. Promising noises too are coming from Croatia. Again thanks to frost and drought, quantities are down, and harvest was early, but signs are that this could be a top class vintage for both reds and whites.